November has been a particularly wet month here at PEZ HQ on Canada’s west coast – and that’s normal. What’s not normal though, is the amount of dry miles I logged thanks to some of the best wet weather riding gear I’ve ever seen – period. Okay – maybe I’m a tad over-excited about Castelli’s Nanoflex material – but how can you blame me – this stuff looks, acts, and feels like a snugly, warm, fleece lined fabric – and does double duty repelling rain and wet better than anything I’ve seen that’s not a dedicated water-proof rain stopper.
The folks in charge of the Castelli brand have made a real effort in recent years to regain the glory of this once revered marque. Better tailoring, creative use of multiple fabrics, and development of proprietary fabrics are some of the reasons we’ve seen them back at the highest level of pro racing on the backs of Cervelo Test Team riders. The best part is consumers have access to the same gear the pros get, so whether you’re racing or not, battling the elements stands to get a littler easier for us ‘regular Joes’.
There were so many items in the box that I’m going to focus on the wet weather gear in this review, and cover the colder weather kit separately. Let’s get started with their Nanoflex fabric – used to make arm warmers, knee warmers, bib tights and some more as well.
The Nanoflex Arm & Knee warmers look just like you’d expect, and both feature a one seam construction, which offers the best balance of tapered fit and reducing entry points for water (like at seams).
NANOFLEX Arms & Knees – Arms – US$59.99, Knees – $59.99, Legs – $69.99
Made from Castelli’s proprietary ‘Nanoflex’, I first learned about this wunder-material from their website back in the Spring, and have been wanting to see these for myself ever since. Castelli has developed a highly water-resistant fleece-lined fabric and wisely sewn it into things like arm warmers, knee warmers, leg warmers and full bibshorts. Living on a rainy coast, my only option for staying dry in winter has been using dedicated rain jackets and those bulky and dorky rain pants – until now.
I also tested their ‘Pave’ bibtights made from the Nanoflex material (see below), but wanted to start with the arms and knees because of the downright impressive demo I did with the sink in my laundry room. Watch this…
The BIG Demo
How water repellent are they? Here’s a cool test you can try at home. I ran the armwarmer under the tap of high pressure water for a few seconds, then used paper towel to blot for any water that had penetrated the material. I’ll admit it’s not exactly real-world riding conditions, but just try this with any other standard material arm warmer and see how fast the water soaks through.
The Fit • I found both arms and knees to be a snug fit – snugger to pull on than other arms and knees I’ve tried, but once on they never felt too tight, and I kept me both warm and dry. This speaks to Castelli’s legacy as a racer’s brand, which I like.
Construction • The standout feature here is the fabric – Castelli’s proprietary ‘Nanoflex’ material – which starts as stretchy, warm, breathable Thermaflex, and then gets treated 5 times – by 3 different vendors, to effectively turn it into a highly water repellant garment. Castelli designed their own process of adding silicon nano fibres to the fabric that prevent the water from penetrating. And they do it Secret Squirrel-like so no vendor knows the others are involved – which keeps their secret a secret.
The top gripper on both arms & legs features a stretchy silicon on both the inside & outside: inside to keep it from sliding down against your skin, and outside to prevent jersey sleeves or bibshort legs from slipping or riding up. Inside each is the warm Thermoflex fleece which holds in the warmth while breathing as you’d expect from a topline warmer.
Performance • They work like I expect a top line arm & knee warmer should – only way better in the wet. (In case you missed it – watch that video just up the page.) I can see getting a lot more wear from these in the Spring. Also, I did notice the “Castelli” logo began to crack after just one wash.
I had more chance to test the Pave Bib tights in wetter conditions, so let’s check those next…
PAVE BIBTIGHT – MSRP $159.99
On the bike, in the rain: water really does bead up and run off the Pave bibtight.
Living in Vancouver I’ve been looking for a bib tight suitable for my wet, rainy winters. So far the search has been fruitless unless I wanted to pull on a pair of waterproof rain pants over my tights. I’ll admit my ego would rather I got wet than be seen riding around in baggy rain pants. Then I caught sight of Castelli’s Pave Bibs and started bugging them for a review pair…
The Pave bib tights made from Castelli’s Nanoflex fabric are also available in a bib knicker.
The Fit • These fit me great. I was initially concerned that the lack of seams construction would result in some goofy stretching, and bunching behind the knees and at the front of the hips, but honestly I never noticed any. Typical of Castelli’s fit on my corpo, these were snug all around, which I like, and the zippered ankles made for a flush fit over my socks and under (or over) my booties.
The mesh back adds support for the thin and lightweight shoulder straps, while helping to prevent getting too hot.
Construction • This bib is all about the Nanoflex material which repels water and keeps you warm across a huge variety of weather conditions and temperatures. There’s only one seam running up the back of the legs, which makes sense for a water repellent garment, since water treats seams like doors. The straps are their ‘Giro++’ , lightweight and thin, but still do the job keeping the bibs up. Even the logos are not sewn or embroidered – but in fact debossed to maintain the water-resistant integrity of the full garment.
The chamois is their KISS3 pad – the ‘pad’ part is made from one-piece of foam which is shaved to different thicknesses. This is a good chamois – I’ve found zero chaffing or irritation – even running sans cream.
Performance • My first test ride was on a day when it rained through the night and right up until I rolled out the door. Dark clouds surrounded me but in a strange twist of fate, not a drop of rain fell on me – until I was almost done and just 5 minutes from home. I could see rain falling just a few blocks away, so I bee-lined it and for once was thrilled to be pedaling in falling rain. Interestingly, I immediately noticed the colder temperature of the rain as it hit my legs, and initially I thought I was getting wet. No dice – back home a close inspection revealed no moisture had soaked through to my skin.
You can see the rivulets where the beaded water has run off the tights. The water repellency of the Nanoflex material is impressive.
SUPER NANO Glove – $59.99
This one’s designed for cool-but-not cold temps, but is a really light-weight full fingered glove, and I’ve found them really well suited to 7-10C degree (45-50F) temperature days.
Construction • The glove backs are made of Strato lite fabric which has membrane to block the wind and cold – and repel rain, while the whole palm is a gripper – made from Pittards real lamb skin leather, the debossed (indented) pattern adds tackiness for non-slip. Pittards is the very established British leather goods maker most known for their gloves. The company started in 1826, and has supplied gloves for the military (RAF fighter pilots), and more recently prominent sports brands like Footjoy, Puma and Spalding. And fear not – Pittards was an early pioneer of washable leathers – so getting this glove wet, and throwing it in the wash to keep it clean, is no sweat. Ahem.
That palm is the real Pittards deal – washable, soft, and grippy lamb skin.
Performance • I like this glove for cool Spring & Fall days where you need full fingers. They do tend to run warm – and kept me toastier than any other glove I have in this weight category. Overall they’re very comfortable. The light and stretchy cuff seals snugly and softly around the wrist, and tucks in neatly under a jacket or jersey sleeve.
Pioggia 2 Shoecover – $64.99
To me, another mark that Castelli are really serious about top-line road gear is their selection of shoe covers & booties – I count 8 different models for North America – 4 of them specifically for cold and/or wet conditions. Pioggia’ means ‘rain’ in Italian.
The top is polyurethane coated fabric that completely blocks water. The only way water is getting in here is either at the seams, ankle tops, or from the cleat opening underneath – and Castelli has 2 of those 3 covered. The main seam down the front of the cover is taped from the outside, so water is kept clear of the seam itself.
There’s almost no worse feeling to riding in the rain than feeling that first cold trickle of water as it soaks past the tops of your booties and through your socks. These feature an ankle enclosure to stop water from getting in – it feels like stretchy rubber, and is lined with a silicon strip to further block water. But if it’s really nasty out, I’m tucking these under my Pave bib tights or leg warmers, to add another layer for the water to penetrate before it even gets to the ankle tops.
Update: Jan. 7, 2011
I rode these in a 20 minute steady rain, and sadly discovered my socks completely water-logged. It was hard to tell exactly where the water seapage occured, but my impression was that the seam where the upper meets the sole was a culprit, as was the seam along the top to the upper (which also suffered from separating tape after just a couple of rides).
I did ride them on wet and splashy roads (not in the rain), and my feet stayed dry, and I really liked the wind blocking of the uppers, and warmth of the lining. They’re not for really cold winter days – I’d go with the Narcisista or Diluvio covers – but these will get use all year when it’s raining.
Colors: white, black
The zip is easy to use with gloved hands, and note the silicon strip inside the ankle band – designed to better block water from sneaking in from the top, but you’ll want to run your tights over the top for best protection.
The zipper has a really tight enclosure that’s designed to keep a lot of moisture at bay, and the big velcro fastener lets you really snug ‘em against your ankle.
The bottom is a really tough-feeling, textured hard plastic-like material that should hold up when walking, but it’s not stretchy.
Overall, this one hasn’t performed like I’ve come to expect from Castelli, and I’ll be using it on lightly moist days only.
This review took a lot of hours to complete – so much that I’m saving the cold weather gear for another day soon. So thanks for making it this far down the page, and check this kit out. – Richard
• See the website: www.Castelli-Cycling.com
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