How To Choose The Perfect Tri Suit

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When it comes to triathlon gear, the tri suit is an essential piece of equipment. Not only does it serve as a swimsuit, cycling shorts, and running singlet all in one, but it can also help to reduce drag and improve aerodynamics during the race.

The Perfect Tri Suits

With so many options on the market, it can be overwhelming to try to find the perfect tri suit for your needs. In this guide, we’ll walk you through the key factors to consider when choosing a tri suit.

10 Things You Need To Know Before Buying A Tri Suit

By following these tips, you’ll be well on your way to finding the perfect tri suit for your next triathlon.

1. What is a triathlon suit?

A triathlon suit, also known as a tri suit, is a specialized piece of athletic apparel designed specifically for the demands of triathlon. It is worn by triathletes during all three disciplines of a triathlon: swimming, cycling, and running. Tri suits are designed to be lightweight, breathable, and quick-drying, making them ideal for the continuous transitions between activities.

The importance of choosing the right tri suit for a triathlon

Choosing the right tri suit is crucial for a successful triathlon. A poorly fitting or uncomfortable tri suit can negatively impact your performance and overall experience of the race. On the other hand, a tri suit that fits well and is made of high quality materials can improve your comfort and speed during the race.

Is a tri suit necessary for triathlon?

While it is not strictly necessary to wear a tri suit for a triathlon, it is highly recommended. Tri suits offer several benefits that make them ideal for triathlon. They are designed to be comfortable and lightweight, which is important for the long hours of training and racing that triathletes endure. They also offer a streamlined appearance and reduced drag in the water, which can improve your speed and performance. Additionally, tri suits eliminate the need for multiple outfits and transitions during the race, making them a convenient and efficient choice.

Related: Best Triathlon Suits in 2023

2. How the right tri suit will make you faster

The right tri suit can make a significant difference in your speed and performance during a triathlon. There are several ways in which a well-fitting tri suit can improve your speed:

  • Reduced drag: A tri suit that fits well and has a streamlined appearance can reduce drag, especially in the water and on the bike. This can help you maintain a faster pace and improve your overall performance.
  • Improved aerodynamics: A tri suit that fits snugly and conforms to your body can also improve your aerodynamics. This can be especially important on the bike, where even a small reduction in drag can lead to significant time savings.
  • Enhanced comfort: A tri suit that is comfortable and does not cause chafing or irritation can help you focus on your race and maintain a strong pace. A tri suit that is made of high quality materials and construction will be more durable and comfortable, allowing you to perform at your best.
  • Convenience and efficiency: A tri suit helps you save time and energy during a race by eliminating the need for multiple outfit changes. This can be especially important in sprint or Olympic distance triathlons, where every second counts.

3. Consider your race triathlon distance: Short Distance vs. Long Distance Tri Suit

Tri Suits for Sprint Distance

The distance of your triathlon race should be a factor in your tri suit choice. For shorter distance races, such as sprint triathlons or Olympic distance triathlons, a less compressive and more breathable sleeveless tri suit may be a good option. These triathlon suits are typically made of lighter materials and may have more ventilation to keep you cool.

On the other hand, for longer distance races, such as Half Ironman or Ironman triathlons, a more compressive and supportive sleeved tri suit may be beneficial. These tri suits are typically made of more aerodynamic materials and may have more padding to provide extra comfort on the bike. The increased compression can also help to reduce muscle fatigue and improve recovery during the race.

It’s important to consider the specific demands of your race distance when selecting a tri suit. A suit that is too compressive or supportive for a shorter distance race may be uncomfortable and hinder your performance, while a suit that is not compressive or supportive enough for a longer distance race may cause fatigue and discomfort.

In addition to considering the distance of your race, it’s also important to consider the specific conditions of the race. For example, a hot and humid race may require a tri suit with more ventilation, while a cooler race may benefit from a tri suit with more insulation. Be sure to research and choose a tri suit that is appropriate for the distance and conditions of your race.

4. Size and design of the tri suit

What Size Tri Suit Should I Buy?

Size and design are important considerations when choosing a tri suit. Make sure to measure your chest, waist, and hips and consult the size chart of the brand you’re considering to find the right size. It’s also a good idea to try on the suit or a similar one from the same brand to ensure the fit is correct.

In terms of design, consider the style and features that are most important to you. Do you prefer a one-piece or two-piece suit? Do you want short sleeves or a sleeveless design? Do you need pockets or ventilation?

5. How the tri suit should fit and feel during a race

The fit and feel of your tri suit is crucial for a successful and comfortable race. A tri suit that fits well and feels comfortable during activity will allow you to focus on your performance and not be distracted by discomfort or irritation.

Here are some key points to consider when choosing a tri suit:

  1. Snug but not restrictive: The tri suit should fit snugly against your body, but not restrict your movement. It should feel comfortable and not cause any chafing or irritation.
  2. Flatlock stitching: Look for a tri suit with flatlock stitching, which is a type of stitching that lies flat against the skin and reduces chafing. This is especially important for long distance races where chafing can be a major issue.
  3. Moisture-wicking fabric: Choose a tri suit made of a moisture-wicking fabric, which will help to keep you dry and comfortable during the race. This is especially important for hot and humid conditions.
  4. Breathability: Look for a tri suit with ventilation or breathable materials to help keep you cool and comfortable during the race.
  5. Test it out: Make sure to try on the tri suit before the race to ensure it fits well and feels comfortable during activity. This will give you the opportunity to make any necessary adjustments or exchanges before race day.

6. One-piece or two-piece tri suit

One-piece tri suits offer superior aerodynamics due to their compressive design and lack of seams which eliminates the risk of irritation. Two-piece tri suits, however, are more versatile – you can mix different brands or sizes for a combination that fits just right. 

Deciding between a one-piece or two-piece tri suit can be daunting. While both have their own set of benefits, the greatest advantage to opting for two pieces is its convenience when needing to use the restroom; taking it on and off will simply much easier than having to remove an entire one piece.

In my experience, though many triathletes are beginning to favor longer distances with two pieces suits, most still prefer the traditional single piece look overall.

7. Sleeveless or short sleeves tri suit

One of the main advantages of a short sleeves tri suit is the added sun protection they provide. Covering more skin can also help to reduce the risk of sunburn, which can be especially painful during long events. In addition, some athletes may find that short sleeves offer additional aero gains by reducing drag on the upper body.

On the other hand, sleeveless tri suits may be preferred by athletes who want more ventilation and want to stay cooler during the race. Sleeveless suits can also be more comfortable for those who do not like the feeling of sleeves constricting their arms.

Ultimately, the decision between a short sleeves or sleeveless tri suit will depend on personal preference and the specific needs of the athlete. Factors such as the length and location of the race, the weather conditions, and the athlete’s own comfort and preferences should all be taken into consideration.

8. Factors to Consider When Choosing the Color of Your Tri Suit

When choosing a tri suit, the color is often a personal preference. Some athletes may choose a tri suit in a color that they find visually appealing, while others may choose a color that reflects their personality or team colors.

There are a few other factors to consider when choosing the color of a tri suit. One factor is visibility. A brightly colored tri suit may be more visible to other athletes and spectators, which can be especially important for safety during a race. A highly visible tri suit can also make it easier for friends and family to spot you during the race.

The impact of color on body temperature is another factor to consider when choosing a tri suit. While it is true that lighter colors tend to reflect heat and light, while darker colors absorb them, the overall impact on body temperature may be relatively small, especially if the tri suit is made of a high-quality, breathable fabric. It is true that top-end Olympic triathletes wear a variety of colors for their tri suits, and this suggests that the choice of color may not have a significant impact on performance.

Ultimately, the choice of tri suit color is a personal decision, and it is important to find a tri suit that you feel comfortable and confident in.

9. Inspect the level of padding

Roka tri suit padding

Padding, also known as chamois, is a common feature in tri suits, particularly those designed for long distance triathlons. It is a layer of padding located in the crotch area of the suit that helps to reduce chafing and provide extra comfort during long rides on the bike.

When selecting a tri suit with padding, it is important to inspect the level of padding to ensure that it is appropriate for your needs. Too much padding can be bulky and uncomfortable, while too little padding may not provide enough support. It is important to find the right balance.

The distance of the race is one factor to consider when selecting a tri suit with the appropriate level of padding. For shorter races, a thinner padding may be sufficient, while a thicker padding may be needed for longer distances. Personal preference is also an important factor, as some athletes may prefer more padding while others may prefer less.

It is also important to consider the material of the padding. Some materials may be more comfortable or breathable than others, so it may be worth trying out a few different tri suits to find the one that works best for you.

10. Features such as pockets, zippers, and ventilation

In addition to padding and sleeve length, tri suits may also have a variety of additional features that can be useful during a triathlon. Some of these features include pockets, zippers, and ventilation.

Pockets can be a convenient feature on a tri suit, as they can provide a place to carry small items such as energy gels or a race nutrition plan. Pockets can be located on the back and sides of the tri suit, and the size and number of pockets may vary.

Zippers can also be a useful feature on a tri suit. They can allow for ventilation by providing a way to open up the suit to allow air to flow through, or they can allow for the ability to remove layers during the race. Zippers may be located on the front or back of the tri suit, and they can be full-length or partial-length.

Ventilation, in the form of mesh panels or ventilation holes, can help to keep the athlete cool and comfortable during the race. This is especially important in hot and humid conditions, as it can help to prevent overheating.

Triathlon Suits FAQs

Do you wear underwear under a tri suit?

It is generally not necessary to wear underwear under a tri suit. Tri suits are designed to be worn as a single garment and provide enough coverage and support on their own. Wearing underwear under a tri suit can create additional layers and cause chafing and discomfort. If you are a female triathlete and are worried about being modest or need extra support, you can wear a sports bra under your tri suit.

Do you wear a sports bra under a tri suit?

Some triathletes find that the built-in bra in the tri suit provides enough support, while others prefer the added support and comfort of a separate sports bra. If you choose to wear a sports bra under your tri suit, make sure it is made from a moisture-wicking material and fits well to avoid any discomfort during the race. Ultimately, it’s up to every female triathlete to decide whether or not they want to wear a sports bra under their tri suit.

What kind of triathlon suit do I need?

The type of triathlon suit you need will depend on your personal preference and the specific needs of your race. Some things to consider when choosing a tri suit include the fit, material, and style. Full-zip tri suits are a good choice for beginners or those who want a suit that is easy to put on and take off. Sleeveless tri suits are a more lightweight and breathable option that is often preferred by experienced triathletes. Short-sleeve tri suits offer additional sun protection on your shoulders and aerodynamic are a good choice for those who want to cover up their arms.

Can you swim in just a tri suit?

Yes, you can swim in just a tri suit. Tri suits are designed to be worn as a single garment and provide enough coverage and support for the swim stage of a triathlon. They are made from lightweight, quick-drying materials that allow you to move freely in the water and transition smoothly to the bike and run stages.

Do you wear a tri suit under a wetsuit?

It is common for triathletes to wear a tri suit under a wetsuit during the swimming stage of a triathlon. Wearing a tri suit under a wetsuit can provide several benefits.

First and foremost, it can provide additional warmth, which can be especially useful in colder water conditions. Wearing a tri suit under a wetsuit can also save time in transition, as it eliminates the need to change into a separate suit for the other portion of the race. This can be especially important in shorter triathlons where every second counts. Finally, wearing a tri suit under a wetsuit can reduce chafing, as the smooth fabric of the tri suit can help to prevent irritation caused by the rough neoprene of the wetsuit.

Can you wear a tri suit for other types of races or training?

Tri suits are designed specifically for triathlons, but they can also be worn for other types of races or training, such as duathlons or running events. Keep in mind that they may not be as comfortable or practical for these types of activities compared to traditional running gear.

Do I need to wear a wetsuit with a tri suit?

It depends on the specific race and conditions. In some cases, a wetsuit may be required or recommended due to the water temperature. In other cases, a tri suit alone may be sufficient. Be sure to check the rules and guidelines of the race you’re participating in and choose the appropriate gear accordingly.

How do I choose the right size tri suit?

When choosing a tri suit, it’s important to get the right fit. You don’t want a suit that is too loose or too tight, as this can cause discomfort and potentially even chafing during the race. To find the right size, use the sizing chart provided by the manufacturer and measure your chest, waist, and hips to get the best fit. You may also want to try on different sizes and styles in person to determine which one feels the most comfortable and supportive.

How do I care for my tri suit?

To extend the life of your tri suit, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s care instructions. This typically includes washing the suit in cold water with a mild detergent and hanging it to dry. Avoid using fabric softeners or bleach, as these can break down the fibers and cause the suit to lose its shape and support. You should also avoid drying the suit in a dryer, as the high heat can damage the fabric.

Photo of author

Ryan Jones

Ryan Jones is a USA Triathlon Level 1 Certified Coach, USA Cycling Level 3 Certified Coach. Since graduating college, Ryan has coached over sixty triathletes, runners, cyclists, and swimmers. He focuses on helping them select appropriate goals and guiding them towards achieving them.

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