Review: Castelli's Redesigned Summer Kit
Words by Kelly Neuner
When Castelli first reached out about trying a few summer products, I envisioned big plans for testing things out. I recently relocated from New York to the Pacific Northwest specifically to take advantage of challenging and beautiful year-round riding and eagerly awaited nicer weather.
Unfortunately, a bad physical therapy exercise left me with a stubborn hip injury that’s relegated my early summer rides to slow, flat routes. During my recovery, I’ve honestly ended up reaching for my Castelli gear more often than any other pieces lately due to style, comfort, and performance.
Free Aero Bib Shorts
Castelli redesigned their Free Aero bib shorts, designed with racing in mind, to include a new chamois pad to eliminate the need for chamois cream. Castelli’s PR rep Victoria described it as “velvet”, and she wasn’t lying – it’s the softest I’ve tried. While many chamois hold up to hours in the saddle and aggressive riding positions, I found these to be comfortable even while sitting upright on the stationary trainer. When you’re facing another boring session indoors while your friends head out on a fun morning ride, this makes all the difference in actually following through on slow rehab rides.
Other design details I love include the vertical silicone leg grippers, which allow for greater stretch while staying in place, and dimpled fabric, which adds subtle visual interest along with being aero. I got the Extra Small, which fit snug but true to size, with just stretchy enough mesh bib straps, neither too tight nor too long.
Millerighe Jersey FZ
Once I could ride outside again, my physical therapist warned me of avoiding the temptation of pushing my recovery, spurred by the temptation of group rides and the ego-crushing feeling of being passed by other riders I’d typically breeze by. I’ve spent this racing season watching from the sidelines and being dropped by teammates even on slow rolls to get coffee.
Still looking the part – even while soft pedaling along the flat Lake Washington Loop at half my usual speed – seems small, but makes a big difference in priming myself for a different form of training and feeling like I’m still a cyclist. I may not be crushing hill repeats and intervals, but following the same ritual of kitting up primes my mind to focus on building new, functional movement patterns each time I ride – like putting on real clothes when working from home.
Patterned kits and jerseys tend to go loud and busy, but the minimal Millerighe jersey earns the coveted right of being a fun yet subtle piece of kit you can wear into a coffee shop or restaurant when you don’t want to stand out at “the bike person” in fluorescent colors.The ProSecco micromesh fabric makes it ultra lightweight and breathable, and it features subtle reflective piping for the times when you don’t bring a rear light.
From a fit perspective, I often find sizing difficult for bike clothes – at 5’0” with a larger chest, I’m typically stuck sizing up and ending up with too-long, bunching jersey. The Extra Small has the right amount of stretch, so zipping up doesn’t lead to a constricted straightjacket-like feeling I’ve gotten from most jerseys in the size.
The Idro Jacket
The Pacific Northwest’s reputation for rain seems exaggerated. When it does rain, it’s more of a gentle mist than the pummeling storms with sideways winds I was used to on the East Coast. Finding the right rain jacket, one that was truly waterproof but didn’t feel like a hotboxed plastic bag, felt impossible. Luckily, Victoria suggested trying this jacket, which she’d used extensively while racing as a collegiate.
This is one of the best shell jackets I’ve worn! I’ve used other rain jackets that don’t live up to their waterproof name, but this jacket leverages two-layer GORE-TEX Shakedry to keep me dry and warm during any surprise rain bursts or deceptively cool mornings when I misguessed the temperature based on the sun outside.
The most useful jacket is the one you have with you, and the Idro jacket wins on packability. I originally started bringing along a front bag just for storing a jacket in case of surprise showers, but this packs down small so you don’t have a bulky, overstuffed jersey pocket.
Castelli will also offer the Free Aero Bib as part of their Customs department starting in September, where teams can work with in-house designers to bring their ideas to life or order the same high-performance pieces in their team’s designs.
Victoria Jensen, Castelli’s main contact for all things PR, social, and events, worked with the brand through college and plans to bring her own passion for women’s advancement in cycling forward. “We have so many women who are passionate about the product,” she said. She’s working to bring that front-and-center to the company’s social and media presence. The company supports teams including devo team Lux Cycling, as well individual riders, including the 2018 U23 Women’s CX National Champion Clara Honsinger and Brenna Wrye-Simpson, a local crit racer to Castelli’s U.S.-based Portland offices and star of one of their video series, Identity.
In addition to supporting local events, the brand also supports The Breck Epic, a six-day mountain bike race in Breckenridge, CO in August; the Belgian Waffle Ride, a 130-mile gravel race in California in May which offers a “buy one, get one” registration for women; and Austin’s popular Driveway Series. “We’re finding ways we can support local community as we work to bring in new riders and community members,” she said.
Kelly Neuner is the editor of Pretty Damned Fast and a track & crit racer with Shadow Elite Racing.