Triathlon has been all the rage recently. In the wake of the Phoenix Sub7/Sub8 challenge, many cyclists were awakened to the athletic achievement that is long course triathlon – or perhaps it was the Tokyo crit in between swimming and running at the 2020 Olympics that piqued your interest. In any sense, triathlon is a growing sport and many of those beginning to take part are cyclists!
If that’s you, you’ll likely want a triathlon suit. This is a garment that you can wear across the swim, bike and run. Similar to the best skinsuits for road cycling, it has aerodynamics at its core. The primary difference between a triathlon suit and a skinsuit is the pad – running in a full fat chamois is a recipe for chafing. Developing a pad which is comfy enough – but not too bulky – is a challenge.
All the suits we’ve tested here are sleeved, this is mostly because they look much better and are more popular as a result. But also, a sleeved suit is measurably faster, as our arms take a huge amount of wind when in the time trial position. A suit with features to trip a boundary layer reducing turbulent air will be quicker than one without.
Triathletes aren’t constricted by the UCI rulebook either – meaning many of outlawed features make an appearance on these suits. As a result, this list could be of interest to any CTT (a British time trial racing organisation) event riders too – if you’re willing to make a compromise on the pad it’s possible one of these suits will be faster than what you can find elsewhere, though many brands make a cycling specific version of these suits.
This suit comes with a host of cool features, the medium was a pretty snug fit (more aero, but less comfortable running) and has medium sized pockets in the rear and air-tripping (UCI illegal – not that it matters for triathlon) rubber features on the arms. The Castelli PR triathlon suit is probably marketed toward more serious athletes, though that said it wasn’t uncomfortable on long rides. The chamois was relatively generous for such an aggressive suit and, as the fit was so exact, stayed in place during all rides.
If you’re racing a long course triathlon this is a good option. The suit survived a couple of washes quite well – the only thing I would say about this suit is that it’s one to race in unzipped, then zip up after the swim. That’s not uncommon for sleeved suits but if you’re not comfortable doing that – it’s not the suit for you. The Castelli is definitely designed for athletes at the pointy end, with the air-tripping arm sleeves and aggressive fit being good enough for Ineos Grenadier, Cam Wurf, who are we to argue?
Endura’s famous collaboration with D2Z has been hit and miss in some aspects however the suits are fast! The Encapsulator TT suit was so fast the UCI changed their rules because of it.
It could be argued that making a triathlon suit is actually harder though for two reasons, comfort is more important (running chafing is worse than any bicycle chafing – sorry cyclists) and making a suit that’s aero but can be run in is also hard – you can’t run fast folded over.
This suit was incredible resulting in only a small amount of chafing during a rainy half ironman. When you order an Endura D2Z Encapsulator suit it comes in a beautiful zip box, has a nice little laundry bag with it and comes with a book which explains the design process.
I’ve washed this suit inside the laundry bag three times, the bag is there in order to protect the air-tripping chevrons on the sleeve, similar to the Castelli suit. I did wash it once without the bag and didn’t seem to lose any of the chevrons. Though I wouldn’t recommend making a habit of this, the suit is well made.
This suit was the one I was most excited to test as I wore the old Huub Aneomi suit to race in all of this season, which I loved. The suit from the British manufacturer was probably the biggest let down on the list. It felt heavy in the hand and I found that overheating was an issue.
It was restrictive to swim in when pulled up, which was a surprise given the quality of wetsuit and swimskins that Huub have produced over the years. The pad was comfortable on the turbo and it survived a couple of washes unscathed and was a solid suit but I expected more based on how much I liked the old one.
One word of warning for the HUUB is around the suit’s fit. For me – it fit quite well, but for smaller mates of mine (who fit into other medium sized suits) the legs were somewhat baggy. With this in mind, it may be worth sizing down. It’s worth mentioning that I am a slightly ‘thick thighed’ medium though, this is one to try on before you buy it if possible.
This suit is what you’d expect from DHB – comfy, fits true to size and isn’t too expensive. It doesn’t come with a huge number of aerodynamic features but is less than half the price of a number of the options compiled in this list. It’s comfy under a wetsuit zipped up and unzipped, and didn’t chafe on a long run. This suit probably isn’t the fastest option for the bike leg in this list but it’s comfortable, functional and reasonably priced.
It comes with comfort features including leg and arm grippers, as well as a neat little strip of material which guards the zip from chafing. This suit has a more flexible size profile too – fitting a wider range of medium-ish size body shapes than some of the others.
There’s a slight lack of ventilation in the suit which can cause a little bit of overheating, but this lack of slightly less stretchy mesh is what makes the suit comfortable. If you’re racing in Britain, lack of ventilation isn’t a problem too often, anyway. This is a good, all round suit, perfect for your first few long course triathlons.
The flamboyantly designed Zoot suit was an interesting one to test. With a slightly heavier duty feel and thicker pad I wondered if it would chafe when running or feel clunky and uncomfortable while swimming but it actually felt really good. Swimming both zipped up, unzipped and pulled down to the waist under the wetsuit were all ok.
The pad was comfortable on the turbo for two hours. The suit lacked the aero credentials of some of the others, with no texturing on the arms, but was by far and away the most comfortable on the list. Its fit was true to size and is the perfect iron-distance suit.
With a slightly heavier feel to the material, overheating was a concern but the entire suit is somewhat mesh like and the material seems to dissipate heat remarkably well with only a little bit of airflow necessary. If you’re prioritising comfort, the Zoot suit is the best of the bunch (by some considerable margin).
Roka came into triathlon declaring their intention to build the fastest triathlon wetsuit – and they achieved that by simply putting one on Lucy Charles-Barclay. This is a brand, like Huub, with great pedigree in the sport which lead to me having some very high expectations of their suit from a general perspective but I was also looking forward to swimming in it.
I found the shoulders restrictive and the zip uncomfortable in the water. The pad was good and the suit has some aerodynamic texturing on the arms but it feels heavy. The chamois was ok on the turbo but the suit was very hot. A race kit you’ll have to unzip for the swim that might be more suited for colder races.
Out of the box, it feels high quality and the material is nice in the hand. You can’t feel the seams when the suit is on and, despite some heat related issues, there’s no chafing at all while running. This is a good halfway option between comfort and performance, unless you’re racing in southern Europe a lot in summer – where you’ll want to opt for something lighter. This suit was used for Ironman 70.3 Swansea, while the suit was comfortable and aero we did lose our gels on the bike!
The triathlon suit market is a crowded one. Out of the six suits tested there were none that performed particularly badly. Personally, my favourites are the Endura and the Castelli suits, but the Zoot and DHB options are fast, comfortable and look great. If you’re trying to race at the pointy end of the field, I’d recommend the Endura D2Z Encapsulator suit. For those of you more focussed on comfort, the Zoot Waikoloa is your best bet.
How we test
Each of these suits were worn for at least either one triathlon or long ‘brick’ session (this is a bike to run session for those uninitiated to the jargon), as well as being used for regular training. The suits were judged on their fit, chamois comfort and heat dissipation abilities. We also kept an eye out for any early signs of wear from usage and the (many) wash cycles.
What makes a triathlon suit different from a road cycling speed suit?
At a glance, triathlon suits do look pretty much identical to the speed suits you typically see at a time trials, some crits or in the velodrome – but there are some crucial differences.
First is the chamois. Triathlon suits have much less bulky inserts in order to be more comfortable when running – and which also hold less water after the swim. Suits for cycling only will focus more on on-the-bike comfort and have a thicker pad.
Next is the materials. Not being governed by the UCI, trisuits can utilise fabrics and technologies that are banned by cycling’s governing body. Means tri suits can be made faster than skin suits designed with the UCI rule book in mind.
What makes a good triathlon suit?
Triathlon suits are subject to a huge range of demands. Just in the cycling portion, they need a chamois that is cushioning enough and the right proportions, they should be form-fitting and not flap in the wind – whilst also not being restrictively tight – and any aero advantages offered by the materials are always welcome.
At the same time, the sleeves need to be unresitritive in the swim, the chamois low profile enough for both the swim and the run, and the materials need to be quick-wicking and fast drying, to move moisture away from your skin and keep you cool.
It’s no wonder that the price tags for the best models are as high as they are, although you are at least getting both shorts and a jersey in one go.
Are triathlon suits worth it?
A triathlon suit is absolutely worth it. If your budget doesn’t extend to the best (and more expensive) models, a lower end suit will be better than nothing.
The demands that triathlon puts on your kit are so varied that trying to make do with a swimsuit for the bike portion (very uncomfortable) or cycling kit for the swim and run (uncomfortable again) just isn’t worth trying.