Triathlon apparel has come a long way since the 80’s with people sporting speedos and crop-tops (and that was just the men). With the growth of triathlon as a more mainstream sport, an increasing number of manufactures are getting into the multisport market bringing innovation and pushing the technology of kit design. This now means we have more choice than ever when it comes to finding the right suit to race in.
The trisuit could be the most important piece of clothing or equipment choice you make since it’s the only thing you have with you for the entire duration off the race. A good suit needs to be worn comfortably under your wetsuit without riding up or chaffing. It should have enough padding to make the bike leg comfortable but not so much that you feel like you’re running in a soiled nappy. You need to be comfortable in the suit, so making sure the stitching, seams, zip, leg grippers etc. are all to your liking.
There are many decisions to be make when selecting your suit, so let’s take you through them to help you make that decision.
Like anything in triathlon, there is a range of options and costs when it comes to a trisuit. While top end suits may boast features such as compression, better aerodynamics, and cooling, you can still get a suit that’ll do the job just fine at the entry level end of the market. But do you actually need one? While you can wear anything you like, it should meet the criteria already mentioned, in terms of comfort and practicality, so while a trisuit isn’t compulsory it’s still the most practical choice.
One-piece or two?
Trisuits are usually a single all-in-one item of clothing which can mean a smoother fit, without a waistband or hem which may cut in. They may also be more practical in pool and non-wetsuit swims where they’ll be more streamlined. A two-piece suit consists of tri shorts and a vest/singlet. The advantages of a two-piece include opting for a better fit if you struggle to find a trisuit that works for you. It gives you options on race day depending on distance and weather; you can opt for long or short sleeves, thick or thin. Or if you simply prefer not to have a tight fitted top-half you can have tri shorts and then a comfortable top. For long course athletes, having more choice in what you wear on your top half may be a good thing since a sleeved top or cycle jersey will provide more sun protection as well as rear pockets for extra fuel, with a lighter sleeveless top for the run. It may also make toilet stops easier too. It’s worth noting that the triathlon regulations state that a two piece suit should overlap, so that no part of the torso is visible.
Front zip or rear?
Most trisuits on the market are front zip, since this is the way they’ve been predominantly made for some time and for getting them on and off easily it’s the most practical choice. Be aware though that British Triathlon Federation rules 2017, state that front zipped suits must be zipped all the way up for sprint & Olympic distance races, with middle and long course racers allowed to unzip to the breastbone until the finish chute. Rear zipped suits, often seen in elite racing as they allow better presentation of sponsor logos, may be unzipped during the bike and run, which may allow more comfort and cooling.
Sleeved or not?
Most tri suits are traditionally sleeveless, which allows less restriction through the shoulders and may offer better cooling. However, in the last couple of years we’ve seen a rise in popularity of sleeved suits in long course racing. The main reasons behind them are that they offer a much better level of sun protection when race duration is longer, or racing in hotter climates. Particularly given the exposure of back, shoulders and upper arms to the sun over a longer bike leg. They also offer greater aerodynamics on the bike, which over longer rides is more significant. Some athletes are now adopting sleeved suits for shorter races too because of the increased sun protection and personal preference.
Women specific suits
While most men’s’ suits could be considered ‘unisex’ more choice is now available to women with more consideration into the design and cut of the suit. Some suits come with an integrated bra, however you may find you’re better off with a separate suit and sports bra for optimal comfort.
As well as improving the function of a trisuit, a lot of brands are also keeping their suits fun; bringing out funky patterns and designs so that we can look good, and feel comfortable. Not to mention making us stick out a little more, making it easier for our friends and family to spot us in the crowd.
Another consideration you may have to make is that if you’re racing for a team or charity, often they’ll have their own branded trisuit. As it’s important that you represent a team or charity when required, this limits your choices somewhat. However, you can make steps to ensure you’re still comfortable. Try on your suit in a couple of sizes to find the best fit and see if you need to wear any base layers underneath e.g. shorts, base top or sports bra etc.