A tri suit is one of the first items I recommend every triathlete to buy, even if they are only beginners. However, to avoid being disappointed, there are a couple of things you need to know before you buy one.
In this article, I will guide you through 7 things to consider and share my recommendation.
1. WHAT EXACTLY IS A TRI SUIT?
A triathlon suit is the only clothing you will wear from the start of a triathlon until the finish line. As it is designed for swimming, biking, and running, the pad is thinner than on biking shorts, but it dries faster, and it does not disturb you while swimming and running.
2. A TRI SUIT MAKES YOU AT LEAST 2 MINUTES FASTER IN TRANSITIONS
For me, not having to change clothes during a race is the biggest advantage of tri suits. For this reason, it is even on my must-have list for a first triathlon.
As I have been wearing a tri suit since my first race, I never had to change clothes. I have always thought it would take me around 30s to change clothes from the swim to the bike and an additional 30s from the bike to the run. However, after witnessing several triathletes changing clothes on race day, I can say that I was far off.
Without a changing tent, those triathletes needed to use a towel to avoid nudity, another one to dry their body, and some yoga moves to be able to wear their bib shorts. I didn’t check exactly how much time they lost, but I would estimate 3 to 4 minutes, and that was only in T1!
Sure, with some practice, triathletes can be much faster. However, I would be surprised if you could do it on race day (with the additional adrenaline) in under 2 min for the two transitions.
3. WITH A TRI SUIT, YOU WILL ENTER THE WORLD OF TRIATHLETES
It is really fascinating: as soon as you put a tri suit on, you enter the world of triathletes. No one thinks of you as a cyclist anymore 🙂
4. A ONE-PIECE OR TWO-PIECE TRI SUIT
The first decision you need to make is whether you want a one-piece or two-piece suit. They both have their advantages and disadvantages.
The main reason to choose a two-piece tri suit is for bathroom breaks. As you have two separate pieces, they are easier to put on and off. A one-piece tri suit will force you to completely take off the top part.
From my own experience, a one-piece tri suit is by far the most popular option amongst triathletes. However, you see more and more triathletes choosing the two-piece option the longer the distance they are racing.
There is now a compromised solution for men where the one-piece tri suit can be opened until the bottom and help for short toilet breaks.
5. A SLEEVELESS OR SHORT SLEEVES TRI SUIT
After choosing a one or two-piece suit, you will need to decide between a short sleeves tri suit or a sleeveless tri suit.
Short sleeves tri suits are becoming more and more popular. Their biggest advantage is that they offer more protection against the sun, and as more skin is covered, you will also have aero gains from it.
If you never had a painful sunburn on your shoulders after a long event, well, you are a lucky one 🙂
6. THE “TIGHT FIT” OF A TRI SUIT MAKES YOU FASTER
If you have the chance to have a tri shop near you, now would be the perfect time to visit it. Tri suits are really amazing, but it is quite hard to find one that perfectly fits you.
It should feel tighter than a standard road bike apparel but not so compressed that you cannot breathe. In shops, I generally try to stay in an aero position for a couple of seconds to see how it feels, then move up and down to replicate out of the saddle movements, run a bit and replicate freestyle swimming movements. You should really not feel any discomfort.
If you choose a two-piece tri suit, make sure that the rubber that keeps the top part in position is made of really good quality.
7. A TRI SUIT COSTS BETWEEN $70 AND $575
Like with any other triathlon equipment, tri suits can get really expensive. It is not rare to find tri suits above $400.
The majority of tri suits are fortunately cheaper than that. If you are lucky, you might even get discounts on some brands with your triathlon club.
Don’t spend too much money on your first tri suit if you start triathlon. The chances are quite high that it won’t fit you in a year or two (losing weight is an added benefit of doing so much sport 🙂 ), so it is not worth investing too much money for something you will only use a couple of times.
Now that you know what is important to look for, it is time to look for a specific tri suit.
MY TRI SUIT RECOMMENDATION
Disclaimer: The Triathlon Tips of My Tri World are reader-supported. When you buy through links, I may earn an affiliate commission.
If you have the chance to have triathlon shops around you, I would highly recommend visiting them. I can’t stress enough how important the fit of a tri suit is. If it is not an option and you buy online, buy from a website that accepts returns.
I was looking for a one-piece tri suit with a full opening of the top part, with short sleeves, and in the mid-range in terms of pricing. I opted for the Hawi Tri Suit from Skinfit (link to their website, no affiliate). I would definitely recommend it if you have the same needs as me.
A tri suit is one of the 20 essential triathlon gear on our list for race day, have a look at this article to find out more about the 19 others.