Review - Pearl Izumi Short Sleeve Triathlon Suit

Triathlon Plus magazine recently tested a range of male and female triathlon suits, narrowed them down to twelve, then reviewed these as the 'best of the best'.

I confess, I'm quietly delighted my Pearl Izumi triathlon suit did not make the top twelve, and that the sleeveless version was not one of the top picks.

In a race where every other person has a Huub, 2XU, Planet X or Zone 3 outfit, it's nice to wear something a little different.

For Pearl Izumi, it sucks.  For me, it's brilliant.  Because I love racing in this suit.

Now I admit I'm not expert.  However, I've used three other Tri Suits and three top / bottom combos.  Of them, this is by far the best all rounder.  Here's why.

Leg grippers: the shorts stay in place when you pull on your wetsuit, when on the bike and the run.  Yet they're flexible enough for me to stuff a gel wrapper up the leg once used - that's how I avoid littering the road.

Pad: when I felt this at Pearl Izumi's showroom I thought it was too flimsy.  That's exactly the same criticism of the sleeveless suit given in Triathlon Plus magazine, and I suspect the pad's the same.

I agree, it does feel flimsy.  But it's not uncomfortable.

In the past I sought out shorts for long-course, like the Zone 3 Lava, yet the pad in the Pearl Izumi Tri Suit is equally comfortable on the bike.

Frankly, I cannot explain this.  My backside hasn't suddenly got tougher.  But having a thin pad is much nicer for the swim and the run.

While we're dealing with criticisms...

Zip garage: Triathlon Plus magazine gives this as a major flaw, but I hadn't noticed.  Indeed, I had to dig out my suit to check whether or not it had one.  It doesn't, and I hadn't noticed, despite racing and training in widely varying conditions.  The 15 inch zipper is "for venting" says Pearl Izumi, perhaps not realising that in both ITU and Ironman races you can't lower your zip past the breast-bone without risking disqualification.

Now to some of the features I really like.

Sea salt, not sweat at Edinburgh
Wind-proofing:  this, combined with the next point, are the star features of the Pearl Izumi short sleeve suit.  The front panel is a fairly dense weave which cuts windchill on the bike.

I used it in training in cool conditions, and raced in both sweltering hot (Ironman 70.3 Staffordshire) and very windy conditions (Ironman 70.3 Edinburgh) where it was chilly enough to need arm warmers.  In neither the cool nor windy conditions did I feel I needed to add a gillet.

That front panel, while not officially windproof, kept me comfortable.  One awkward side effect is that the salt from the sea-swim at Edinburgh showed clearly on the black fabric.

Ventilation: the sleeves and back panel are ultra breathable, so all the heat you're generating easily dissipates.  What's more it's factor 50 SPF, so you don't have to worry about slathering sunscreen on your shoulders in transition.  That saves time.  The black-bits are made of what the company calls In-R-Cool fabric, which is meant to provide cooling and sun protection while still keeping some compression.  It seems to work.

Pockets: big enough to hold gels, bars and sunscreen, but with a flap over the top ('envelope pockets' they're called) so they don't fill and cause drag in the swim.  I could squeeze in a gillet but not a jacket.

So these are some of the reasons why I like my Pearl Izumi tri suit.  If I haven't convinced you, and you're going to buy a Huub (or other popular brand)... great.

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