Monday, June 15, 2009

The Sports Bra Experiment

Sorry boys, this post is going to be all about sports bras.  You may want to skip this one.  You have been forewarned!
Just when you get things figured out for the clothes that you need to wear on long run and during a marathon, things get thrown for a loop when you enter the triathlon world.  When I did my first two triathlons I picked a top with a built in sports bra because that seemed like a better idea than wearing a separate bra, intentionally getting it wet, then biking and running in it.  Then I joined Team Tri Life and our kit included a top without a built in bra.  Hmm, time for the scientist in me to find the perfect bra for triathlon!

The Criteria

1. Excellent support.  I’m not super well endowed, but I still need a pretty good amount of support for the girls.
2. Would lock and load my heart rate monitor strap under the bra band.  After suffering some wicked chaffing (that I still have the scar for) where the HRM band bounced around I knew this would be key on a long day in a triathlon.
3. Wouldn’t absorb a ton of water in the swim and that would also dry quickly.  Well, it may not dry quickly, but I didn’t want to feel like I was carrying a couple of sponges strapped to my chest.
4. I also wanted a bra that was high cut, so that if I needed to lower the zip on my tri top I wouldn’t busting out a bunch of cleavage.  Mind you, I’m single…and cute guys race triathlon.  Maybe that wouldn’t have been that bad of an idea altogether…

The Contenders

1. A medium support bra that I picked up from the Gap a few years back.  This one has always been a good standby bra, but sadly they don’t make it anymore.  It is a double layer of fabric, and comes in as the lightest bra at 64 grams.  You’ll recognize it in the pictures because it is the fuchsia one.

2. Under Armour high impact that I picked up from the Under Armour outlet in Orlando.  This one is also a light weight at 65 grams.  The support isn’t too bad, but it seems to work mostly by the smooshing method which isn’t always the most comfortable.

3. CW-X Sport Support Bra, a medium support bra.  This one definitely meets the HRM criteria, and despite being billed as medium support it handles my 36B girls pretty well.  74 grams that is super comfortable.  This is an expensive brand, but you can sometimes find a good deal online.  I’ve managed to get a few CW-X deals from Team Estrogen from time to time.

4. CW-X Firm Support Bra.  This one also does a great job of leaving enough room for a HRM strap, but as is typical for me with most firm support bras this one feels a little too constricting on my chest.  106 grams.

5. Moving Comfort Diana A/B bra.  By this point in time I was tired of buying black bras and bought this one in white…which I somewhat regret now.  This one is a completely different fabric from any other sports bra.  It is quite lightweight, but it is a stiffer kind of fabric.  I was convinced that I needed to try this bra when I saw it was billed as the ultimate marathon and tri bra.  I would say this ranks equally for comfort with the CW-X Sport bra.  74 grams.

The Experiment

I needed to know how these bras stacked up for absorbing water, then how quickly they would dry.  The most accurate way to know that would be with the help of my handy dandy kitchen scale to measure the change in weight:CIMG5362  
I got the contenders wet in the tubCIMG5358
then hung them outside to dry for an hour.CIMG5360
I’m sure my neighbours must have thought I was nuts…  But this was in the name of science!  After an hour I weighed them to see how how well they had dried.  Here’s a breakdown of the results:

Water Absorption (least to most)
1. Moving Comfort
2. CW-X Firm
3. CW-X Sport
4. Under Armour
5. Gap

Ability to Dry (best to worst, by measuring the difference in air dry weight to wet weight)
1. CW-X Sport: shoulders and top half nearly dry, still wet near the band
2. CW-X Firm: shoulders dry, body and band still very wet
3. Under Armour: still overall a bit wet
4. Moving Comfort: still overall a bit wet
5. Gap: overall very wet

Field Tests

After my backyard experiment I saw the Moving Comfort and the CW-X Sport bras as being my two best options.  The real test would be to see how each one would hold up on race day.

I wore the Moving Comfort bra at the WCOC triathlon in May, then I wore the CW-X bra this past weekend at Wasa Lake.  The best thing I can say about both bras is that I never thought about either of them during the race.  Neither felt wet or heavy after the swim, and my HRM strap was kept firmly in place during both races.  No chaffing at all.  I’d highly recommend either bra, whether you are looking for the perfect piece of race day triathlon gear, or just a great bra to wear during training.


EricaH said...

I have to say I greatly appreciate your thoroughness in your quest for the best bra. Very impressive. Do you mind if I link to this post in my weekend report this week??

Run For Life said...

Well done! I love to carry out nutty scientific experiments as well, haha.

I will have to check these out if I see them for a good price. I desperately need some new sports bras and my fav. was discontinued (of course!)

I think that some guys probably will read this even if they don't comment because you're talking about the girls. ;)

Missy said...

Did you just say no chafing at all!?!?! I'm buying one or four...

TNTcoach Ken said...


lindsay said...

typical engineer ;)

hello! cute tri guys? maybe you need to get a leopard bra or something!

chafing (or lack thereof) is very important! i always have some kind of mark in that region, rrr. thanks for conducting the experiment - i'll def have to look into these.

NoMeatAthlete said...

I just found your blog from another blog roll, and I'm thinking my timing must be bad (I'm a guy)... I'll check out another post :)

Melanie Tait (Mel Tries to Run) said...

You are hilarious Leana! What a terrific set of experiments! You're so clever - I would never think of the water absorption etc. Good job!

Lily on the Road said...

Thanks for the scientific experiment for sports bras.

Now I just need to find an everyday day one that isn't padded to death and makes me look like Pam Anderson !!

lilmeg said...

I think this is the best post I have ever read. Ever. Your scientific approach made me almost spit my coffee out in hysterical appreciation.

Keith said...

After reading this blog post, I have to say that you can safely modify your profile. You no longer need to tell the world you're an engineer.

IN the spirit of accuracy, however, I must note that your experiment is a first approximation. Probably a good one, but still.

Sweat has slightly different properties than plain water, which might affect absorption and drying properties. The bras will absorb sweat starting in some places before others, and the variations in weight and friction might well produce different results. The drying test did not consider the heat from the body driving the drying process, or the effect of wind while running, or Alberta's terribly dry climate. I'm astonished there was any moisture left at all in any of them. A more humid climate will certainly give different results.

But all in all, a very practical and interesting post.
(and yes, I was laughing my ass off while writing this.)

Mel-2nd Chances said...

LOL at the pic of all the bras, too funny, but great experiment, and results! Love your #4 of the Criteria too... I will have to reference back to this post in my not too distant future hopefully! :D

Marlene said...

I LOVE the experiment! LOL, only a scientist.

Glad you found a couple that work so well!

Nobel4Lit said...

That is a cool series of experiments there!

Bob Almighty said...

Hanging you dainties on the back porch in the name of science...I love it!

Wes said...

Making sure the girls are taken care of is one of my TOP concerns :-) I'll pass this on to Dee Dee.

Alexandra said...

What a great post! I think that would be an excellent article for a magazine! I love the photo out on your deck!

Badgergirl said...

Love the experiment and the photographic documentation to go along with it!

Julie said...

Hahahahahahaha! Excellent scientific experiment! Great race at Wasa! I can't believe I never got a chance to meet you -- we'll have to meet again at another race. :) :)

My "girls" aren't big enough to warrant an experiment of this nature, however if you ever find something to cover protruding nipples during a race let me know! LMAO!!! :) :) :)

Nikki said...

I hope you find what you're looking for, but I apologize, I just have to say it - you're such a numbers geek!! :o) Love it, keep it coming!

Shirley said...

Totally impressed with your scientific experiment for sports bras. You are too much Leana. Well done.!!

Adam said...

I purchased a new sports bra for my yoga exercise.Which is so comfortable that i think it is Best Sports Bra which i ever got in my life.