Q. When reading up on proper attire for races, I see a lot of recommendations for a tri suit instead of tri shorts and a tri top. However, most pro triathletes seem to be wearing tri shorts and a top – not a tri suit in race photos. What do you think is the best attire for competing in a triathlon?
Brandon Marsh answers:
This topic has come full circle. Some of the first triathletes completed an entire race wearing nothing more than a Speedo. But, then the first tri suits came out in the 1980s, when neon colors were all the rage – making for some very colorful races.
These days, you have some athletes who swim in a swimsuit, bike in a cycling kit and run in shorts and a singlet. A few folks still hold on to the time-honored practice of racing in just a Speedo, but many have adopted the tri suit trend (the one-piece of the 21st century).
There’s really no wrong attire (except a neon 1980s tri suit, perhaps), because everyone’s preference is personal. But there are pros and cons to consider when choosing between a one-piece and two-piece tri suit.
A one-piece can allow room to wear your biking and running clothes underneath and not worry about the drag in water. (Note: chafing might occur, but there’s always good-old-fashioned Vaseline for that!) When the water is too warm for a heavier one-piece, a swim skin or speed suit with a back zipper is best. Many professional triathletes will wear a skin-tight one-piece for races shorter than four hours, because there’s less need for extra pockets or extra padding. Plus, wearing the same one-piece for the duration saves time in transition.
If you are going to wear a one-piece suit, I highly suggest swimming in a swim skin or speed suit for non-wetsuit swims. And, make sure the one-piece fits very tightly and has zippered pockets to minimize drag.
I personally prefer a two-piece kit, consisting of tri shorts and a tri top. If I am wearing a wetsuit, I will almost always pick a two-piece, because it’s less bulk underneath. Wetsuits can be constricting and a little too warm, sometimes. I also like the two-piece suit, because it makes it easier for a pit stop if I should need one in a race. You probably see the pros wearing a two-piece more often because of the convenience and comfort – some athletes do not like anything on their abdomen while racing.
Whatever you choose, make sure you swim, bike and run in it BEFORE race day. This way, you can make any adjustments or changes ahead of time, and it’s one less thing to worry about. Good luck!
Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter, follow Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and follow Amy @AmyCMarsh.