Let’s face it – for most of us, a tri suit wouldn’t be our first choice when it comes to our weekend attire. And to the uninitiated, the sight of hundreds of people running around in all-in-one stretchy suits might seem a little strange. But as much as a tri suit might not be the choice du jour for a discerning fashionista. In a sport where every second counts and transitioning seamlessly between disciplines is key, what we choose to wear on race day can have a big impact on our performance.

We take a look at the benefits of wearing a tri suit when it comes to comfort, efficiency and performance. To help you leave your fashion concerns at home, and embrace your inner super hero.

Wearing a tri suit will save you vital time in transition

Getting out of swim wear and into cycling kit can result in a tangled mess at the best of times. But imagine doing it while you’re soaking wet? That’s a recipe for wasting a significant amount of time wrestling with your sports kit.

women's tri suit

A tri suit is designed to perform across all three triathlon disciplines, and they’re made from fast-drying materials so you’ll soon dry off from the swim once you get onto your bike. Wearing a tri suit means you can switch seamlessly between each sport in a triathlon without having to take a detour to the changing tent.

That will easily save you several minutes in a race – an easy win for getting a new personal best!

Tri suits are designed to keep you comfortable 

Tri suits are built to keep you comfortable across all three triathlon disciplines. The chamois pad in the shorts of your tri suit is designed specifically to give you enough comfort on the bike, without feeling like you’re running in a diaper once it’s time to head out of T2. And the materials are wicking and breathable, to keep your temperature under control in warm conditions.

Some of the more premium tri suits even come loaded with technology to help keep you cooler during your race – be that through strategically placed pockets to place ice cubes during the run. Or the use of materials that help to distribute and dissipate body heat quicker.

Particularly as you move up to longer distance racing, comfort is key to being able to perform at your best.

Aerodynamic design could help you to go faster 

So a tri suit is comfortable and timesaving… but wearing one could actually help you to ride faster during the bike section too! If you take a look at tri suits such as the TRI-FIT GEO LIGHTNING or the TRI-FIT EVO 2.3, you’ll notice that along with being extremely streamlined. There’s also special textured, aerodynamic fabric on the sleeves and upper body.

This material is designed to reduce drag, helping you to travel faster for less effort. Compared to wearing looser fitting clothing – the gains can be significant. You can check out this article from TRI247 on how much time an aero tri suit could potentially save you to find out more and see what the data says.

If you want to start improving your performance, getting an aerodynamic tri suit is a great way to start making all those marginal gains add up.

 FAQs: Tri suit recap 

Do I need a tri suit for a sprint triathlon?

A tri suit isn't essential to complete your first triathlon - you can either get changed between each discipline. Or if there's no changing tent, you can put cycling gear on top of your swim wear. However for optimal comfort, and to save yourself time in transition. It's recommended to wear a tri suit for any distance of triathlon. 

Can you swim in a tri suit?

Yes. Tri suits are designed to be comfortable to swim in, whether you wear one underneath your wetsuit. Or swim in just your tri suit at a pool-based race or in a non-wetsuit swim. The best tri suits have hydrodynamic materials to help you glide faster through the water. One of the reasons we really like the TRI-FIT triathlon suits here at SBRX is the side access rear pocket - which reduces drag in the water compared to a top access pocket. The pad in a tri suit is also designed to dry quickly after swimming, so it won't absorb too much water and be uncomfortable on the bike. 

Do tri suits have a chamois / padding? 

Tri suits have a sewn in chamois pad, similar to cycling shorts. However in a tri suit, the chamois pad is thinner so that it doesn't absorb too much water during the swim or cause uncomfortable chafing while you're running.

Should I wear a sports bra underneath my tri suit?

We'd recommend choosing a tri suit without a built-in sports bra, so that you can wear your own sports bra underneath. This will ensure you have the correct amount of support for your chest. We're all different shapes and sizes so a built-in a bra in a tri suit that fits you well around the hips (for example) may not be supportive enough for your chest. 

It's best to wear a sports bra which doesn't have too much padding in the cups as these can absorb water and cause chafing. Make sure you practice swimming, cycling and running in the sports bra you plan to wear during your triathlon event to make sure it's comfortable. 

Ready to suit up and start improving your triathlon performance? Check out our handpicked range of tri suits, recommended by the experts from TRI247. 

Jenny Lucas-Hill