Here’s what it's for, how to use it and how to choose it.
A tri-suit is an essential for beginners and veterans alike, and worn throughout the race. It is unequivocally faster than changing out of the various sport-specific clothing usually worn for swimming, biking and racing. It also helps in the ‘fourth’ discipline of triathlon racing: transition.
Whether you are deliberating over the necessity of wetsuits, sunglasses, race bikes or expensive running shoes, a tri-suit should be your first port of call. A tri-suit is a sport-specific piece of clothing created to allow range of movement, fast-drying material following the swim, and breathability during the long-haul sections of the cycle and run.
The higher end of the tri-suit range also provides compression, which is a clinically proven aspect of modern sports clothing providing pressure to the muscles which safeguards you from injury and improves muscular endurance.
Even without specific compression technology, the tight-fit, ‘second-skin’ effect of the tri-suit provides more hydrodynamics during your swim, and more aerodynamics during your race, which means you will experience low drag (resistance) as you move.
Like cycling shorts there is a chamois (bikepad), which protects the groin area from the friction involved in extended contact with the bike saddle. The chamois on a tri-suit is lighter and made from fast-drying material to avoid extra weight and discomfort during the bike section.
# Leg Grippers
As with cycling shorts, leg grippers (the section of material at the bottom of the thigh section), will often be made of a tighter material to ensure the suit stays put without causing friction. You’ll want to make sure this isn’t too tight and digging into your leg, some anti-chafing lubricant can be a godsend here.
Pockets are sometimes contested by triathletes due to their potential to affect the suits streamlining and hydrodynamics, but generally this is going to be well-thought out in the pockets design. While not a feature on all suits, storage sections will allow for nutrition on the go, such as energy bars or gels.
How to Wear a Tri-Suit
A Tri-suit is like a pair of swimming trunks or cycling shorts, in that it’s worn without underwear. Similar to a neoprene wetsuit, it is usually a full body suit, which comes in sleeved and sleeveless versions, though two-piece suits with a separate top and bottom section are available. The obvious benefit of a two-piece suit is increased speed in the event of a toilet stop.
Don’t wash your suit on a high heat and keep it away from direct sunlight or heat sources (do not tumble dry and do not leave it on or near the radiator).
# Test runs
You should always take your tri-suit on test runs in the lead up to your race. While you might want to wear alternative training gear for the majority of your training, to increase your tri-suit’s longevity, its advisable to take it on several test runs to get used to it before the big day.
Buying Your Tri-Suit
# Try Before You Buy
As with wetsuits, this is really a piece of gear you want to try on in a store, even if you plan on ordering online later.
As with any sport, beginners don’t need to fork out on something ridiculously expensive, or worry too much about the race speed differentiations occurring from aerodynamics. The most important element of your first tri suit is comfort. Choose a suit that you feel comfortable in, and isn’t too tight that it digs in on the leg grippers. Lastly, try sleeveless and short sleeved trisuit models to see which offers you a better range of motion (though remember you may be wearing a wetsuit on top for the swim).