Zone3 Aeroforce-X II Review – premium aero tri-suit, short sleeve

Zone3 aeroforce x II Review shoulder and front materialZone3 Aeroforce-X II Review – premium aero tri-suit, short sleeve

A good aero tri suit could save you around 5 watts of drag on the bike leg of a triathlon compared to the clothing you already use. It’s free speed that you would otherwise probably have to train for a few weeks to achieve but performance comes at a price.

TL;DR – A good-looking, great-fitting, fast tri-suit.

Key Claim:

ZONE3 have collaborated with Aero specialist NoPinz to develop the world’s fastest tri suit. Utilising the facilities at the Boardman performance centre and Aerocoach…the data shows it performs at higher levels than all of our competitor’s aero suits and, most importantly, it does this across a range of key velocities. So, not only at 40kmph but also 30, 35 and 45kmph which are the most common speeds during the bike phase.  [Zone3]

Buy: Amazon GBP299

 

Zone3 Aeroforce-X II Review
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Zone3 Aeroforce-X II Review Summary

A lot of care, thought and cost went into the design of this trisuit. You can tell from the number of panels used and the variety of material types in the design – it’s expensive to make. To a degree, you have to take on trust that Zone3 has sourced the appropriate materials for each panel and then sized and placed them correctly but Zone3 is a credible UK supplier with a good track record that claims to have done the required wind tunnel testing.

Multiple panels require multiple seams and those can work against aeroness. However taking the two small, rear pouches as an example, each is concealed under a flap that looks like it will aid airflow rather than cause turbulence. Thought has gone into this and overall it seems that Zone3’s bumped and ridged fabric panels are in the right places

The overall fit is good. The suit stays in place and doesn’t rub. OK, the pad is a tad on the minimalistic side but remember you have to run with it as well so it’s a fair compromise for triathlon/duathlon.

The fit is tight on me. It’s how I want it. However, I exercise caution when putting it on and taking it off as this would be an expensive suit to rip. The grippiness on the inner side of the fabric means it stays in place during the workout (as it should) but then doesn’t want to come off. Not a problem, you just need to be a bit careful. for the same reason, care should also be exercised if you wear arm warmers under it.

Zone3 aeroforce x II rear note 4 material types

I’m also not entirely sure how the outer side of the fabric will last after a few races rubbing underneath a wetsuit. That said I tend to only wear trisuits under wetsuits in races, so not exactly every summer weekend by a long chalk.

I contrast my tests to some performed two years ago with my Tri Fit EVO Next Gen suit. Both these suits are undoubtedly faster than my other general cycling clothing and vanilla-tri suits however I can’t say if one suit is faster than the other as there are too many other factors at play. Decent aero trisuits like these two in reality are going to be within a watt or two of each other.

In some of my tests, I tried the ‘stuffing a water bottle down the front‘ aero boosting technique. That seems to be a faster way to cycle but this Zone3 tri-suit isn’t ideal for that as the neckline is already fairly low giving the potential for a negative parachute effect.

It looks great!

Buy: Amazon GBP299

Pros

  • Several aero features in materials and construction
  • Looks great, novel retro-feel
  • Fits great, true to size
  • 2 well-concealed rear gel/key pouches
  • HIM, Oly and Sprint suitability
  • The previous model scored highly in 220Triathlon wind tunnel tests
  • Normal breathability fabric on the rear for run
  • Probably decent sun protection
  • NoPinz leg grips to keep in position

Cons

  • No pockets
  • Low profile neckline could be higher
  • Limited colour options
  • Minimal Cytech pad
  • Possible durability concerns (rubbing when under a wetsuit)

Zone3 Aeroforce – What is a tri-suit?

A tri suit is typically a one-piece lycra suit suitable for triathlons and duathlons. It saves the need to change clothing between the different legs of multisport events.

These are designed to be worn under wetsuits and also to be used for wetsuit-illegal races when water temperatures exceed competition limits. They always have a degree of padding for comfort in cycling but may come as sleeveless or short-sleeved versions. Zips tend to be at the front of the suit these days, mainly because very naughty people would pull opponents’ zips down at the start of swim legs.

Trisuits may or may not include pouches for gels and may consider ventilation, water repellency and stay-in-place materials.

Aero materials are a relatively recent consideration and will account for notable gains if properly constructed.

 

Zone3 Aeroforce-X History

Zone3 is NOT especially renowned for tri suits but is a leading player in triathlon swimwear and notably in wetsuits. I have the excellent Zone3 Vanquish model.

However, over the last 5 years, it has maintained a top-end tri suit as part of its collection with materials choice and usage being improved between refreshes.

  • Zone3 Aeroforce – 2018
  • Zone3 Aeroforce-X – 2020
  • Zone3 Aeroforce-X II – 2023

Zone3 Tri Suit Alternatives

Castelli Orca, NoPinz, Santini, Zoot, Assos, Huub, 2XU and others make tri-suits.

Prices vary from £20 to £420 and the more you pay isn’t necessarily a guarantee of anything other than an emptier wallet.

It’s hard to give good general advice, even the good brands produce run-of-the-mill suits that are expensive but you might pay a premium solely for the brand name. Perhaps look for the number of different kinds of materials used and the number of panels. Whilst that doesn’t guarantee you anything per se, it at least shows that the manufacturer has given the design some thought and has not produced something pretty for a minimal cost.

If multiple technical materials claims are being made then that’s probably generally a good thing to be wowed by even if you don’t quite understand why and even if the manufacturer is probably bending the truth a little! At least there is probably some truth to be bent.

Zone3 Aeroforce X II and Aerodynamics

Aerodynamics is a highly technical area.  Whilst the aerodynamics of individual items are important (bike, ride position, helmet) the holistic effect over the race duration is what’s key to going faster. Of all those elements a tri suit will probably give you fewer gains but significant ones.

If you contrast the gains to those made by professional cycling time trialists then they have even more specific suits, travel at much faster speeds and will achieve bigger gains than we ever can from our clothing. They don’t have to run afterwards.

Aerodynamics are not obvious. You would have thought that a super sleek tri-suit would be best. But that is not the case. What you instead want is material that is slightly grippy to the air. As the air flows over your body the trisuit makes it stick to your body for longer. The part where the delayed airflow is released from your body is thus smaller and less drag is created. That’s the gist of it.

The different materials that Zone3 uses on your shoulders, side and back are the ones that aid aeroness as is the number and positioning of the seams. The different material types probably have been chosen for more detailed micro-management of the resulting airflows.

Zone3 aeroforce x II
Image|Zone3

 

Zone3 Aeroforce X II Features

These are the features according to Zone3’s website and they fairly sum up what’s on offer.

  • Laser-cut arm and leg holes with an integrated lightweight silicone grip are designed to keep the arms and legs in place. This unique design also improves the aerodynamic profile due to the removal of any stitching. 
  • A low-profile neckline is designed for improved fit without chafing.
  • Water-repellent coatings help to reduce drag and absorption in the water, adding extra speed and reducing fatigue before the bike.
  • Nutrition storage: Aero-designed pockets for storage without affecting performance or increasing drag.
  • A unique flexible zip was sourced from Japan to allow a more Aero position to be achieved on the bike whilst still allowing comfort when standing to run.
  • High-performance pad from Cytech in Italy, specifically designed for triathlon and suitable across all distances whether it’s Sprint, Olympic, 70.3 or Long.
  • Arms and leg lengths are designed to be a little longer than your traditional Trisuit to maximise the aerodynamic benefits.

Zone3 Aeroforce X II Technical Elements & Claimed Benefits

Zone3 use a combination of dimpled, ribbed and wicking fabrics for location-specific claimed performance benefits, thus:

  • Aero Soft-Touch Front Body – Premium and technically advanced material offers great coverage whilst having an invisible feel. The material is light, breathable and offers 360-degree stretch. Extremely quick drying and features a high-tech water-repellent nano-coating to reduce drag resistance in and out of the water.
  • Aeroforce-X Sleeve Panels: Dimpled located in the key areas to help minimise drag and increase speed by creating a thin turbulent boundary layer of air that clings to the suit’s surface. This allows the air to smoothly follow the contours of the body, thereby decreasing the size of the wake, slicing through the air faster and more efficiently. It also includes a full water-repellent nano-coating.
  • Aero-Stripe: Similar to the Aeroforce-X fabric this fabric is located on the underarm and lat panels and was tested against several other similar materials in this location to ensure it was the most aerodynamic.
  • Airflo Back Panel: An extremely lightweight, breathable and wicking material that gives temperature control.
  • Speedscalez Leg Fabric: Developed with NoPinz, this innovative triangle-textured fabric supports core muscles, disrupting airflow, and improving the overall aerodynamics of the suit

Triathlon Bike – How To Go Faster

As a general newbie guide, and looking only at kit, this is what I think you should focus on to ride faster:

  • Ride Position – This is the biggest factor to address as your body presents the biggest front area to the oncoming air. It also impacts most of the airflow as you ride. A bike fit at your local shop may well be significantly sub-optimal but you may not be strong enough and flexible enough to maintain the very best position for your race distance at race pace.
  • Bike Frame and Wheels – You want an optimal combination of stiffness, lightness, aeroness and comfort. Longer Triathlons are usually not flat.
  • Tyres and Tyre Pressure – You want to minimise rolling resistance with your propensity for the risk of puncture. The interaction of the tyre and wheel is an important consideration for airflow/drag but follow what the wheel manufacturer recommends for tyre type and size rather than what you read on the web. That said, look at the SRAM Tyre Pressure calculator as well.
  • Clothing – Your clothing is very important and includes your socks and shoes as well as what covers your arms. Stuffing a water bottle down your shirt reduces drag.
  • Helmet/Visor/Goggles – The most efficient aero kit on your head needs to be balanced against heat/sweat and your ability to determine and maintain the correct head position

More: Rudy Project Wing Review

Factors To Consider When Buying A TriSuit

  • Fit, should be comfortably tight but not baggy
  • Bum Comfort when running and cycling
  • Shoulder freedom when swimming
  • Sun protection for longer races
  • Durability, including thinning of the material over time
  • Aeroness, Most tri suits are not designed to be particularly aero other than the fact that a well-fitting one-piece suit has  inherent aero advantages
  • How cool you look and whether or not it matches your bike 😉

Zone3 Aeroforce-X II Review Summary

The company makes all the right claims in all the right ways. I buy the hype but slightly grimace at the price!

This will be my go-to suit for duathlon and triathlon in 2024. I’ll probably also use it for my Strava Segment PB attempts.

It’s very difficult for me to say if this is faster than my previous favourite, Tri Fit EVO, especially when my tests are outdoors and also subject to other kit upgrades. It might be. It’s certainly not slower.

This general class of aero tri-suit is also definitely faster than a run-of-the-mill tri-suit. So if you have one and have addressed the other significant aero issues you face and want to go faster, you know what to do.

Buy: Amazon GBP299

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