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Triathlon Clothing - To Suit or Not?

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Our customers often ask about triathlon clothing. Beginners ask – “What do I need to wear” and athletes that have been racing for about year ask – “I need to upgrade, should I get a tri suit.” We use some simple guidelines below that will help 80-90% of people. Sometimes, people have their favourite or have settled on clothing that works for them – that is great. We use our guidelines based on how long you have been in the sport and your current passion level. They can be used for short distances up to Ironman Triathlon.

First Timer

If you are new to the sport, then go very basic. You do not need to buy the latest or most expensive gear to start. Leave that until you know that you want to continue with the sport. This is doubly true for young ones who are likely to grow out of gear quick. Typically, you will be doing a shorter distance so issues, like padding for the bike and carrying nutrition, are not likely to be required.

Grab a pair of swimming jammers/shorts + tee shirt. If you are not using a wetsuit then starting with the jammer is perfect and then put a top on before you exit the cycle. I recommend a tighter tee shirt, so you don’t balloon up during the cycle and fly away! I also do not recommend wearing socks for shorter events (hard to get on after a wet swim) but you need to test this in training as blisters are not a runner’s friend.

If you are in a wetsuit swim then swap the jammers for a pair of cycle shorts or run shorts. A bit of padding on the bike is always welcome.

In summary – use what you have and save your money! Expect to pay $0

Few races/enjoying the sport

After you have been in a few races or you fell in love after that first finish line then it is time to look at specific triathlon clothing. If you are doing short to medium distances – enticer, sprint and Olympic then look for an entry level tri suit. Some people prefer tri shorts and tops over the tri suit but by far the trend if for a one piece. Not only are they more comfortable (especially around the waist and for the larger athlete) but also they tend to be cheaper than a comparable short/top set.

A good triathlon suit is designed specifically for triathlon and offers benefits to help you race faster and be as comfortable as possible. It will be great in the water, providing a skin of sorts that fits well beneath your wetsuit or as your only garment in the water. It will be quick-drying so that by the time you are on the bike, you are dry enough to not chafe – this is very important. It also prevents the need for adding/subtracting clothing at a transition, helping you breeze through to the next leg as quickly as possible.

As an example, we represent Orca men’s and women’s tri suits, tops and shorts among other brands and their entry-level Core range has all the comfort and features required for this sort of distance. They also look good !!

If you are a member of a club that has tri gear then generally it will be pitched at this entry level.

In summary – Go for an entry-level triathlon suit with good material. Expect to pay $150-200

Lots of racing/love the sport

If you are stepping up to the longer distances such as Ironman 70.3 or Ironman Triathlon then it is time to go upmarket and look at the short-sleeved tri suit range. Short-sleeved tri suits are a recent entry to the sport and they have 2 major benefits over sleeveless:

1. Shoulder and arm coverage of the sun. This is the main reason people go for short sleeved. If you are going to be out in the sun all day, then UV protection is a must (I have had plenty of examples of red patterns on my back after an ironman).

2. These suits are faster during the cycle due to reduce wind drag. There are plenty of articles showing the benefits in time and it is 2nd best value additions to your aerodynamic strategy on the bike ($ per time saved). Number 1 is aero bars, so the suit outranks expensive wheels.

Using my example of Orca – their top tier 226 range now come with short sleeved options (full tri suits or a tri jersey). Great material and compression qualities to keep you together for a long day.

In summary – Go for a top shelf short sleeved triathlon suit with good material. Expect to pay $200-300

Conclusion

Tri Clothing becomes more important as you step up the distance you train and race. Comfort and Speed are the major benefits. Start off small and step up as your passion for the sport grows.

About the author

Andrew Lang has been competing in triathlons for over 20 years and all distances from Sprint all the way up to completing 19 Ironman triathlons. Although he is a middle to back of the pack triathlete he has been fortunate to race at 2 Ironman 70.3 World Championships and the Ironman World Champions at Kona. Since 2009, Andrew has owned and operated Ezi Sports – the largest online triathlon store in Australia. He gets to field test and evaluate most new products on the market as well as help thousands of athletes with their sport gear needs.