When you’re doing a triathlon, that is a race which involves a swim, a cycle and a run, you don’t want to be wasting time changing outfits between each stage, so athletes get around that by wearing a tri suit instead. A tri suit is a one-piece that is essentially a hybrid of a swimming suit and pair of cycling shorts. It can be worn under your wetsuit while you swim, so after the water stage you just peel off your wetsuit and wear your tri suit for the remaining bike and run legs.

If you’re doing your first triathlon this summer and already shelling out for lots of other expensive kit you might be wondering whether you need to bother wearing a tri suit. And it’s true in some races, especially over a beginner distance such as the super-sprint, you will see some competitors wearing just a t-shirt and some cycling shorts. But a tri suit is a far more sensible option as a wet t-shirt will feel uncomfortable on the bike and run legs of your race.

When buying a tri suit, have a think about whether you want a sleeved or sleeveless option. People used to prefer racing sleeveless but tri suits with sleeves are increasingly popular as they’re more aerodynamic and offer better coverage against UV rays. Non-elite triathletes may find sleeved options offer a more flattering look too.

All the tri suits tested have front zips for ease of getting them on and off. Two of the tri suits tested have in-built chest support though most women race with a sports bra as well for extra support. All our suits have stash pockets around the back for energy gels and/or bars during the race.

All the suits are available in sizes XS to XL, though fit is of course a very individual thing and does vary from brand to brand. These tri suits were tested in water, on a bike and while running in Brighton.

Zone3 Women’s Aquaflo Plus Tri Suit: £115, Zone 3

We loved the Aquaflo Plus from Zone3, a British tri kit brand set up by the former triathlete James Lock. It felt comfortable and lightweight to bike and run in, especially on our back, and was the quickest to dry of all the suits tested. It had built-in support in the chest area, though most women would probably want the extra support of a sports bra underneath. The sleeves are designed to make you more aerodynamic, but we also found it made the suit more flattering and gave it a stylish look. The mint green would also help friends and family spot you in a crowded field. You do notice the bike seat cushioning when you run but it wasn’t as cumbersome as with some other brands.

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Speedo Fastskin Xenon Female Tri Suit: £75, Speedo

The Speedo Fastskin Xenon is a quality piece of tri kit at a decent price within the market. It was the hardest to get on but as a result felt the snuggest and most aerodynamic of the suits on test, and compared to the other sleeveless suits, our arms felt the most comfortable and free while running and cycling. The cycle shorts padding was great on the bike but felt a little annoying to run in though. Of the two suits with an in-built sports bra it was the most supportive, but again most women would still probably want to double up with a sports bra. The pockets were a good size, allowing you to pack in plenty of energy bars, and gels for longer races.

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2XU Women’s Perform Front Zip Tri Suit: £87.99, Wiggle

The 2XU Women’s Perform was a really nice tri suit to wear. It was slightly longer in the leg than the other suits, with a nice design and flattering shape, especially around the neck. We liked the leg length being longer as it offered more protection from the sun, though some people may prefer shorter suits. The cycle short padding felt less obtrusive while running than in some of the other suits, and the shorts didn’t ride up either. The gear pockets were quite small though, which could be a pain when you need to get something in or out quickly while cycling or running during a race.

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Orca Women’s Core Short Sleeve Race Suit: £109, Tredz

We were big fans of the Orca Core Race Suit. The design is cool but understated – it felt more like a slick piece of road cycling kit than a tri suit – and the fabric was super-lightweight and comfy to wear, most notably at the back, where a mesh fabric keeps the hottest part of your back cool. The cycle padding was ok to run in and the shorts stayed nicely in place while we ran without riding up. It was one of the shorter suits on test and didn’t dry as quickly as some of the other suits.

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Aptonia SD Triathlon Women’s Sleeveless Tri suit: £29.99, Decathlon

The Aptonia SD is a great value option, especially if you’re doing your first triathlon. It was one of the quicker drying suits on test and while the fabric didn’t feel as slick or fancy as some of the more expensive suits, it was comfortable enough to cycle and run in. Though it did look like it might bobble up after a few washes. The gel pockets were a decent size and the cycling shorts stayed in place during the run without rising up.

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Blueseventy TX 2000 Short Sleeve Women’s Tri Suit: £140, Blueseventy

This is a short-sleeved version of Blueseventy’s long-term bestselling TX 2000 tri suit. It felt good on with a lightweight, comfy feel, good airflow on the back and easy flexibility on the arms. We liked the longer sleeves as they provided extra protection from UV rays. Plus the zip ran nice and low so it was easy to take on and off, which would be a big plus for toilet stops on longer distance triathlons.

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The Verdict: Women's tri suits

We enjoyed wearing all these tri suits. The Zone3 Women’s Aquaflo Plus just about had the edge on the competition due to its strong technical function combined with stylish look, though the Orca Women’s Core Short Sleeve, 2XU Women’s Perform Front Zip and Blueseventy TX 2000 were solid top-performing options too, as was the Speedo Fastskin Xenon Female especially given the lower price. The Aptonia SD Triathlon Women’s Sleeveless from Decathlon is a good value entry-level option.

IndyBest product reviews are unbiased, independent advice you can trust. On some occasions, we earn revenue if you click the links and buy the products, but we never allow this to bias our coverage. The reviews are compiled through a mix of expert opinion and real-world testing.