I received my first tri suit as a birthday gift two months after I started triathlon training. It was perfect for Sprint races and flat Olympic ones. Once I registered for my first half distance, I thought it might be time to search if a different type of tri suit would be better.
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 swim, bike, and run, the pad is thinner than on biking shorts, but it is drying faster, and it is not disturbing you while swimming and running.
Wearing a tri suit will make you save time in the transitions as you don’t need to change clothes, but it is far from being the only advantage. Let’s check that in more detail.
ADVANTAGES OF TRI SUITS
- No need to change in the transitions: that’s the biggest advantage for me and the reason why it is on our must-have list of gears for your first triathlon.
- Comfortable and more aero: once you find a good fitting tri suit, you will realize that it is just way more comfortable, and the tighter fit will also make you faster.
- Less thing to worry about: having fewer gears to think about is a big help when you are packing all your triathlon equipment before a race.
- Activate your race mode: I’m using my tri suit almost exclusively for race days, so putting it on is definitely activating my race mode!
- Bonus one: as soon as you put a tri suit on, you enter the world of triathletes. No one will think you are a cyclist anymore 🙂
Depending on the distance and on your personal preferences, you might prefer a one-piece or a two pieces tri suit, with short-sleeves or even a sleeveless option.
ONE PIECE VS TWO PIECES TRI SUITS
The main reason to choose a two-piece tri suit is for bathroom breaks. As you have two separate pieces, they are simply easier to put on and off. A one-piece tri suit will force you to take off the top part completely.
For this reason, a one-piece tri suit (like the one I am wearing on the left side) is really popular in short distance events up to an Olympic distance. In the majority of cases, you won’t need to go to the toilet during the race. The longer the distance, the more two-pieces tri suits triathletes are using.
Here is a quick summary of the pros and cons of each based on our personal experiences:
|more aero with a streamlined fit||difficult to get in and out|
|fewer seams = less chafing|
|stays in place|
|easier for toilet breaks||waistband going up|
|can use top and/or short for training||can be annoying with your race|
number on the run
|more flexible sizing and fitting|
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. That’s what I bought in 2020 but couldn’t test it yet on race day for obvious reasons.
SLEEVELESS OR SHORT SLEEVES TRI-SUITS
After choosing a one or two-pieces suit, you will need to decide between short sleeves tri suit or a sleeveless tri suit.
Sleeveless tri suits are generally easier to fit and might be the only option authorized on some races (always check the rules!).
Short sleeves tri suits are becoming more and more popular. Their biggest advantage is that they offer more protection against the sun. If you never had a painful sunburn on your shoulder after a long event, well, you are a lucky one 🙂 As more skin is covered, you will also have aero gains from it.
HOW TIGHT SHOULD A TRI SUIT FEEL
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 which perfectly fits you.
It should feel tighter than a standard road bike apparel but not too 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 chose a two-piece tri suit, make sure that the rubber which keeps the top part in position is made of really good quality.
HOW MUCH DOES A TRI SUIT COST
Like with any other triathlon equipment, tri suits can get really expensive. If seconds matter to you and you have the budget, you can find high-end tri suits for $300 to $400.
The majority of tri suits are fortunately cheaper than that. I would personally check tri suits in the $100 to $150 range. If you are in a triathlon club, it is worth checking if the club does have discounts with some brands.
For a first triathlon, I would recommend checking the $50-$100 range. The chances are quite high that the tri suit won’t fit you in a year or two (losing weight is an added benefit of doing so much sport 🙂 ).
Before spending too much money on tri suits, be aware that you will probably wear it only a couple of times per year during race day.
I will personally try next season the Hawi Tri Suit from Skinfit (link to their website, no affiliate) for half-distance events. It is a one-piece tri suit (with a full opening of the top part) and short sleeves.
As you can see, there are a lot of tri suit options available. The main problem is finding one which is fitting you. If you have a tri shop, have a look there. Otherwise, make sure you can return the suit easily if you order it online.