These four tri suits all come in at £100 or less, but they’re a bit of a mixed bunch…
Craft Elite Tri Suit
The first suit in our test to go by the name Elite just about lives up to that description. There is a real high-quality feel to the soft, fine compression-fit fabric, which fits tightly without restricting movement. It also offers UVA and UVB protection. Our testers really liked the simplicity of the design, with no fussy seams and just one pocket. It has a high front and the zip is at the back, so you’d expect it to be good in the water, and we found it one of the best swimming suits on test. It’s also very quick-drying, with a thin, perforated chamois to allow water to clear quickly. However, we did find the padding just a little too thin from around 20 miles on the bike, and the legs had a tendency to ride up a bit, despite grippers. We were also reliably informed that it didn’t leave much to the imagination in some areas.
A good short-distance suit with a simple, streamlined design, not for the shy though.
Saucony Elite Tri Suit
This Elite suit is as strong as the Craft, but serves a very different purpose. The lower half is just about perfect, with a supportive fit, good padding, and great freedom of movement for running. Made from Tri-Lete fabric which Saucony says is now ‘high compression’, we certainly felt this in the shorts. The top half feels completely different, made from a softer, cooler fabric that felt really good on a hot day. It has bigger pockets on the back than many other suits we’ve tested, so you could stash a few gels or bars, but they gape in the water so we’d keep this suit for wetsuits swims. Overall, we didn’t find this one f the fastest or most aero suits, but it’s still a really good, comfy all-rounder and a good choice for middle or long-distance races thanks to those lux shorts and big pockets.
Well-performing tri suit, good for wetsuit swims and longer events.
Orca 226 Race Suit
Designed for distance, this suit works just as well in shorter races. It’s made from AquaGlide fabric for wetsuit-free swims, is a comfortable compression fit and has barely-noticeable seams. The pad is soft, but not too big or intrusive. The back is really light and breathable, with reflective flashes for anyone unlucky enough to be out late in an Ironman. Long legs are there to decrease drag in the water, though they took a bit of getting used to for our testers. The pockets on the back are elasticated to stop you losing anything, and this also minimised their impact on the swim.
The bra in the women’s version was impressive too: instead of the usual light crop top, it’s structured to give better support (though we had the usual five-minute struggle to get into it). If you only had the cash for one race outfit to cover all your distances, we’d go for this one.
A long-distance suit that’s slippery enough for the pool and cool enough for sprints
GOLD AWARD WINNER ISSUE 19, SEPTEMBER 2010
TYR Splice Tri Suit
At this price you start to see more technical features in a tri suit, and the Splice delivers. Strong compression in the bottom half and panels in the top half are designed to lessen muscle movement – we could certainly feel the support, but our female tester found the suit a bit restrictive. The top half also features SPR50 fabric. The chamois dries really quickly, which reduces your chafing risk, but it’s the fluffy, fleecy variety rather than a more spongy gel pad, and we found it too thin for more than Olympic-distance rides. Two side pockets are cleverly positioned on the side of the bum to avoid drag in the water or on the bike, but they’re just a bit too small to house a gel. Built-in bras aren’t to everyone’s taste but we’d expect one at this price.
Some good technical features in a decent enough suit, but better for short stuff.