30 of the best tri-suits reviewed: short-sleeved, vested and Ironman
November 11, 2020 | News | No Comments
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November 11, 2020 | News | No Comments
What is a tri-suit?
A tri-suit is a garment specifically designed for racing all three disciplines of triathlon. Made of a similar quick-drying fabric to swimwear, it’s flexible, hydrodynamic and aerodynamic so it can cater for the demands of swimming, cycling and running. It includes a pad/chamois for comfort on the bike leg, but this pad shouldn’t obstruct your final run leg.
Do you need to wear underwear under a tri-suit?
What tri-suit should I buy?
As the only piece of triathlon gear that’ll be with you from the starting horn until the finishing chute, the right tri-suit is a key purchase: too tight, baggy, poorly made or slow to dry and you’ll be flirting with a DNF instead of reaching for a personal best.
It also depends on what distance you’re planning to race and whether comfort or speed is your priority, and race conditions. The main options are vested, short-sleeved and those designed especially for Ironman, and there are advantages and disadvantages of each. See below for more information on choosing the best tri-suit for you.
What are the different types of tri-suit available?
Sprint versus long-distance tri-suits
How are the tri-suits tested and reviewed?
The tri-suits here were all given multiple tests on the swim, bike and run to find the best tri-suit. Key factors included breathability, how fast they dried, chafing (or lack of), pocket sizing and accessibility, and the effectiveness of the leg grippers and zippers. The pad was assessed for how quickly it dried after the swim, its ability to provide comfort on the bike leg and whether the size impacted on the run. The price, aesthetics, durability and aerodynamics were also considered, as was the versatility of each suit. Many of the Ironman tri-suits were also tested for their aerodynamic abilities at the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub’s wind tunnel.
Best tri and Ironman tri-suits to buy in 2020
The best short-sleeved tri-suits
The best vested tri-suits
The best Ironman tri-suits
The best two-piece tri-suits
The best short-sleeved tri-suits
Elbow-length suits are equipped for the needs of the modern-day triathlete: shoulders and sleeves help to protect your skin; improved pads aid comfort; and fabrics are designed to be both hydro- and aerodynamic. On top of all that, manufacturers have thought about the practicalities of getting them on and off and have started getting creative with their designs, producing tri-suits that can suit a variety of distances. Time then to take a look at some of the best multi-distance short-sleeved tri-suits on the market.
The Evo is an outstanding package from Aussie brand Tri-Fit. The suit proves to be very comfortable, especially across the chest where it uses premium Italian fabric. The pad is great even for longer sessions and races, while the fit felt perfect for us. A focus on aerodynamics (Tri-Fit have wind-tunnel-tested the latest version of the Evo) across the shoulders, back and arms didn’t inhibit flexibility and is of high quality, with the sleeves held in place. Pocket space is among the best on test here, with a decent rear pocket complemented by one on either leg for energy gels, while the full-length zipper and middle vent make it easy to get on and off. The design is far from bland but isn’t the most striking compared to the Zoot and Raceskin tri-suits tested here, and we would’ve welcomed more effective leg grippers.
Verdict: Comfort, aerodynamics and features… a standout tri-suit for all race distances
Buy from TRI-FIT Athletic
Zone3 Lava Short Sleeve
There’s much to like about Zone3’s newest iteration of their Lava series, but also a few concerns as the fit here delivered only mixed results. The length in the legs and body was outstanding but it was looser around the neck and shoulders. The test model is, however, a final prototype, and we’ve been assured these issues have been addressed for the production version (we’ll do a full review online). The back pocket design is positioned in an interesting way for access but proves a little fiddly. The woven fabrics are very comfortable and the temperature control excellent. The Cytech pad is supportive, even over longer distances, the grippers on the legs are effective and there’s promise of aerodynamic benefits thanks to Aero-Stripe material on the sleeves. So very close to being perfect, but just falling a little short.
Verdict: Much to admire, and the final production version of the Lava should be even better Score: 90%
Buy from My Triathlon
Zoot Ltd Tri Aero Tokyo
The Tokyo visual theme will need to be extended into 2021 now, but the LTD Tri Aero from Zoot is a good all-round tri-suit with little to fault. It definitely has a nod towards longer-distance triathletes thanks to its superior pocket space; the rear pocket is complemented by two tight side pockets on either leg that are perfect for gels and solves the storage issue better than the majority on test. The fit is also reasonable and didn’t inhibit run form, while the SBR 2D pad is agreeable on both the bike and run and for extended periods. The Italian Primo fabric is comfortable and breathable, while the technology employed in the suit should result in aerodynamic returns. The full-length zipper and design appeal of the suit help to deliver a solid all-rounder, which is well-crafted and does a lot of things well, rather than one or two things that are truly outstanding.
Verdict: A high price but great style, and the versatility ensures something for everyone
Buy from Bikester
2XU Perform Full
The Perform Full from Aussies 2XU creates a style-versus-substance debate. While this test shows a growing trend for tri-suits to be more interesting in their visual design (look no further than Raceskin), 2XU have gone conservative with an uninspiring, wishy-washy blue and black combo. Thankfully, the substance of the suit is far more exciting. Top-quality fabrics and engineered panelling deliver comfort and aerodynamics, and there’s a constant sense that it provides amazing support for leg muscles. The full-length front zipper is complemented by a middle vent to keep temperatures down, the low-density pad is extremely comfortable on the bike, and the overall fit is generally excellent. Less positive: the arms can bag slightly on narrower shoulders because the silicone grips are so effective, while the pockets are a little looser than is ideal.
Verdict: The looks are a little dull, but the perform full performs very well on the bike and run Score: 90%
Buy from Wiggle
Raceskin Funky Skull
In the Funky Skull Speedsuit, Raceskin have produced a tri-suit that lives up to its name. The titular Skull design is striking and typical of Raceskin, who are celebrated for their custom tri kit. There’s plenty more to like as well, such as generous movement in the shoulders, well-positioned rear pockets and an effective zip cover that’s so good it makes you wonder why you don’t find it everywhere, while the full-length zipper allows for easy toilet stops. Yet there are downsides. The pad is double density but for longer rides didn’t prove as comfortable as others on test, suggesting it’s more appropriate for short- rather than long-course racing. The Lycra fabric and flatlock seams are comfortable, but the sizing was an issue as it was a little short in the body for us, producing a slight ‘dragging down’ effect on the posture when running.
Verdict: Great visuals and zip guard, but the pad means this suit is better suited to shorter distances
Buy from RaceSkin
The Velocita from Brit brand Yonda proves to be a mixed bag. Its Carvico fabrics are handmade in Italy and are extremely soft, breathable and aerodynamic. The comfy pad is free of any irritating chafing on the bike and easily forgotten on the run, making it suitable for any triathlon distance. Yonda pride themselves on design and the Velocita is largely an attractive suit, yet with some slightly strange mesh panels on the legs. While the sleeves went down to the elbow and are held in place admirably, the leg grippers let it down a little. The back pockets are generous but a little loose, which isn’t ideal for swimming or keeping nutrition steady on the run, while the fit is somewhat restrictive in the upper body. The full-length front zipper is a welcome addition for longer races, though, and the price is appealing for the quality fabrics.
Verdict: Stylish and smooth fabrics, but a few flaws stop the Velocita from scoring higher
Buy from Yonda
Orca 226 Perform
Unzipping the Orca 226 Perform reveals a middle vent that’s claimed to help with transition and bathroom breaks – although we couldn’t work out how the latter applied to women! When standing up, the vent exposed midriff flesh in those taller than average and the abdomen segment cut into the waist, giving a bulging feeling around the stomach. The small leg grippers kept everything in place, but also produced the dreaded sausage leg-syndrome. On a positive note, the split front meant there’s no pulling down and it helped keep posture upright on the run. The ‘Vapour Cool’ fabric felt light on the skin and the open fit around the shoulders is the most comfortable on test. Although it offers SPF50 UV protection, the thin fabric resulted in some less-than-desirable areas becoming see-through when wet or stretched.
Verdict: Some great features in the upper, let down by the complexity of the overall fit
Buy from Tredz
Stolen Goat Core Green
This eye-catching suit comes with four-way stretch fabric that provides optimum balance between compression and comfort, while the thick leg grippers prevent any movement without causing bulging. The female tri-specific chamois comes with great credentials, but an unfortunately-placed seam straight up the middle produced an uncomfortable ‘front wedgie’ whenever we were in an upright position. The arms come with ‘air strip’ sleeves that, after wind-tunnel tests by Belgian aero specialists Bioracer, claim to save a huge 8-10 watts per sleeve. Bold claims indeed, but the upper body beautifully hugs the skin without restricting movement, and on it certainly feels like it slips through the air. The single rear pocket could be better placed for both access and aerodynamics, but it’s a good capacity and kept items secure, even on the run leg.
Verdict: Lots of positives, especially on the bike, but taller athletes may struggle with the fit
Buy from Stolen Goat
HUUB Design Aura short-sleeved
The new female-specific Aura tri-suit from Derby’s Huub Design is an instantly-impressive suit. It’s a shame we think the black colour scheme is a bit dull, but its ‘Coldblack’ temperature management coating is designed to be heat reflective, and it definitely felt very light and breathable even after swimming and during midday runs. The legs are shorter than most of the triathlon suits on test here, but the highly comfortable leg cuffs didn’t produce any bulging even on bigger cyclists’ thighs. A close fit throughout optimises the aerodynamic features without constricting movement, and the low waistband ensures there’s no undue stomach pressure in any of the tri disciplines. The only downside is the seam across the chamois, which rubbed between the saddle and the leg inseam after only an hour on the bike.
Verdict: We’re Not sold on the looks, but it’s a light suit with performance-enhancing features Score: 90%
Buy from HUUB Design
Roka Gen II Elite
Impressively, this female-specific design from Texans Roka comes in eight sizes. Its compressive race fit offers a supportive feeling to the legs and lower body, yet without causing any unsightly bulging or rubbing, and the minimal seams saw no chafing in vulnerable areas. The ‘anti-diaper’ bottom means the chamois remains close and unobtrusive to the body even when wet, and the thermoregulating fabric kept our body temperature nicely balanced throughout. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into the performance aspect of the Gen II Elite, and there’s an aerodynamic mesh on both the shoulders and the back plus smartly-placed pockets on the rear. Yet, although the upper body offers complete flexibility for the swim, the fit around the chest and shoulders is too slack, with notable gaping at the front while in the tri-bar position.
Verdict: A pricey suit that oozes quality but is let down by the fit on the chest and shoulders
Buy from Roka
Short-sleeved tri-suits: which is best?
The test underlined that fit is king and highlighted the need to try on kit, return it and give something else a go if it isn’t for you. Given the multitude of fits, designs and benefits on offer, depending on needs (such as how long you’ll be racing for and your aerodynamic demands), there’s something for everyone here. Race exhibitions are a great place to find new kit, just don’t use your race to test it! Looks can be very subjective too, but, if you feel good, chances are you’ll also look good.
There wasn’t a men’s tri-suit that would’ve disappointed as a purchase, but the Tri-Fit Evo was a clear winner. There’s a lot to like about the others, but the Evo pipped Zone3 and 2XU by virtue of design as well as comfort.
For women below 5ft 6in, the Orca and Stolen Goat are great aerodynamic choices, while the Roka offers great leg compression and high-quality fabrics… just with a hefty price tag. So that leaves us with Huub to take the top spot, thanks to its fit, comfort and heat regulation.
The best vested tri-suits
There are still numerous cases for a vested tri-suit in 2020. First, a vested tri-suit will often be cheaper than a sleeved version simply because there’s less of it – it’s easily possible to pick one up new for £50 or less by shopping around online or in specialist shops.
The next consideration is the extra restriction that some triathletes perceive to feel in a short-sleeved suit under a wetsuit. Even now with super technical tri-suits that are purpose-built to cause minimal swim restriction, some fussy pros are still sceptical and opt to roll theirs down to the waist, before putting it on properly during the run through T1.
Speedo Fast-skin Xenon
If you want to stand out at your next tri, then the gold details smattered around the Fastskin Xenon from Speedo will appeal. They’ve used their swimming know-how to create a fabric that’s highly chlorine-resistant, and the chamois pad is very comfortable while also being light and quick-drying. Speedo’s ‘Endurance 10’ fabric doesn’t have as much give as some of the stretchier suits on test, but it feels compressive and supportive with plenty of mesh sections for ventilation. The two small angled pockets at the back are just about big enough to fit a gel each. Considering it has some useful technical features, the Fastskin Xenon is a steal at £70… if you can make it fit you. Our size medium suit was extremely tight compared to the other medium suits on test, and the hydrophobic fabric doesn’t have that much stretch.
Verdict: Impressive technical fabric and affordable, but check the sizing
Buy from Speedo
Tenola is one of the few multisport brands that design and manufacture their kit in the UK, and the Inspire men’s tri-suit is very reasonably priced compared to the competition. Italian fabrics are used throughout and, while the suit lacks a bit of form fitting, it provides good coverage, some UV protection and decent breathability. The nondescript fit also extends to the legs, as we didn’t find they were very compressive and tended to sag while riding or running when the suit was wet. The grippers use a thin strip of silicon ‑ not our preference – unlike newer suits that favour flat seams. The zipper has a full-length guard and a flap at the top so your neck won’t chafe, and our size medium felt roomier than more pricey suits we’ve tested (which may appeal to some beginners).
Verdict: Functional and affordable British-made kit that should appeal to beginners
Buy from Tenola
Another suit with a rear zip like QSW’s London Speed, the no-nonsense-named ‘trisuit’ from FIT takes the tech up a notch with grooves on the back panel that claim to improve your aerodynamics on the bike. Another interesting feature is the ‘bioceramic fibres’ used on the legs, which FIT say encourage ‘vascular shunting’ to transfer power to your quads from the hamstrings when you move from bike to run. While we’ve no way of quantifying this from our field tests, anecdotally the suit felt comfortable and supportive on bricks, helped also by the decent breathability on the front. Where the engineering is lacking is in the chamois pad, which is narrow and thin without providing much in the way of support. Sprint-distance aficionados won’t mind, but for anything longer than an Olympic tri it’s not practical.
Verdict: Clever technical features, but only really suitable for short-course triathlon
Buy from FIT
Bioracer say their Team suit is suitable for any distance, and with a big pocket stretching across the lower back there’s plenty of storage, even if you can’t divide supplies separately. It’s close-fitting, yet stretchy enough to suit stronger builds. We found things quite tight across the chest, but not overly restrictive. The legs are made from ‘Aquaracer’ fabric with a hydrophobic treatment – said to dry 40% faster than standard Lycra – and we found it dried quickly after a sea swim. The large silicone grippers also hugged our thighs perfectly. The top half is made with Bioracer’s ‘Tri Force Lycra’, with a quality YKK zipper. Underneath the red-checked pattern the black Lycra is a little thin, but you’ll appreciate the breathability. As for value, the Team hits the sweet spot: it’s practical, features quality, technical fabrics and won’t break the bank.
Verdict: Fine all-rounder with fast and comfortable fabric, great leg grippers and ample storage Score: 86%
Buy from Bioracer
Orca 226 Perform Race
Part of Orca’s mid-priced range, the 226 Perform is suitable for any distance with two large, angled rear pockets and plenty of ventilation. There are mesh sections on the underarms and back panel, with Orca’s ‘Vapour Cool’ nanocrystal tech keeping your temp regulated. We clicked with the 226 Perform straight away, finding it comfy on the bike and run with no irritation. Orca claim their ‘thermo-seal’ technology allows the suit to adjust to your arm and leg shape perfectly, and we’d agree that it feels a cut above in terms of freedom of movement. The 4mm Italian chamois pad is fine for long bike legs, and Orca’s Stretchskin fabric has a hydrophobic treatment for quick-drying. The Perform loses a couple of marks because it’s a tad pricier than the competition, but if you want extra comfort and breathability, we think it’s worth the premium.
Verdict: Super comfortable, form-fitting suit across all three disciplines and for all distances Score: 92%
Buy from Sigma Sports
Huub’s Aura, in a price bracket above their Essential, features breathable Italian fabric and Coldblack technology to reflect heat and UV rays despite its sleek, black finish. There’s an instant quality feel and the zip is the best of the bunch: sturdy, with a large toggle for speed. Its race-fit feels, as you’d expect, supportive even though there’s zero lining, and though it’s a tad shy in body length, in action there’s no shoulder ache nor chafe. On the bike the pad settles toward the front meaning less rear comfort than we’d like, and the leg grippers are narrower than others here – but they sure stay put. The rear boasts two covered pockets (with slightly awkward access) and transparent ventilation panels which helped us stay cool, but on the flip side they skimmed a little too close to the bum for our liking!
Verdict: Classy and tech-packed suit with an excellent race-fit; could just do with more rear comfort
Buy from Wiggle
Zoot LTD Racesuit
Zoot certainly aren’t shy when it comes to design, and they’ve made no exception for their Tri LTD racerback suit, which captures the exotic spirit of the Ironman World Champs finish line – complete with UPF50+ tech for hot racing. With wide pineapple-themed leg grippers, four-way stretch panels and a true-to-size cut, it’s a very comfy suit. This is bolstered by its stand-out feature: a built-in shelf bra with breakaway zipper and matching pattern for stylish ventilation – though the inner zip is fiddly in action, and the lack of zip guard or garage is a bit scratchy. The barely-there fabric pad is our slimmest on test but it’s well-positioned and surprisingly comfortable, though we’d want some density for going long. Overall, this suit shines on comfort and style – but include that zip practice in your training.
Verdict: Stands out for (nearly) all the right reasons; built-in bra is good but needs refinement Score: 87%
Buy from Zoot Sports
Airofin Agility Pro
In the Agility Pro, Airofin claim to have made their best tri-suit yet. The only sleeveless suit from the Manchester brand is crafted from a super-breathable weave. Unfortunately, like the Roka, this renders the upper semi-transparent. On the upside, it also provides impressive ventilation and a featherweight feel, remaining notably light after a swim. The breakaway zipper should be a winner, but it has a flimsy finish making it time-consuming in practice. In action though, it’s a pretty comfy suit with a true-to-size fit and unfettered feel. The pad’s a good thickness for the bike, but, as it is the widest on test, it’s slightly obtrusive on the run. The pockets could be comfier for the final discipline too, since they sit atop the suit. Its candy-pink grippers are effective, if unflattering on our pasty thighs!
Verdict: Well-ventilated, comfy on the move and lightweight, but a mixed bag overall
Buy from Airofin
Roka Gen 2 Elite Aero
Points to Roka for producing identical aesthetics across their top-end suits for men and women. But there’s a hitch – one layer of breathable white fabric across the chest doesn’t leave much to the imagination. If this doesn’t bother you, or you plan to wear extra support, then the Elite Aero’s high-end construction delivers. It’s crafted with thermoregulation tech and wind-tunnel -tested fabric, comfy rub-free seams and ‘no-sew’ leg grippers for a super smooth finish. The compressive fit takes work to get into but is very comfy once on (especially with Roka’s added core support), while the low profile – if crudely stitched – chamois moves with the body as claimed for a barely-there feel on the run. The breakaway zipper works well in practice to aid speed, as do the side-loading nutrition pockets.
Verdict: High-tech suit that delivers… just marginally let down by transparent upper
Buy from Roka
Zone3 Activate Plus
Zone3’s Activate Plus is an evolution of the Activate range, which is designed to provide both quality and value for money. Additions include an effective breathable mesh back panel and eye-catching lateral designs – with colourways starting at £85. As usual for Zone3, performance is terrific across every discipline. The Italian fabric gives a quality feel throughout, and though the advertised inner bra is actually just a double lining it did keep us secure. The biggest let downs are the single pocket and the silicone leg grippers, which are too narrow and have an annoying habit of peeling up. On the plus side, the protected zipper and flat-locked seams left no marks, and the chamois – the most padded on test – feels good over longer distance; offering seated comfort front to back without interfering on the run. In short, the perfect pad!
Verdict: Budget grippers and a single pocket, but a winner in the comfort and value stakes
Buy from Zone3
Santini Sleek Fast Swim
Santini twin classy colours with a racerback for a pro, if chilly, feel in their Sleek, which carries all the traits of Italian-made quality. Built from a hydrophobic, UV-protective fabric with a tidy, easy-reach rear pocket – although only one – the Sleek delivers a race fit with a substantial feel. While there’s no inner bra, extra lining plus adjustable fastening provide security. On the flip side, it is tricky to fasten by yourself (although we could get in and out without unclasping). In action there’s total freedom of movement, it’s quick in the pool and the Acqua Zero material dries fast. The wide, sticky grippers are, we feel, the best on test, while a slender silicone pad kept us comfy from bike to run. So far so great, but there’s a key let down: the seams dug into the skin, causing discomfort over time.
Verdict: An absolute beauty of a speedster, but seam issues leave this short-course-friendly only Score: 82%
Buy from Santini
The best Ironman tri-suits
Triathlon brands are increasingly realising the aerodynamic benefits of tri-suits (remember that 80% of drag is caused by the rider, not the bike) and this 2020 collection of Lycra is the most tech-happy yet, with fabric boasting dimples, ribs and more all present and correct.
With this increased emphasis on speed, we jumped at the chance to test these suits under the watchful eye of aero specialist Stephen Roche of thebiketailor.com (tel 01273 569006), in the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub to assess the aero properties of each suit. Garments were tested at a variety of yaw angles (0, 5 and 10) and at 45km/h on a mannequin in a comfortable, not too aggressive, tri-bar position.
Yet, with anything from 7:35hrs to 17hrs of racing, obviously aerodynamics are only one of the factors that come into play with an Ironman tri-suit. Comfort is king for many athletes, so we’ve tested these in the Ironman hotspot of Lanzarote and on the roads of our beloved Somerset (where the nation’s first-ever official full official Ironman took place at Sherborne in 2005) to assess their long-course credentials, from pocket positions to pad plushness and gripper/zipper abilities for 226km racing (and with half an eye on middle-distance events).
Versatility, durability and style (you’ll want the suit to look good even if you’re crawling up the blue carpet at 11:59pm) were further considerations, as were the non-wetsuit swim performance and ability to tackle warmer climes via venting and UV protection.
The wind tunnel criteria
Venture to any of the web pages of the tri-suits on test here and you’ll find aero claims for nearly all of them, with many having undergone wind-tunnel and/or velodrome testing. Yet, as we’ve only ever seen selected results from these tests, there’s a high degree of ‘pinch of salt’ to such boasts. Not everyone can have the fastest suit, right? With this in mind, we jumped at the chance to test these suits at the Silverstone Sports Engineering Hub’s wind tunnel with Stephen Roche of The Bike Tailor (not the Irish pro cyclist).
As these suits are targeted at non-drafting Ironman racing, we had our test rider – a £10,000 mannequin by the name of Graham – assume the tri-bar position, turned the wind tunnel up to a speed of 45km/h, and tested each suit at 0°, 5°, 10° and 15° yaw angles (simply, the level of crosswind on the bike). Given that the vast majority of a 180km Ironman bike leg is spent riding below 10° (98% at IM Arizona, 72% at Kona), the 0° and especially 5° angles were the key focus for us.
What should you look for in an Ironman tri-suit?
Ironman gear: tri-suit versus separate kit for cycling and running legs
Aussies 2XU have been the winners of this Ironman suits test for the past couple of years with their Compression tri-suit, and they’ve stuck to the ‘if it ain’t broke’ formula with the latest 2020 edition. The compressive legs give it a USP, while the full-length zip, spongy pad and lean fabric are still present to heighten the long-course appeal. It still ticks most boxes for race day but there’s just a sense that, while the other brands are pressing forward, 2XU are now standing still with this suit, summed up by the retro 1980s aesthetics and the fact it came sixth overall in the wind tunnel at 0° and 5° and lower at both the 10° and 15° yaw angles.
Verdict: Still ticks most boxes but it’s time for an overhaul
Buy from 2XU
Santini are the official sponsors of Ironman and this made-in-Italy suit comes with striking M-Dot branding. We’ve previously struggled with the sheer size of Santini’s cycling-esque pads when on the run, but that’s been rectified with this latest release thanks to a slimmer Ironman-specific pad with gel inserts. It’s lightweight, lean and breathable, with easy-to-access open rear pockets (which sadly won’t win any non-wetsuit swimming friends), high-quality grippers and, for us, the best looks on test. In terms of aero appeal, it came mid-table throughout and only marginally ahead of the £180 2XU.
Verdict: top pad and looks, yet a high price for mid-table speed
Buy from Bike Inn
Endura QDC D2Z
We watched this custom 220 suit being handcrafted at Endura’s HQ (see issue 372’s Brand Visits), and the attention to detail makes that £350 price tag much easier to tolerate. That RRP is also the result of the 30th edition of this suit being pushed by famed aerodynamicist Simon Smart to within an millimetre of its life, producing the fastest suit in our tunnel tests at the 5° and 10° yaw angles (second at 0°). On the road, the silky fabrics, plush pad and countless panels add to the comfort package, and yet the lack of a full-length zip may cause consternation for some and we’d prefer taped or flatlock seams internally to reduce rubbing.
Verdict: The fastest suit on test, yet with comfort and style
Buy from Tredz
Heart Sports Ice
Heart Sports made this tester’s favourite tri-suit of all time in 2017. There’s instantly more of a speed focus with the 2020 ICE suit, courtesy of the ribbed fabric and sleeker fit. And yet it came bottom of the pile in the wind tunnel (but it performed well at the extreme 15° yaw angle). So it’s the comfort that makes this a 226km winner, with the floating pockets, plump chamois and ‘rummage pouch’ for mid-race toilet stops all retained. Updates include (at last!) a zip guard, lighter colours and an ICE chip that’s built in to the rear pocket so emergency services can access your medical data in case of an accident.
Verdict: Not the most aero, but extreme comfort once again from Heart Sports
Buy from Heart Sports
Zoot Ltd Tri Aero
Zoot’s clunkily-titled Ltd Tri Aero Full Zip Racesuit Plus+ was mixed in the tunnel, finishing fifth at 0°, seventh at 5° yaw, but top of the class at the extreme yaw of 15°. So what you’re largely paying for here is Zoot’s unique visuals and comfort. Lots of comfort. This includes smooth internal seams, a soft Italian chamois with an attached ‘modesty liner’, and the silkiest materials this side of Silktown. There’s also a large kangaroo-style back pocket and two side slots for gels, and the best grippers on test. Sadly they still haven’t sorted the minimal zipper guard, but the full-length zip makes this a solid choice for racing convenience.
Verdict: Bags of comfort for race day but so-so in the tunnel
Buy from Wiggle
LG Aero Tri Suit
The latest suit from Louis Garneau arrives following input from Lionel Sanders and LG’s own tunnel testing, and it showed the aero goods in our own tests by placing third at 0° yaw and fourth at 5° yaw. But what makes this so great is the comfort. Deep pockets, stretchy mesh fabric and a full-length zip for mid-race toilet breaks are all present. That mesh material and the white fabric make it our pick for hotter races, while there are pockets specifically included near major blood vessels to load with ice from aid stations. The finishing quality is mostly better than on previous LG suits, yet we’d prefer flatlock seams internally.
Verdict: Aero and comfort combine in a winning iron suit
Buy from Garneau
Orca Dream Kona
The Dream Kona was made with top Ironman Seb Kienle, a 220 hero for his honesty and hands-on approach to his race tech. As the price suggests, Orca have thrown the aero sink at the suit, with both ribbed and dimpled fabric providing a lean fit that produced the third-fastest results in the wind tunnel at 5° yaw. It’s the best here for non-wetsuit swims, with the fabric beading water. Neat touches include the dimples on the bottom to stop movement on the saddle, a zipper buffer, convenient full-length zip, taped seams and slick grippers. But the lack of pockets will divide opinion; so much depends on your own fuel-carrying strategy.
Verdict: Fast in the tunnel, good in the water; lacks pockets
Buy from Sigma Sports
HUUB DS Long
Upon release in 2015, the Dave Scott Long Course was one of the first short-sleeved tri-suits with an aero bent. It proved hugely popular but has had little recent attention from Huub as they’ve focussed on the high-end Anemoi, and only belatedly gets a (moderate) overhaul in 2020. Plus points include the breathable mesh fabric and Coldblack treatment for hotter races, flatlock internal seams, a spongy chamois and the best zipper guard here. Yet there’s still no full-length zip and the leg grippers feel dated compared to the rest, and the tunnel results saw it finish second bottom at 0°, 5° and 10° yaw angles.
Verdict: Top looks and heat appeal, but an aero disappointment
Buy from HUUB
Zone3 A’force X
For a brand synonymous with wetsuit tech, Zone3 have yet to create a truly leading aero tri-suit. That’s all changed with the Aeroforce X, complete with dimpled sleeves, pinstripes and a close-to-the-skin fit (perhaps a little too tight in the nether regions) aided by the sticky leg grippers. The hydrophobic material score this aquatic points and, on the road, the covered pockets are still sizeable enough for race fuel, there’s a zip guard, ample pad and decent venting in the rear mesh. And the tunnel? The input from aero specialists Nopinz has reaped the rewards, with the suit placing second at 5° and 10° yaw and the fastest at the 0° yaw angle.
Verdict: swift in the tunnel, comfy on the race track: a winner
Buy from Zone3
The results from the wind tunnel
While our aero road helmets test threw up surprises (the £40 Van Rysel holding its own vs £200 lids), the data from the Silverstone tunnel has proven that you largely get what you pay for in terms of tri-suit drag. The most expensive suit, the £349 Endura, was the fastest at both 5° and 10° yaw angles, the £275 Zone3 was its closest rival and the fastest at 0° yaw, while the £120 Heart Sports came last at 0°, 5° and 10°.
The Louis Garneau was third fastest at 0° and 10° yaw; the Orca taking third at 5°. The Santini, 2XU and Zoot switched places throughout, while the Huub regularly placed eighth and Heart only scored at 15°.
For the number crunchers out there, the Coefficient of Drag (CdA) of each suit at 5° and the approximate time behind the best performer over the 180km Ironman bike leg are here:
Endura (CdA 0.23, 00:00secs);
Zone3 (CdA 0.231, 15secs);
Orca (CdA 0.235, 1:16mins);
LG (CdA 0.2355, 1:23mins);
Santini (CdA 0.239, 2:18mins);
2XU (CdA 0.24, 2:33mins);
Zoot (CdA 0.243, 3:19mins);
Huub (CdA 0.244, 3:35mins);
Heart (CdA 0.247, 4:21mins).
So which is the best Ironman tri-suit?
The high scores prove that we’re in a peak tri-suit design period, the elastane equivalent of 1967 in music. But which will be the Lycra Sgt. Pepper’s?
Heart Sports again bring affordability and comfort to the long-course party, while the Zoot (silkiness and style), Santini (fine looks and pad), 2XU (compression and lean fabrics) and especially the Orca (hydro and aero powers) all have much to admire.
For the speedsters out there, the Huub disappoints, but the Zone3 and Endura are very hard to separate. Both are furiously fast suits, both come with performance-enhancing but comfy materials, and both justify their lofty price tags. And then some. This is seriously impressive stuff.
Yet, and after much deliberation, we’ve gone for the Louis Garneau for having the broadest appeal to the widest array of Iron athletes. It ticks the aero, comfort and convenience boxes, and there are also innovative ways of dealing with the heat.
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