Arctic cold descended on PEZ HQ, and as I write this, it’s actually a few degrees below freezing out there. Yesterday I logged 1hr 45mins and 45km in 0-2C degrees – yep I was that desperate to go for a ride. Terrible conditions by most standards, but in fact excellent conditions to test some of the latest winter kit from Castelli.
For anyone not paying attention, Castelli has enjoyed a genuine resurgence of late, for two good reasons. One – their pro team sponsorship of the Cervelo Test Team has proven their worth at the highest level of racing in the world. And two – and this is the one that pretty much made reason 1 happen – the quality of their kit has risen dramatically in recent years to the highest levels.
For me – winter gear reviews are often the only motivation I have to get out there on a cold gray day, where rain & chill are expected, and a dry ride between November and February is more exception than the norm. Like I said in the intro – Castelli can cover you from head to toe, so let’s get started.
SORPASSO BIB TIGHT – MSRP $169.99
Also offered as a bib knicker – $149.99
Last weekend’s ride in barely above freezing temps was the perfect test ground for these – in fact I was actually looking forward to getting out there and staying warm. I rode for 1hr 45mins and aside from cold toes at the 60 minute mark, the Sorpassos did an excellent job of keeping me warm, dry and comfortable.
The Fit • I’ll just come right out and say it – this is one of the best fitting tights I’ve ever worn. Like much of the Castelli gear I’ve tried, it fits snugger than other brands’ comparably sized items, but I really only notice that when pulling ‘em on. Once the straps are straight and the boys are adjusted, the only thought I’ve given these is about how good they feel.
The straps are their thin lycra blend called Giro++ material (the same as on the Bodypaint bibs shorts) which is lighter than most straps I’ve seen, but also tend to folder over or ‘gutter’ on some riders depending on the shape of your shoulders and bones. Regardless, I never noticed it while riding.
Fit around the knees & ankles was also very good for me – snug, without being too tight, and no bunching, and proof that and ergo-shaped and sewn garment does fit better 9 times out of 10.
Construction • The main body & legs are made from two types of fabric: Thermoflex and Thermoflex Core Due. Both fabrics are breathable, fleecy on the inside and warm. The Core Due is a hollow fibre weave that is claimed to be both lighter and warmer than a non-hollow weave. Its insulating properties are improved by the air trapped inside the hollow fibres, sort of like how a double pane window insulates your house better. The fleecy Thermoflex covers all the way to above the waist, since nobody wants cold air sneaking into cracks between jackets, jerseys, and bibs… while there’s a mesh back panel that runs as high as your shoulder blades, and anchors the Giro++ straps.
The chamois is topline – the Progetto X2 Chamois is same used in the Bodypaint bibs, Aero Race 3, and Endurance bibs – but with a slightly different top layer. The part I really like is that the layer of uncompressed foam is shaved to varying thicknesses to deliver more uncompressed, springy foam where you want it, less where you don’t, and it’s covered by a single ‘flat’ piece of material, so there’s less chance of a ridge folding or bunching next to your skin.
At the other end, there’s a 6 inch zipper to help get your foot through, and a small reflective strip alongside it. The base of each leg features a lycra band with a silicon Castelli embossed on it to provide a little grip next to your booties.
Performance • The standout features here are they’re really warm – and fit me really well. I rode these for 90 minutes at 0-4C degrees – and my legs a body stayed nicely warm and dry.
They’re not billed as water resistant, and the material is breathable, but the Thermoflex has certain wicking properties to pull moisture away from the skin. I found these really warm, and comfortably dry. The ankle zips are placed on the outside of the legs, making them easier to reach, and the zipper lulls are big enough to work with gloved hands. Straps tend to gutter, but I didn’t notice it when riding.
I’m a huge fan of this chamois, and love the fact that you can get it in a bib tight, when a lot of other brands offer only lower grade chamois’ in the ‘off-season’ gear. It’s smooth against the skin, does not bunch, and has yet to irritate or chafe me.
Maybe they made a mistake on the pricing, this is their high end chamois, multiple fabrics, and lots of seams and panels that equal lots of sewing time, so at $170, these bibs are priced somewhere south of what they’re worth – making a their value proposition pretty high. I’m pretty sure these are gonna become my go-to tight for the cold months ahead.
STELVIO JACKET – MSRP $199.99
Until last weekend, I didn’t fully appreciate how warm this jacket is. I’d been riding it in temps of 6C-10C degrees, and was plenty warm – even a bit too warm. Then everything froze here and I was psyched to test out the hollow-core fibre fabrics in this jacket.
The Fit • Being sized at a 37ish inch chest, and 140lbs, I can wear a lot of stuff sized from small to medium. I prefer a snugger fit, and based on some previous experience with Castelli jersey, I went for the medium sized jacket, which turned out to be roomy enough to comfortably add a base layer and long sleeve jersey underneath. The sleeves were also long enough that reaching for the bars did not leave exposed wrists.
Construction • Like the Sorpasso bibtights, this jacket is made from a mix of fabrics, including Windstopper X-Fast for warmth in the main body & sleeves (see the gray material in above photo), stretchier Windstopper X-Light around the shoulder blade areas to allow some give when you are in riding position (that’s the black material), and Thermoflex on the flip-up collar for soft comfort and warmth. Both Windstopper’s include a membrane to… stop the wind, and are water repellent to a degree.
In back are 3 good sized pockets that are loose-enough fitted to allow reasonable access with long-gloved hands, and room for more stowage than you should need. The waistband at back is a Jacquard knit with a silicon gripper to hold the jacket in place and prevent any cold air leakage.
There’s no dedicated ipod slot or chest pocket, but I’d love to see one – it just makes finding the keys or coffee money a bunch easier with cold & gloved hands. The jacket comes in 4 colors – white with black/red trim; black; red with black trim; and blue (they call it Cyan).
The extra ‘flip’ on the collar makes this the highest jacket collar I’ve tested – and it was in full use on Sunday’s ride at zero degrees Celsius.
Performance • This jacket is warm, no questions – easily one of the warmest jackets I’ve tested. Now that I’ve ridden it at freezing levels (over top a wool tee-base and wool long sleeve jersey), it’s clear this jacket performs best in below 5-6C degrees. I never felt over-heated, even though my base layer was sweat-soaked. Everything here works as advertised, and did I mention how warm it is? There is a bit of reflective detailing on the chest and back shoulder areas, stylish and subdued, but at least something to aid in visibility when it gets darker out.
The already tall collar gets an extra boost from the flip-up Thermaflex trim which is soft and warm. The zipper is easy to grip and use with full gloves and cold hands.
CHIRO WS Glove – MSRP $59.99
Again – a very warm piece that I’m sure will become a staple in December, January and February around here.
Construction • I counted 5 different materials in this glove – that’s a lot for a glove that sells for $60. The back is the Windstopper X-Fast (like the Stelvio jacket), the palm is a synthetic suede, with 2 lightly padded gripper gripper panels sewn on, the thumb back is an absorbent terrycloth for wiping sweat, snot and whatever else you want, and the inside thumb and forefinger is covered by another piece of synthetic suede to increase durability. The cuffs are neoprene for a snug and trim fit at the wrists.
Performance • The size medium fit my hands very well, and they are very warm. The wrist closure is easy to use even with long gloves on. I found the synthetic suede palm became damp with my sweat, and also easily absorbs moisture from both the inside and outside, and because it’s not very breathable, my hands just felt damp after a while. This was more noticeable on warmer days when my hands sweated more, and less evident on cooler rides.
Chiro gloves are available in white or black.
The palm padding is thin, but grippy, so no bulking in your hand when you grab the bars.
SG0.6 WINDSHIRT Long Sleeve $79.99
Here’s another example of Castelli’s commitment to providing warm gear that really is light. I was surprised at how warm this windshirt is given its light weight. My sample weighed 99grams, while my go-to long sleeve winter base layer weighs (get this…) 234 grams. That is some difference.
The front of the garment is windproof hollow core fabric that blocks wind and is super light. The windblocking is one of those pro/con applications here, since with no wind getting through, your body retains a lot more heat. The con here is that I felt moisture collect against my skin, which created a dampness that just felt cooler (since your skin can’t tell the difference between wet and cold). I think the key here is to not ‘over-layer’, and maybe go without a middle later unless it’s a really cold day.
The back and sleeves are breathable mesh and short sleeve and sleeveless versions are also offered. Summary? Warm – yes. Lightweight – yes.
Castelli offers this explanation of the base layer: “We conceived this base layer as something of a special use piece. Any membrane fabric is going to sacrifice breathability, and in the case of a base layer that means that the moisture stays close to the body. This piece should never be used layered with another windproof garment, and works really when used when you are constantly riding. If your ride is going to include coffee stops or waiting while your riding buddy changes his flat tire, you’d better pick something else. But if you’re going to be constantly in motion, this is one of our favorite pieces for being light, fast and comfortable.”
VIVA THERMO Skully – $34.99
You can’t claim the line covers you from head to toe without a skull cap – so here’s Castelli’s offering. It’s made of light Thermaflex, ergo-sewn to snugly fit most normal shaped beans out there. They’ve also left out the seam that other brands often use at the edges, which results in a slightly lighter skully, that lies flat against your head.
I was concerned that without the seam it would leave a gap around my ears, letting cool air annoyingly sneak in. But not so – it layed flat and snug, and was easy to roll up at the ears if I wanted a bit more ventilation. It’s not made for the very coldest days, but is small and light enough that you should take it along on an Alpine or Dolomite assault when bad weather might be expected at the summit .
As you might have guessed, this review took a lot of hours to complete – I know it’s long but there’s a lot of gear here worth a look. 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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