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PEZ Reviews: Castelli’s Sanremo Speedsuit
When Johan Vansummeren and Fabian Cancellara staged their famous pursuit match in the final kilometers of Paris-Roubaix on a hot, dusty, dry April day in Hell, the Belgian had something special on his side against the Swiss powerhouse – a critical piece of kit that might have been the difference between sweet cobble kissing victory and a late catch by the dominant force on the pave this spring – the Castelli Sanremo Speedsuit.


It’s a heady claim, but Castelli’s ingeniously designed short/jersey combo slash skinsuit is claimed to save a rider significant time: 10-15 watts at 40 km/h. With a rapidly emptying rear tire, following a huge effort in the break, Vansummeren was certainly not hindered by his choice of clothing on the day.

Look at the numbers: wearing the Speedsuit, Vansummeren attacked with 15km to go. With Castelli’s proposed savings of 15 watts at 40 km/h, that could have indeed been the difference. Assuming he rode at 400 watts (a big assumption, but just play along) the suit gave him an extra 0.37 mph, and saved him roughly 12 seconds over that distance. He won by 19 seconds. Sans Speedsuit, that would have left only seven seconds, and who knows what would have been possible had Cancellara gotten that close. Take out that final 15 kilometers and remember that the race was 260 kilometers long… There’s little doubt it played a role. We can debate on just how much all day. The point is: it’s much faster than the typical jersey and shorts, and faster than an aero jersey/short combo as well.


Vansummeren riding the Castelli Sanremo Speedsuit to victory at Roubaix.

For a company like Castelli, which has made its name as a company devoted to innovation, the flow of ideas can come from any direction – success, failure, other sports, outside sources, a random comment, there is no source too small or insignificant. The origin of the new Sanremo Speedsuit can be traced to man with absolutely no background in cycling.


The Idea: An Unlikely Source
The evolution of the Speedsuit had been a number of years in the making when Vansummeren stormed to victory in the Roubaix velodrome. In fact, it can be traced all the way back to Heinrich Haussler’s heartbreaking loss by centimeters to Mark Cavendish in Sanremo just over two years earlier.


Haussler and Cavendish lunge for the line…

Cavendish famously overhauled Haussler with a desperate bike throw, and as Haussler crumpled to the ground after the line, the people at Castelli immediately wondered: is there something we could have done that would made up for those lost centimeters?


Was Haussler’s loss avoidable? Castelli thinks so.

In short, yes.

The idea though came from a man whose history came not in engineering, design, aerodynamics, or even cycling, but rather a former trainer of the Italian national volleyball team. Joop Alberda was an unlikely hire by the Cervelo Test Team, but proved to be a solid man for the job. More importantly for this article, it was he who asked the question about a month before the 2010 Tour de France: “So why don’t riders wear skinsuits in normal races?”

Castelli’s Steve Smith started to give the clichйd response: “There are two major reasons for a skinsuit not being applicable to road use: pockets and the ability to pee off the bike, or lack thereof.” But he stopped short of actually saying it and started thinking. For him and Castelli’s Soren Jensen, a lightbulb blinked on.




Jensen remarks: “It wasn’t such a crazy idea. We saw Team Sky’s take on the idea in 2010. Sky used skinsuits with backpockets sewn on to the back of the kit, but that’s 100% lycra, and certainly not ideal. We thought we could do something better.”

The drawing board was pulled out, the brainstorming began, and an incredible new kit spilled forth.


The Result
Many iterations later (ten to be exact), the idea was unveiled: Castelli stitched their Aero Race jersey to their Body Paint shorts. The result? A piece of kit that has everything: aerodynamics that rival any skinsuit; fully functional, some would say better than normal pockets; the ability to pee off the bike with ease; the loss of bib straps; a complete unzipping of the jersey is possible without losing support to the jersey and still remaining reasonably aerodynamic.



Wind tunnel testing has revealed a scary number as a result – Castelli are no strangers to the wind tunnel – they’ve been visiting for decades now. Castelli list the savings their Sanremo Speedsuit provides as 10-15 watts at 40 km/h, an extremely significant savings. Considering Johan Vansummeren’s solo effort accompanied by a tire rapidly losing air and Fabian Cancellara’s desperate motobike-like chase – it’s reasonable to say that the Sanremo Speedsuit made all the difference.

Along with the 10-15 watts of savings at 40 km/h and 100 grams of weight saving, another number stands out: two. Two is the number of pending patents Castelli has on the new Sanremo Speedsuit. The Speedsuit’s design is so innovative, different, and new that it warranted the extra effort and time to protect the company’s new creation.

PEZ recently got hold of one of the only Speedsuits not in use by Garmin-Cervelo and had a chance to put it to the test. To put it bluntly – it’s a game changing piece of clothing…in my opinion. After spending time in the Speedsuit, Garmin’s Brett Lancaster said that he never wanted to wear anything else in a bike race. I’d go one step further – I’d be happy if I never had to wear anything else in training as well as racing.





I Find Myself Washing Clothes More Often…
Pros and stories aside, the big question are: How does it fit? How does it feel? Glad you asked.

I’ve worn a lot of bike kit, and while I enjoy Castelli’s products greatly, I feel like the Speedsuit is a step beyond what can normally be expected.


The fit is super sleek and feels oh so good.

It fits like a skinsuit sure, but it feels better, is far more functional, and frankly, I love it. I’ve taken to washing my clothes more often, because it’s so much fun to wear. I go through periods where I wear it as much as possible, but then I get nervous that I might be using it too much, and that’s no good, because I really want it to last a really long time.

I think that’s a good sign for a product – wanting to use it so much, you’re worried that you might be using it too much.

Thankfully, it has withstood the test of many, many washings, and many, many hours on the bike without any issues.


From The Bottom Up
The first thing I noticed when I put it on is just how good the Body Paint shorts felt. Before the Speedsuit, I had never had the chance to try out the Body Paint shorts – my first response back in April, is my response today when I put them on – ‘Wow, this feels amazing.’ The shorts feel like they’re barely there, like a second skin. I’ve never worn another pair of shorts that has that feel. I don’t want to sound too over the top about them, but Ashley has caught me touching the fabric while I ride, just because it feels so nice. The one-piece construction of the Body Paint shorts makes for a compression-like fit, but it in no way feels like too much.


The only seams on the Body Paint shorts.

Castelli’s X2 Seatpad sits nicely in the middle of the shorts. Like everything else in Castelli’s Rosso Corsa line, it has endured countless critiques from Cervelo Test Team and Garmin-Cervelo riders. It has taken many, many iterations, but they’ve done a great job making a noticeably excellent seatpad. It does exactly what a good seatpad should do: you forget that it’s there.

The Body Paint shorts and Aero Race jersey overlap and are sewn at the waist three quarters of the way around leaving the front, middle quarter open. This allows for a full zip jersey that has absolutely no pesky front folding when you’re in the riding position and lends itself happily to fully unzipping.



The non-sewn front quarter also allows for an extremely easy way to take a nature break off the bike – an important feature for a bike racer, and this is above all a race oriented piece of kit.

You know how bibs often come up far too high to comfortably relieve yourself on the bike? Part of the brilliance of the Speedsuit is that it fits like a pair of shorts at the front, but without the problems that come with shorts.

While the ability to take a nature break on the bike is one of the mentioned highlights of the Speedsuit, it’s more of a – well, that’s nice to know if I need to. Typically, I don’t do much relieving during a race. For some, it will be a godsend, for me, it’s just nice to know I can.

However, there are some other features, which are much, much more interesting and noticeable on a day to day basis.

First off – the fit is superb. The feel of the kit on my body while riding is excellent, like nothing else. The lack of bibs, while they’re hardly noticeable on a normal basis, is noticeable when they’re not there. It feels fantastic. Instead of the fit being held together by two pieces of fabric, the fit is held together superbly by the whole jersey.


Notice the bottom part of Vansummeren’s ‘jersey’.

Off the bike, like most things that fit properly ON the bike, it feels a bit awkward and short. The shorter front end, which you can see in this shot of Vansummeren winning Roubaix is very intentional – it ensures that there’s no front folding of the jersey while on the bike. The tight one-piece fit also does away with an aerodynamic nightmare – the folds and wrinkles that inevitably plague a normal jersey, even an aero one. The mainly wrinkle-free Speedsuit is an aerodynamic dream.

While the Speedsuit might feel a bit off when you’re walking around, the one piece kit comes into its own on the bike though. As soon as you put your hands on the bars, the formerly noticeably tight, stretched feeling in the front goes away and feels perfect. I liken the feeling of wearing the Speedsuit to putting on a set of deep dish carbon wheels. You feel faster, sleeker, more bad ass. For me, feeling faster isn’t a perk to scoff at. And actually wearing a piece of kit that is wind tunnel proven to be faster is certainly nothing to disregard.


Dimples will be added to both the Speedsuit shorts and the Body Paint shorts for 2012.

For 2012, Castelli has added aero dimples to the legs of the Body Paint shorts for added aerodynamic improvement. With something as large and erratically moving as the legs, it’s impossible to maintain laminar airflow, so Castelli developed aero dimples, which are engineered right into the fabric, so they won’t wear out in time, and they’ll continue to induce flow separation and reduce aerodynamic drag for many years to come.


Notice the different fabrics on the arm (the same on the back) and the front – also take note of the well chosen large zipper: a big plus.

The jersey itself is super lightweight – to the point that I’ve been forced to start using sunscreen on my back for fear of a mesh sunburn. This would seem like a minus when it gets a bit cooler, but I’ve rarely felt myself get cold from my back. The front side is not mesh, but rather a more solid material, which while light, still has that little bit of extra wind blocking to it that makes it more aero, but also a reasonable option with a base layer when the temperatures head away from hot.


The jersey is see through in the riding position – great for cooling, not so good for staying non-sunburnt if you have the complexion of lotion…as I do.


Unzipped
One of my favorite perks of the Speedsuit is the ability to unzip the jersey with no irritation. I can have my three back pockets filled to explosion, unzip my jersey, and have no problems. If you do that with a typical jersey, you’ve got a teetering mass of weight moving freely around on your back. It’s not pretty.


Fully unzipped.

Because we’ve been fortunate enough to spend a lot of time in the mountains this year, I’ve spent a lot of time riding uphill. For that reason, I typically have a bunch of stuff in my jersey – you never know what’s going to happen when you start to edge over 2000m in the summer. I typically carry a rain jacket, arm and knee warmers, phone, food, maybe even a camera. Needless to say, my pockets are filled. With everything in my pockets, high summer temperatures, and long climbs to be dealt with, it’s hot for most of the time…so I do a lot of unzipping.


Fully unzipped with a bottle in the rear pocket for demonstration’s sake – notice how close the jersey stays to the body. It’s open plenty enough to cool, but not so much as to be unwieldy or a parachute.

I never, ever unzipped fully until I got the Speedsuit. It just wasn’t workable with the massive amounts of stuff that I carry on long rides. Now, as soon as I hit a climb, I reach for the big, easy moving zipper and I’m unzipped. Because the jersey is stitched three quarters of the way around, it opens, but it doesn’t become a sail either like most jerseys. In fact, it stays quite orderly in the front, so you don’t have to worry about paying a major aerodynamic penalty when you’re going uphill. I know that it doesn’t matter too much when you’re going 15 km/h, but do you want to ride with a parachute on if you don’t have to?

I’d consider the Speedsuit a solid option even if it didn’t have the massive aerodynamic benefits and just the ability to easily and effectively enjoy the unzipped experience.


Downsides?
For me, they are few, but there is one that tickles: the price. Like any high-quality product, the Speedsuit is priced accordingly. The Speedsuit will be a part of Castelli’s 2012 product line available to consumers, but it will carry a price tag of somewhere around 350 dollars.

That’s wince-inducing. I know.

Keep in mind, however, that the Body Paint shorts by themselves are 200-250 dollars depending on where you buy them. An Aero Race jersey? 100-150 dollars. That puts the Speedsuit at a relatively fair price.

Also keep in mind that there are bibshorts from a few companies that hit above the $300 dollar range by themselves, and jerseys at or very near that number as well, but I’ve not found a combination like San Remo in individual pieces at any price.

Considering that it will be part of Castelli’s Servizio Corse line, it’s also fully customizable for racers. That’s pretty cool.

The fit can also be a downfall for some. It is not exactly flattering if you’re anything other than thin: if you’re carrying a few extra pounds – you’ll notice it in the kit. It was the first piece of bike clothing that made me a bit self-conscious, especially when I just started to get back into training in April. To put it nicely, I had managed to adorn myself with, erm, love handles over a hectic winter and spring. As my fitness and weight came around, however, that became just a happy thing to think back on when looking at my improvements.



Christophe Le Mevel models the Speedsuit that will be available to consumers in 2012. Consumers can either buy this version, or get their own kits customized in their own team colors.


Wrapping It Up
The Sanremo Speedsuit will be available to consumers starting in 2012.

It’s reassuring to know that if you’re going to shell out the money to buy the best kit to know that the best are working to create something new, something better, something innovative, something that can make your time on the bike a whole lot more comfortable and faster. I like that.

***
For more information on Castelli’s Custom Clothing options head over to the Castelli Servizio Corse site.

For more information on Castelli – head to their website: www.Castelli-Cycling.com



Thanks for looking. If you have other experiences with gear, or something to add, drop us a line. We don’t claim to know everything (we just imply it at times). Give us a pat on the back if you like the reviews, or a slap in the head if you feel the need!

PezCycling News and the author ask that you contact the manufacturers before using any products we test here. Only the manufacturer can provide accurate and complete information on proper use and or installation of products as well as any conditional information or product limitations.

Send your comments to: jered@pezcyclingnews.com



 

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