When it comes to triathlons, interest has exploded in recent years to the point where brands that were once only niche names tossed about amongst enthusiasts have earned notable reputations providing some of the best equipment and gear. That said, this renewed interest in the endurance sport also comes with its fair bit on compartmentalizing, trying to improve your performance reductively.
While there is nothing wrong with that approach, some racers either are not too terribly interested in dealing with the added complexity and expense associated with incredibly specialized gear or perhaps they are skilled enough where shaving the changing time from their run is the best way to improve. Either way, these racers would do well to look into a tri suit that can be worn on every leg of the race.
Of course, figuring out which tri suit is the best tri suit for you can be a difficult and confusing task. That is why we have put together a list of the 6 best tri suits, three men, and three women, highlighting what each one does best. Then we provide a helpful buyer’s guide, so you can find the best tri suit to suit your needs.
Best Tri Suit 2018
|Model||Type||Pockets||Pad Thickness (Max.)|
|De Soto Sport Forza Trisuit|
|SLS3 Mens Triathlon Tri Suit CMX||One-piece||3||4mm|
|Synergy Triathlon Tri Suit||One-piece||2||4mm|
|Trisuit For Women by Betty Designs|
|Orca Women's Core Tri Race Suit||One-piece||2||6mm|
|Pearl iZUMi Women's Select Pursuit Tri Suit||One-piece||1||3mm|
Best Tri Suit for Men
1. De Soto Sport Forza Trisuit – Editor’s Choice Best Performing Men’s Tri Suit
Though De Soto Sport may not be the oldest company we came across, it’s founding 2 ½ decades ago does coincide with the upswing in manufacturers getting serious about producing triathlon gear that was specially tailored towards the specific needs and challenges that an athlete faces during a triathlon race as opposed to some other type of competition. De Soto Sport was and still is definitely a big part of that shift in market approach and the Forza Trisuit is a prime example of this philosophy in action. As such, it should come as little surprise that we rated the De Soto Sport Forza Trisuit our Editor’s Choice Best Performing men’s tri suit.
Of course, using high-quality materials is only half of what makes a great men’s tri suit or not, especially since the subtle changes to a tri suit’s design can have a significant impact in how the tri suit actually performs in the field. One of the best design features that the De Soto Sport Forza included was the use of a design that provides UVB 90 protection which is the most protection from the sun that we saw. On top of that, while the De Soto Sport Forza is not actually intended to be used in substitute of a wetsuit, it does come with Liftfoil buoyancy panels to provide additional assistance during the swim leg of the triathlon. If you are a racer that carries a lot of consumable or backup gear, the De Soto Sport Forza also comes with the most pockets out of any tri suit we reviewed with 5 in total.
2. SLS3 Mens Triathlon Tri Suit CMX – Best Price Budget Men’s Tri Suit
Like many of the other brands on our list, SLS3 is a brand that specializes explicitly in equipment and gear for triathletes. That said, SLS3 is a bit of a latecomer when considering it has only been in existence for a little under 2 decades. The thing that gives SLS3 a bit of an edge is that the founders themselves are triathletes, so not only does the brand put all of its focus into triathlon equipment, the company’s entire raison d’etre is driven by direct experience with the product. The fact that SLS3 can also achieve this while still being one of the least expensive brands on the market is only icing on the cake.
Beyond the fact that this tri suit was designed to be worn during every leg of the race, it also checks all of the expected boxes from a competition-worthy tri suit. One example of this is the material composition which uses a nylon and lycra blend, though the back of the tri suit is woven into a mesh material to provide additional ventilation during the running and biking legs of the triathlon. If you need more ventilation, the SLS3 CMX tri suit features a ¾ zipper closure giving you the ability to open the tri suit during the appropriate legs of the race. If you are of the mind to carry various resources with you while you race, the SLS3 CMX also comes with 4 pockets, which is more than most others provide.
3. Synergy Triathlon Tri Suit – People’s Choice Most Popular Men’s Tri Suit
When you are looking for a company that makes triathlon gear and equipment, there are few whose background reads off like a veritable wishlist than Synergy’s. For one, this brand was founded right around the time that triathlon equipment and gear was beginning to be taken seriously as its own niche, and Synergy has been pushing the boundaries of the market ever since. Of course, this makes perfect sense when you consider that not only does this brand specialize exclusively in triathlon gear and equipment, it has been repurposed as a high-end brand for over a decade.
Beyond the comfort of the tri suit, Synergy also understands that with as difficult as a triathlon is on its own, there is no need for the tri suit to increase that difficulty in any way. As such, this tri suit has a woven anti-microbial fleece to prevent any hygiene issues when transferring from one leg of the triathlon to another. On top of that, the Synergy Triathlon Tri Suit comes with aqua panels that are designed to provide a touch of buoyancy during the swim leg of the race. If you need additional ventilation, the tri suit’s ¾ zipper closure allows you to open it partly without issue. Finally, the Synergy Triathlon Tri Suit comes with 2 pockets to carry any odd piece of equipment or refueling you may wish to keep on your person.
Best Tri Suit for Women
1. Trisuit For Women by Betty Designs – Editor’s Choice Best Performing Women’s Tri Suit
Betty Designs may be a bit confusing of a brand name considering there is no “Betty,” but one thing is for certain: this company which seeks to blend the performance of professional endurance sportswear with the highest senses of fashion is equally effective on both counts. That said, it should be understood that Betty Designs does not focus exclusively on triathlon tri suits nor does it specialize in triathlon exclusive gear more generally. Still, all of the gear made fills a niche within the triathlon’s different legs and is of exceptionally high-quality – hence why we rated it our Editor’s Choice Best Performing women’s tri suit.
Another area where Betty Designs aims to provide some specialization for women is in the bodice in that they do not include a built-in bra. While this feature may be seen as convenient to some racers, it saves little weight and does not work for everyone equally. As such, its absence provides you the freedom to choose whichever support works best for you. On top of that, this women’s tri suit also comes with UPF 50+ protection, which while not the best we have seen, is still fairly good all things considered. Finally, this tri suit uses a tri chamois that is specifically engineered to be worn by a woman so that the bike saddle is as comfortable as can be.
2. Orca Women’s Core Tri Race Suit – Best Women’s Full-Race Tri Suit
When considering the background of a company Orca provides arguably one of the most ideal you could potentially conceive. For instance, it was founded in almost 3 decades prior and was made not only to cater to the emerging professional triathlon market but the female professional triathlon market more particularly. On top of that, Orca was founded by a winning triathlete whose sole purpose was to make the best triathlon gear possible-though their effectiveness in the water has definitely geared the brand a bit more towards that specialization.
As another brand based on the ideas that professional triathletes suggest for improving triathlon gear and equipment, it should not be that surprising that Orca places a strong focus on comfort since so many brands based primarily on squeezing every bit of performance out of the tri suit exclude comfort as a secondary byproduct. One of the biggest benefits to this effect is the inclusion of a Tri-Support Chamois which was specifically designed for a female wearer and provides a great deal of enduring support during the biking leg without any undue distraction or chafing during the run or swim legs of the race. Finally, out of all of the different brands that we saw, Orca does the best at providing a fit that seems to be the truest in comparison to other manufacturers.
3. Pearl iZUMi Women’s Select Pursuit Tri Suit – Best Price Budget Women’s Tri Suit
Out of all the brands on our list, none of them has as storied nor as unique a history as the Pearl iZUMi company. This is by far the oldest company with almost 7 decades of experience behind them, though not all of that experience was in making triathlon equipment and gear. Instead, like many other top brands, Pearl iZUMi first gained notoriety by making a more specialized product for a more established sport–in this instance, biking. That said, Pearl iZUMi has shifted effortlessly from their previous focus and now offers one of the best triathlon tri suits at by far one of the best prices that we have seen.
Beyond the various strides made in favor of the land-based legs of the triathlon, the Pearl iZUMi Select is still an all-around solid tri suit suitable for almost any setting–outside of race set in colder climes. For one, this tri suit is made of nylon and lycra so it will provide a durable fit that also stretches to add compression to your muscles-though this tri suit does have a tendency to run a bit on the small side. Still, the flatlock seams ensure that you do not have to worry about the durability of this tri suit, while the envelope pocket provides a convenient place to carry something without having to worry about it adding to your drag.
Best Tri Suit – Buyer’s Guide
When it comes to the materials used for tri suits, the full list is far too long and idiosyncratic to include every single one. That said, the majority of tri suits are actually made primarily out of a few different materials which are generally considered the standard–and only a proprietary blend is liable to be better. In this regard, all tri suits have a few qualities about them that are required for them to perform successfully. All of the materials used in tri suits should be able to both stretch tight as a well as potentially provide some compression–on top of the expected durability.
Polyester – When it comes to the primary fabrics used in the construction of tri suits, polyester is not really the most common, but it fills a particular niche in terms of its intended focus. In this instance, you will want to favor a polyester blend with your tri suit as it is more naturally water resistant than the other materials on our list. On the other hand, polyester does not really offer too terribly much in regards to the other materials. It is the least durable synthetic fiber used in tri suits, though it is not weak and will last as long as the stitches hold. Still, polyester is not the most flexible material either, so it is not the ideal material for roughly 2 legs of a 3 leg race.
Nylon – Nylon is by far one of the more common synthetic fibers used in tri suits and should be considered one of the standards for a more generalized tri suit-outside of some type of proprietary fiber that was designed specifically to replace the sturdiness of nylon. That said, nylon is not as naturally water resistant as polyester and will require more or thicker coatings to provide an equally hydrophobic effect. On top of that, nylon is also prone to bleaching in the sun, so a tri suit made primarily out of nylon will need to be treated for UV protection-thankfully, the same protection that prevents the tri suit from suffering UV damage also protects the wearer as well. In terms of durability, nylon is by far the most durable of the three primary fibers used for making tri suits.
Lycra – Lycra is the technical name for the material more commonly known as Spandex and it serves a vital role in tri suits. In fact, this is the only material on our list that will be found in literally every tri suit if for no other reason than because it is what provides the fit, compression, and elasticity of a tri suit. That said, much like every other material commonly found in tri suits, there are always manufacturers who will develop proprietary blends and materials which are technically better than lycra at its role. Still, the variety of qualities that can be altered either by altering the lycra itself or by changing its weave features allows this incredibly versatile material to find its way into virtually every tri suit on the market.
Outside of the materials used, the most important quality for determining how durable the tri suit will be is the stitching process. It is important to remember that stitching, even into naturally water-resistant materials, is ultimately puncturing holes into the material. Depending on how those holes are punched at the different seams will determine to a great deal how well the tri suit ultimately repels water. In this case, the number of different types of stitching is far fewer in number than for wetsuits, and your best bet with material as thin and lightweight as those used for tri suits is a simple flatlock stitch which is more than sufficient for most tri suit needs.
When it comes to the construction of a tri suit, the important thing to remember is that different parts are best served by providing different benefits. For instance, the sides of the tri suit are not a great place for any kind of addition as it could unduly cause issues with your arm swing, but it is a great place to put additional ventilation to help keep the warmest part of the torso a little bit cooler. Similarly, if a tri suit is looking to provide some assistance when it comes to the swimming leg of the race, a manufacturer may add some type of panel that provides additional buoyancy to help you keep your form. The important thing in this respect is to make sure that you get a tri suit which has panels that provide benefits catered to your strengths and weaknesses.
The padding of a tri suit may be a bit of a deceiving quality in that it in no way is meant to imply the same kind of padding that is associated with a wetsuit. Instead, the padding of a tri suit is far more similar in design to the padding of a pair of biking shorts. That said, dedicated biking shorts can afford to completely sell out on the cushion for the saddle, whereas a tri suit must be able to transition quickly between the different types of legs of the race. As such, a tri suit is far more liable to have incredibly focused applications of padding so as to not impede whatever other events it is not designed for.
Chamois – This is arguably the most important piece of padding that will be included in every tri suit, which is not a common distinction. Some tri suits might have different types of pads that perform one function or another, but because every triathlon includes a biking leg of the race, there is without absence a chamois. One thing to keep in mind about a chamois is that bigger is not necessarily better as the added weight and friction caused by a larger chamois is not worth the trade-off. Instead, manufacturers will opt to make a chamois that is far denser while still providing great cushioning.
While the original triathlon suits, which were simply more versatile running, biking, and wetsuits, did not see the need to include pockets for their particular sport, the very nature of a triathlon as an endurance-based sport almost necessitates the carrying of additional gear or supplies. One of the most common things for nearly every racer to carry is some form of energy at some point during the race. That said, the type of gear that is liable to be found on serious triathletes will often transcend the mere snack, and there are plenty of manufacturers that cater to this type of racer. One thing to keep in mind when examining the pockets is making sure that they are designed to prevent drag, or else you may end up losing more time in the swimming leg than you gain in either the running or biking legs.
In the end, there is not going to a single tri suit that is the best tri suit for all racers, especially if you have a particular strength or weakness in one leg or another. In this instance, you will likely want to find a tri suit that is designed to specifically accommodate your needs. That said, for the rest of us, there are two clear winners in the male and female tri suit categories, and they both do so in similar ways.
For the general male racer who is simply looking to improve his time regardless the setting of the race, we recommend the De Soto Sport Forza. While this tri suit is not intended to be used as a substitute for a wetsuit, it is one of the few tri suits that were designed to be worn under a wetsuit, providing you with a tri suit that can be worn for any race and still provide loads of benefits for every leg of the race.
For women, the tri suit market is a bit different considering that none of the brands make it a point to provide a “universal” model, so you must consider the fit of the tri suit a bit more, especially if you already have other gear, like a wetsuit, made by a different brand. Still, we ultimately recommend the Betty Designs, which actually took us a bit by surprise upon reflection as well, but with the use of numerous specialized fabrics and build features, the choice was easy.