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The Best Triathlon Kit For Your Race

Aero engineers are now designing race kits to gain speed, and the result is potentially huge.

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Engineered for speed: Find the race kit best suited to your “A” race. 

Aero engineers are now designing race kits to gain speed, and the result is potentially huge. But performing well in a wind tunnel test isn’t enough. We tested three of these new suits to see if they’re also practical choices for race day.

Champion Systems Apex Triathlon Speedsuit

$240, Champ-sys.com
Best for: Versatility

If you plan to own just one race kit, the Apex is the only suit in this review up to the task. It is sufficiently breathable for Ironman, and its durable arm and leg cuffs will last through many uses. The compressive fit helps tuck the rider into a smaller package to maximize aero performance on the bike, but can feel restrictive while running. Unzipping the top alleviates the pressure. The one-piece design increases comfort during long-course bike legs by holding the suit in place and preventing bunching.

RELATED – Intelligent Design: 6 New Gear Trends For 2014

Pearl Izumi Pro Tri Sprint Suit

$270, Pearlizumi.com
Best for: Short-course racing

The fabric texture has a plastic feel, and the robust material squeezes firmly against the body, reducing the athlete’s size by a small but meaningful amount. It’s perfect for races barring wetsuits because the fabric repels water and doesn’t get heavy when wet. On the bike, the form-altering kit is purported to reduce aero drag. The drawback of the suit’s speed-boosting design is breathability and comfort. Compression around the midsection can feel restrictive when running and it traps a bit more body heat.

RELATED PHOTOS: Inside Pearl Izumi’s Pro Team Camp

Louis Garneau Tri Elite Course Kit

$290, Louisgarneau.com
Best for: Long-distance comfort

One-piece suits intuitively seem more aerodynamic than two-piece options, but wind tunnel testing disproved that notion—two-piece kits can be just as fast or faster. Garneau designed this kit for Craig Alexander to wear in Kona, and the separate construction is friendlier to mid-race bathroom stops. Unlike the other suits, this kit uses a supportive foam pad that is better for long-course bike legs. It fits snugly, but the fabric stretches and feel more accommodating than the Champion Systems kit.

RELATED – Review: Louis Garneau’s Course Collection

Too Hot?

More skin coverage doesn’t necessarily equate to feeling hotter during a race. Fabric around the shoulders and arms can block the sun and help keep the skin damp between aid stations. Research hasn’t measured a change to core temp when wearing arm sleeves in hot weather, but the psychological effect has been clearly observed. On the other hand, pro triathletes Matt Reed and Luke McKenzie both felt comfortable racing a full-sleeve kit in hot Ironman races. If you’re worried that covering your shoulders will affect your race, it’s best to stick to sleeveless.

RELATED – 2014 Triathlete Buyer’s Guide: Race Apparel