Trisuits vs. Traditional Cycling Kits: What’s the Difference?

Trisuits vs. Traditional Cycling Kits: What’s the Difference?

Triathlons are gruelling events that test the endurance, speed, and mental toughness of athletes across three disciplines: swimming, cycling, and running. Each of these bring its own unique demands and choosing the correct equipment and apparel can have a significant impact on comfort and performance. Specifically designed trisuits offer unparalleled advantages over traditional kits and this discussion will help to explain why and exactly how they are superior. 

Purpose and Design

A trisuit is a one-piece garment specifically designed for the demands of triathlon, and is meant to be worn throughout the entire event. Trisuits have design features that optimise its function across swimming, cycling and running. The best triathlon suits are usually constructed to provide maximal mobility whilst in the water and during the run, whilst still being a close tight fit ensuring aerodynamic performance on the bike and limited chafing across the entire event.

As most would know, traditional cycling kits are not integrated as one piece, most typically it is made up of a cycling jersey and padded bib-shorts. A cycling kit is a great option for training on the bike but becomes far less optimal when it comes to racing in a triathlon. Due to their design purely being optimised for the bike, the materials are usually not able to dry as quickly and are not designed with swimming or running in mind, as such mobility can somewhat be restricted. 

Material and Construction

The best tri suits are made from high-tech fabrics that are quick-drying, lightweight, and breathable. The latest materials wick moisture away from the body, keeping athletes dry and comfortable once out of the water. Trisuits often incorporate compression fabrics, particularly in the shorts that support muscles and help to reduce fatigue. Most trisuits will also use flatlock stitching throughout, this is to minimise chafing and provide a sleeker, more aerodynamic fit.

Cycling kits use materials designed to withstand long hours on the bike. These materials may not dry as quickly as those in trisuits, and the chamois pads are usually thicker than what is found in trisuits. This thicker pad can definitely be beneficial on the bike, however the extra material can become a disadvantage during the swim and run, where extra bulk and water retention can hinder mobility and performance and in the worst cases cause chafing. 

Comfort and Fit

The fit of a tri suit is crucial, as there is a fine balance between being snug/tight yet allowing a large range of mobility, which is key in the swim leg. Trisuits are also designed to limit/prevent chafing and irritation, with special attention to the underarms, neck, and leg openings. The best men's tri suits and women's triathlon suits often feature gender-specific cuts and padding, this is to ensure comfort and performance, from sprint distance events all the way to Ironman. Most new suits also offer a fully unzippable front, this can help to boost body temperature cooling on hotter days. 

Cycling kits, with the combination of a jersey and shorts, offer more adjustability in terms of fit. Particularly as riders can choose different sizing for the shorts and jerseys, whereas a trisuit is one standard size for the upper and lower. In general the fit is slightly looser in the upper body, however most newer cycling kits these days are nearly as skin tight as any triathlon suit. 

Aerodynamics and Performance

Aerodynamics is a key consideration in triathlon clothing, and is a main focus for our garments at Velotec. We engineer our trisuits to reduce drag on the bike, which is crucial, as the bike leg is usually the longest leg of a triathlon. A form fitting suit eliminates flapping fabric, a key cause of aerodynamic drag on the bike, combining this with specially tested aero materials helps to further reduce drag and which is likely to reduce your overall time by minutes when compared to standard clothing. Our own testing has shown that even an aero optimised tri suit vs a non optimised suit could be costing you up to 20 watts of power on the bike. 

While cycling jerseys are designed to be aerodynamic on the bike, they are not optimised for swimming or running. The looser fit and materials used can create extra drag in the water and can cause discomfort during the run. Traditional kits may offer enhanced aerodynamics for cycling alone, but they lack the versatility required for a triathlon's diverse demands.

Padding and Support

Padding in trisuits, known as the chamois, is the key connection between yourself and the bike, however they are generally thinner and more streamlined than in traditional cycling shorts. This is because thicker padding, although comfortable on the bike, can retain water from the swim, a wet chamois on the bike and then in the swim can lead to all kinds of trouble and can lead to a good amount of chafing by the time you get to the run. The emphasis is solely on cycling comfort, making traditional kits far less versatile for triathlons.The best beginner tri suits balance padding to provide sufficient comfort on the bike without compromising performance in other disciplines.

Versatility and Transition

One of the biggest advantages of a tri suit is its versatility. Athletes do not need to change clothing between legs, saving valuable time during transitions, not having to change clothing can result in minutes of saved time. Usually a tri suit will be worn under a wetsuit for the swim and then is used for both the bike and run legs. This all-in-one approach simplifies the gear setup and minimises the risk of losing or misplacing items during the race and also narrows down the amount of items you need to take to the transition area. 

Traditional cycling kits are not designed at all for seamless transitions. Given that the cycling kit is only optimised for the bike you would need to change into the clothing for the bike leg and then out of the clothing for the run. This lack of versatility makes traditional kits less practical for triathlons, where every second counts.

Gender-Specific Designs

The best men's tri suits and women's triathlon suits are designed with anatomical differences in mind. Women's suits will differ from mens with specific cuts to accommodate the female body shape, offering better support and comfort. Also another major point of difference will be the chamois pad, women's and men’s suits will use different chamois pads to optimise comfort for each gender. While traditional cycling kits also come in gender-specific designs, the primary focus remains on cycling performance. This may result in less consideration for the specific needs of triathletes, especially regarding the transitions and the integrated support required for swimming and running.


Investing in a high-quality suit from tri suit brands such as ourselves can seem a significant expense, but most quality trisuits do not cost a whole lot more than a pair of bib shorts and jersey. Investing in a high end suit is certain to result in an improvement in performance and comfort across all legs of a triathlon. The best tri suits including those offered by us at Velotec justify their higher cost with a tremendous amount of research and testing to pick the most advanced materials, ensure a superior fit, and include enhanced features tailored to triathlon needs.

Traditional cycling kits can vary widely in price, with high-end kits being comparable in cost to trisuits, some major fashion cycling brands can even exceed the cost of a high end trisuit. However, their specialised nature for cycling alone makes them a less versatile investment for triathlons. Beginners might find traditional kits more affordable initially, but often it can be worth making the upfront investment to avoid additional purchases and expenses down the line.


Choosing between a trisuit and a traditional cycling kit comes down to the specific needs and preferences of each athlete, but ultimately when looking at the advantages it is a no brainer. Trisuits offer unparalleled versatility, seamless transitions, and optimised performance across all three triathlon disciplines. They are designed to meet the unique challenges of swimming, cycling, and running, providing an all-in-one solution that offers unrivalled performance and comfort. Traditional kits, on the other hand, excel in cycling-specific performance but lack the ability to perform across all three disciplines.

For those new to triathlons, investing in the best beginner tri suit can provide a significant advantage, offering an optimal balance of cost to comfort and performance. Experienced triathletes might seek out the best tri suits from top brands regardless of cost to gain every possible performance advantage they can. 

Ultimately, the choice between a trisuit and a traditional kit depends on the athlete’s goals, budget, and commitment. But from all the points above you can clearly see we are of the strong belief that a tri suit is a far superior option for triathlon than standard cycling kit.