What To Wear For Triathlons? Trisuit VS Wetsuit Choices; Options & When To Wear What


It is okay to be confused about what to wear for your first few Triathlons. The information about around could be overwhelming. In any case, it would be smart to decide on what to wear early on to give yourself time to test your wear before the actual event.

While it is possible to race with your normal day-to-day sportswear, such as swim, cycling, and running shorts and shirts, they are not optimal for triathlon racing because of a significant amount of time lost changing in the transition.

Again, while this is okay for absolute beginners, it would make more sense to invest and upgrade to a proper triathlon suit as you get more engaged in the sport.

So to cut it short, typically what would someone expect to wear in triathlons? The most commonly used triathlon wear is the Sleeveless one-piece triathlon suit. Additionally, for triathlon races occurring in cold environments where the water temperate is below 25-degree Celsius (77 Fahrenheit), Triathletes wear a wetsuit on top of the triathlon suit for warmth and they remove it in the transition zone.

On a side note, do not waste your money on useless gear purchases and check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

Note that depending on the temperature and the organizer policy, wetsuits could be either Mandatory, Optional, or Illegal. Check out our article on How To Dress For A Rainy And Cold Triathlon?

On a side note, do not waste your money on useless gear purchases and check out my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

What Is The Difference Between One And Two-piece Triathlon Suits?

The question of whether you should choose a one or two-piece triathlon suit gets easier to answer as one gains experience with their usage. For both adults and kids, this choice is personal.

So, should one use a one or two-piece triathlon suit? A two-piece triathlon suit is a better choice for a long-distance triathlon as they allow for quicker and easier bathroom breaks which are more likely in comparison to short-distance triathlons where a one-piece suit is preferred.

The difference between these two is literally in the name. A one-piece triathlon suit simply referred to as a tri suit, is a complete suite with either a front or rear zipper. A two-piece suit on the other hand is a kit that is composed of a bottom and a top. The similarity is that in both cases, the material is very thin and breathable.

These suits are usually very tight and form-fitting.

As mentioned in the above video, the choice is very subjective. If you are planning on participating in a triathlon event, you are better off making this decision much earlier.

You need to figure out the suit that guarantees you utmost comfort and not figure it out during the race itself.

For more on what to wear on your next triathlon check out our post “What To Wear For Any Triathlon? A Brief & Complete Guide

Advantages of a one-piece triathlon suit

If as a triathlete you choose to go with the one-piece suit, then you will stand to benefit from the following advantages:

It is more aerodynamic

The explanation for this is that with a one-piece suit, the front area is clean and thus offers less resistance to the wind.

Has more compression built-in

One-pice suits have a higher compression rate. With the extra compression, muscle fatigue is delayed.

Less chafing

A one-piece suit has fewer seams compared to the two-piece one. It also lacks the waistband that would be necessary in the case of a two-piece. Athletes have reported less chafing by on the account of these two aspects.

Offers better chamois support

A one-piece suit allows for tucking of chamois against the butt. This way, when you swim in your suit, you will not experience sagging as may be the case with the shorts in the case of a two-piece suit.

Less skin exposure

A rider on a triathlon bicycle will often be hunched over in a position that is considered aero. With a one-piece, their back will not be exposed to the sun (on a sunny day) and thus fewer sunburns.

Disadvantages of a one-piece triathlon suit

Athletes have reported a few disadvantages that come with using a one-piece triathlon suit. These are:

Difficulty in bathroom use

Now, if you are an athlete who requires frequent bathroom breaks, this may not be the suit for you. In any triathlon event, time is a factor in determining the outcome. If you are in a race, you want to spend the least time possible on a bathroom break. Unzipping and pulling down the entire top of a suit will take much more time than the simple dropping of drawers as in two-piece suits.

Does not fit all body shapes correctly

More likely than not you know or have seen a person who either has a disproportionately bigger upper body compared to the lower body or vice versa. Now, what are the odds that this person will get a triathlon suit that fits their body shape off the shelf? This person is better off choosing a two-piece suit where they can have different sizes for top and bottom.

Overheating

This only becomes a problem when the event is long and the weather is hot. You are more likely to be more comfortable in a two-piece suit if you are participating in say a long-distance race on a hot day. How warm a suit feels also depends on the model’s fabric. My point is, if you are considering the same fabric, under the same weather conditions, a one-piece is bound to be warmer (Source).

Check out the one-piece tri suit I use and highly recommend as part of my Best Triathlon Battle-Tested Budgeting Gear

Advantages of a two-piece triathlon suit

Some of these advantages have already come up as I contrasted the two-piece suit to the one-piece suit in my earlier statements.  We can summarize the advantages of a two-piece triathlon suit as follows:

They allow more airflow

A suit that allows more airflow to your skin will help in cooling your body.

Less restrictive to movement

When you put on a two-piece suit, you can move your shoulders from side to side more easily than you would in a one-piece suit. Some triathletes find this a desirable quality. If this matters to you, then a two-piece is your go-to suit.

Ease of bathroom use

What you need to do for a bathroom stop is simply pull down the bottoms of a two-piece suit and you are good to go. This quick action will make the difference in the finish time in triathlon events. Some triathletes decide on the suit with the need for a toilet break as a base factor. If the race is short and they are sure to not need a toilet break, they will go with a one-piece. Otherwise, they will go with the two-piece suit.

Easy to fit different body shapes

If you are a size or two larger on the lower body as compared to the upper body or the other way round, the two-piece suit will work for you. You simply select the appropriate size for the top and a different size for the bottom. Most stores will store a model of a suit in the same color with different sizes. With this provision, you can select from a range of sizes.

More storage in the back pockets

You can use the back pockets to store your devices or other basic requirements in a triathlon. Women can also comfortably store their hygiene products in these back pockets

Disadvantages of a two-piece triathlon suit

A two-piece triathlon suit has the following disadvantages

It is less aerodynamic

A two-piece has more bunching of material which imposes more wind and water resistance.

More chafing

By its design, a two-piece suit will have more seams as compared to a one-piece suit. The increased seams result in more chafing. Also, worth noting is the fact that a two-piece suit will have a waistband. This may increase pressure experienced by a triathlete.

Less hydrodynamic

Remember when I said that a two-piece suit will offer you more storage pockets at the back? Well, that’s not always a good thing! When you go swimming, these same pockets will scoop up water and increase the drag that you experience. That sucks! Right?

With this information, I hope you can easily pick the type of suit that will work for you depending on the weather, length of the triathlon event, your requirements for comfort, and any other factor.

The cost of one-piece versus the cost of a two-piece Triathlon suit

There is no notable cost difference between one-piece and two-piece triathlon suits. Given a suit model, most vendors provide the option of a one-piece suit and the option of top and bottom set for the same cost.

While it is nice to race with a tri suit, it is not a must. You can still finish a triathlon using your normal sportswear for no extra cost. Here is an interesting article that I wrote about How to race a triathlon for free with no budget and no money! (equipment, registration, and training)

Should you wear something under your triathlon suit?

You do not have to wear underwear underneath your triathlon suit. underwears increase chafing potential and are therefore counterproductive (source). This does not apply to the sports bra. Check out our post on What Is A Triathlon Singlet & How To Pick A Triathlon Specific Sports Bra!

Also, Check out How To Avoid Chafing And Blisters In Triathlons? Prevention & Treatment Tips

Sleeve Or No Sleeve Triathlon suit?

Sleeved suits were launched just a few years ago and were only allowed in World triathlon cooperation in 2016 ( long course races) while still banned by ITU, so they are less common and new to the sport.

That being said, Just like the one and two-piece suit argument, the sleeved and sleeveless triathlon suit has its own advantages and disadvantages without a simple answer.

As explained in the video one should consider the following elements when making the choice of whether to choose a Sleeveless or Sleeved triathlon suit,

  • Swim mobility
  • Swim drag
  • bike aerodynamic
  • toilet stops
  • Temperature control
  • sun protection
  • Comfort

It has to do a lot with personal preference so maybe you will have to test them yourself to come up with your own conclusion, but here is a high level of why you would choose one over the other.

So should you use a sleeved or sleeveless triathlon suit? In my opinion, for sunny warm races, a sleeved tri suit provides extra protection against sunburns and overheating, however, it may come at the cost of the increased likelihood of chafing.

Here is a photo of my sunburned back after finishing an Ironman in Malaysia using a sleeveless Trisuit

Which Triathlon Suit To Choose For Kids?

A two-piece triathlon suit Is considered the best option for kids as they are not as diligent as adults and therefore you need to ease their bathroom use. Some kids will find the process of unzipping and dropping the entire top of a one-piece suit to be difficult.

Your kid will need just the same considerations of comfort as you. your best option is to allow your kid to try out the different suits and choose what they are comfortable in. However, you also consider the following;

Also check out How To Introduce Your Kid To Triathlon? What Parents Must Know!

What Is The Difference Between A Triathlon Suit And A Wetsuit?

Wet Suit
Wet Suit

A triathlon suit is a suit that you will wear throughout a triathlon event. It may also be used for swimming. A wet suit on the other hand is buoyant, made of neoprene, and used for swimming to keep the triathlete warm in cold water swims.

A wet suit mainly provides extra warmth to the triathlete In America, USAT guidelines state that you may wear a wetsuit if the water temperature is 78 (25.5°C) degrees or below. (source)

The buoyancy provided by the wet suit is an additional performance and confidence booster.

Also check out What To And Not To Wear Under A Triathlon Wetsuit? Compatible Triathlon Suits

Triathlon races may be Wet suit Mandatory, wet suit legal ( as in optional ), or wet suit Illegal. The choice is dependent on the organizer and water temperature on the race day.

Women Tri Suit Choice

There is no single answer for which suit will flatter your body, some say the one-piece is magical, that it brings out their curves! But seriously, am not sure but my guess is that the process of which tri suit to choose is not any different.

Conclusion

In general, I would opt for a one-piece sleeveless triathlon suit for short triathlon distances, ranging from Super sprint to Olympic triathlon distance. As for longer distances such as 140.6 Full and 70.3 Half Ironman distances, I could see the two-piece sleeved triathlon suit working better.

But again, the difference is not that all massive, and the most important factor to consider when making the choice of which triathlon suit to choose is comfort, thus it is essential to test the tri suit few times before the race day.

If you are just starting off your TRI journey, I would recommend that you have a look at the article I wrote about 50 must-know tips for every beginner triathlete.

sherifjallad

An extreme triathlete who have competed in dozens of triathlons including IronMans and Extreme triathlons.

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