What’s a triathlete to wear these days? There’s the debate that rages on about triathlon shorts verses bike shorts triathlon suits versus triathlon shorts and shirts and many variations of bike versus triathlon specific apparel. Sure, bike gear may be more comfortable, but it may also hinder you when trying to wrap up a triathlon on a long run.
Whatever your choice is, you can’t deny the benefits of triathlon specific clothing. Specifically, triathlon tops offer comfort and functionality that cycling specific shirts may not. Bike jerseys have sleeves that constantly ride up your arm when in aero and who likes that indention around your bicep from the sleeve elastic? Triathlon tops remove the sleeve factor and usually are form fitting enough not to ride up above your mid-drift when pounding out a 30 mile tempo ride on your tri bike. That’s what they are made for.
Triathlon tops have their place and that goes along the lines of thinking over at Podium Cycling. A cycling clothing designer that makes triathlon specific clothing as well, a novel concept. PC reached out to use here at EMT to try out one of their designs. Below are our thoughts on their Swim, Bike and Run triathlon jersey.
Packaging / Shelf Appeal / Marketing - 4 out of 5 hidden zippers
When we received the Podium Cycling triathlon jersey, swim-bike-run theme, it was in the standard mailing envelope in traditional clear plastic wrap. It’s nothing wildly different than any other triathlon clothing item you would receive in the mail from online ordering. Of course it was folded up nicely and arranged in a professional presentation manor. Nothing’s worse than getting a jersey all wadded up in plastic zip-lock bag.
That’s not the case with Podium.
Some organizations spend a little more on flare and have more presentation involved with shipping packaging, but it had to make you wonder what they are trying to distract you from with the shiny paper.
Form / Construction - 4.5 out of 5 hidden zippers
The PC triathlon jersey has some key features. There seems to be a divide on dri-fit fabrics vs the more spandex like stretchy fabrics. Both are geared towards getting the sweat off fast and allow the body to shed heat.
The PC tri jersey is along the lines of a true fabric more than spandex like. It’s an obvious combination of technical fabric with a specific design intent, but the fit and feel is very comfortable even at high heat and high intensity work. That’s what they call their CROSS-DR UPF25+ Fabric. It’s form fitting, but not constricting and function prohibitive. You can be comfortable, move and workout without limited mobility.
The images are fully sublimated, so you won’t have to worry about graphics peeling off. That’s always nice to not have to worry about your clothes looking ragged and tattered after a couple of intense workouts. Triathletes need clothes that will stand the test of time.
The zipper is three quarters length and hidden. That’s pretty standard for tri tops, so there’s no let down, but no super new innovative approach to zippers.
The back does have a single rear pocket. The side pockets that some tri tops sport are kind of worthless. Maybe you could fit a chapstick in there, but phones, nutrition and hydration may fit, but you’re lucky if it stays in there. That being said, rear pockets are preferred, but the PC tri jersey rear pocket is a little too shallow. Be leary of sliding your phone or anything important in there for fear it may slip out on a ride. If it was a little deeper, it would be perfect.
The PC tri jersey is visually appealing. It’s simple and straight forward, but it offers a hint of aggressiveness with the side black panels with a flare into the back panel. The choice in white and black with the subtle swim, bike and run emblems in color is a smart choice to allow mix and match with tri shorts. If nothing else, triathletes like to look good and match while blowing up on a hard set of mile repeats after a 2 hour bike ride.
The simplicity of the 3 emblems on the back and front isn’t over stimulating and just right for those that choose to keep a low profile while leaving a marker that they are a triathlete. The only catch is that the design won’t jump out at you like the latest nike or under armour combat or animal print, but that’s not always a bad thing.
Fit / Function - 5 out of 5 hidden zippers
The toughest part about triathlon tops is finding ones that fit your chest and have enough length to cover your mid-drift. Unless you’re sporting a six-pack or just don’t care, most triathletes are looking to keep that belly button hidden.
The PC tri top does that well.
It’s form fitting enough without constriction and has enough length to stay below your waistline. Even after tempo runs, hill rides, tempo rides and running intervals, the bottom does not creep up past the belly button. Nothing’s more annoying than constantly pulling down your tri top while sweating through an intense workout, or any workout for that matter.
As mentioned before, the rear pocket is tough to realistically utilize. It’s better than a side pocket, but it’s tough to trust that anything of importance in that pocket will still be there after a bike ride with any bumps. It’s tough enough to focus on training without wondering if your phone is still in your pocket.
The zipper is enclosed so as to prevent rubbing on the inside on the skin. It was comfortable dry or wet with sweat and left no hickeys or chafing that some zippers with less protection would potentially leave.
The fabric in itself is extremely comfortable. It breathes and during the workout, you almost forget that you have a tri top on. The sleeve seams, or any seams for that matter, don’t rub or cause chafing as well. Nothing is worse than showering up after a workout and finding those areas where your tri clothing rubbed you raw and that warm shower water starts stinging and burning. Add soap to those surprise hot spots and you have an interesting post-workout shower.
One picky item is the tag location. It’s on an inside seam along the side panels. If not removed, it can rub and cause irritation. Read the washing instructions on it and then promptly cut it off. You’ll save yourself some annoyance later on in a workout.
Another small item is the see through factor after profuse sweating. Kansas has already reached into the 90’s with humidity well above 50 percent. For those efficient sweaters, the PC tri top will become somewhat transparent after a good dousing of sweat. Be prepared. For guys, it may not really matter. But, for women who may not consider sports bras (who knows why a women would not), it could be a focal point at your gym or on the trails. Just be mindful.
Cost - 4.5 out of 5 hidden zippers
Google will find you some quality tri tops starting at the $34 mark, while the PC tri top goes for $50 direct from their site. Once you start getting more picky about colors, design, material and other choices, the mark goes up and far beyond the $50 the PC tri top sells for. For those triathletes that have been around the block and burnt through tri clothing from training and racing, the PC tri top is just as good of quality as the high end retailers.
PC keeps their prices affordable, so you can’t really count them out because of their price, but they’re also not the super saver deal of the century.
After putting the PC tri top through the paces of mild, cold, hot, humid and most other weather Kansas has to offer through biking and running sessions, the zipper still works, there are no tears or apparent damage and the top washes up and still looks like new.
It’s a great addition to a triathletes closet for that dependable tri top that goes with any shorts and could even be worn to the gym for strength work. It’s not embarrassing or a brash design. It’s comfortable and functional and does exactly what you would expect.
Do consider Podium Cycling when looking for your triathlon training and racing needs for clothing.
* Writer's note - Podium Cycling provided a triathlon top for this review and in no way influenced the review.
Ryan Falkenrath is a married father of two young kids, owner of two dogs and trying to balance life, work and multisport. He writes the blog falkeetriathlon.blogspot.com, Endurance Sports Examiner and runs the Man Vs Triathlon project while participating in multisport events since 2001 from 5k's to Half Ironmans (soon to be Ironman distance in 2013). Contact Ryan at: email@example.com or follow him on @TriJayhawkRyan.