What are the Different Types of Triathlon Wetsuits?

Rebecca Harkin

Triathlon wetsuits are designed to provide warmth, as well as optimal buoyancy on the water surface. Maximized buoyancy increases swimming speed while conserving valuable energy during a triathlon and training. There are four main types of triathlon wetsuits including full-cut, sleeveless, short cut, and bibjohn with pullover. The primary difference between these types of triathlon wetsuits is the amount of material covering the body.

Most triathlon wetsuits are made of neoprene.
Most triathlon wetsuits are made of neoprene.

Neoprene, or neoprene like material, are the most common fabrics for triathlon wetsuits because they provide warmth and buoyancy. The levity of the wetsuit can be changed to suit the swimmer’s style and ability by varying the placement and thickness of the neoprene in the wetsuit. This allows each type of triathlon wetsuit to be somewhat tailored to a racer’s swimming ability and style.

Swimming is only one aspect of a triathlon, which also includes biking and running.
Swimming is only one aspect of a triathlon, which also includes biking and running.

A full-cut triathlon wetsuit, also sometimes referred to as a full-suit, provides the most body coverage of all the wetsuits. It starts at the neck, completely covers the arms, and extends down the legs to the ankles. Advantages of the full-cut suit include providing the greatest overall buoyancy, reducing drag by streamlining the body, and preventing water from flowing through the suit. This type of suit can lead to overheating, and is also difficult and time consuming to put on.

Sleeveless type triathlon wetsuits are full-cut wetsuits without the sleeves. This type of suit provides great buoyancy, but is slightly less streamlined. The seal around the arms is good, but when compared with the full-cut, some water drag may be created as water passes into the suit during arm strokes. Sleeveless suits are not quite as warm as the full-cut suit, and is a little easier to put on.

Short-cut, or knee length, triathlon wetsuits are sleeveless wetsuits that stop at the knee. These wetsuits provide good buoyancy and moderate streamlining. This type of wetsuit exposes more of the body surface, reducing the chances of over-heating. These suits are also fairly easy to put on and take off.

A bibjohn with pullover is a two piece wetsuit. The main part looks like a pair of tight bib overalls, completely covering the legs, but leaving the shoulders and arms free. A tight pullover wetsuit top provides coverage for the torso. This design affords full coverage, like the full-cut style, but with greater dressing ease. Buoyancy and the streamlining effects are great with this model, and the manufacturer claims this style provides better range of arm movement.

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