Castelli Winter Gear Review

Castelli offers one of the largest selections of riding gear around – with something for every temp and riding condition. I’ve spent the last few weeks testing gear from the winter range: the Espresso Due & Pazzo jackets, Polare bib tight, Colpo long-sleeve jersey, merino wool long-sleeve base, Diluvio shoe covers, Risvolto thermal cap, and Meccanico wool sweater.

The trained observer knows that we prefer to look at a range of kit here on PEZ – which makes perfect sense to us. For one thing, we pretty much dress for every ride in multiple items of gear… (except for that scorching hot day back in the ‘80’s when, dressed in only my lycra shorts, I unwittingly stumbled into the middle of the local gay pride parade… but I digress) – the manufacturers build ranges of kit to fit and work together, and also address a variety of price points. Reviewing a single garment often poses more questions – like “what’s the rest of the kit like?” And since so many of us like buying a complete kit (if only to avoid being known as the ‘Patches the Clown’ of your local group), we like giving you a more complete review, that hopefully provides some useful info for your next purchase.

So cue the curtain, and enter several items to match – and mix, from Castelli’s 2011/12 Fall Winter line up…

ESPRESSO DUE JACKET $299.00 – black, red, or white
When I tested Castelli’s Stelvio jacket last winter, it was the warmest winter jacket I’d tried, and I logged a bunch of winter miles without fear of what turned out to be one of the colder winters here in recent years. Then along comes the Espresso Due jacket – and the bar in winter warmth just got higher.

My test sample was a size medium, which was a tad large for me, as you can see in the arm length. But this was okay, since it allowed lots of room for a couple of layers below, while the slightly longer body offered more coverage – and warmth – over my hips.

Rear pockets are deep and pretty easy to access, even with gloved hands. I’ve had no probs fishing my keys out with gloved fingers.

The primary material here is Castelli’s Windstopper® X-Fast fabric – made by Gore to be windproof & offer some water resistance (although it’s not intended as a rain jacket). It’s actually three layers bonded together – all of which stretch and move with the rider.

The outer layer is smooth and durable – it’s done a nice job repelling the elements, and standing up to several washings now with no signs of wear.

The middle layer is actually applied in a sort of crinkled manner, so that it ends up with a larger surface area to move moisture away from the base, which is intended to make it breathe better by allowing sweat-sized moisture to pass through while keeping water-sized moisture molecules out.

The inner layer is a mid-weight fleece that looks like it came out of a tiny waffle iron – and it’s this texture that traps a layer of warm air against the body to add warmth while allowing some airflow to regulate temperature.

The shoulders feature a pretty cool venting that allows for lots of movement and eliminates the binding you get with some garments. The vents also allow for some air movement – but not enough to allow a cold draft to impede performance. In fact I never felt any cool air slipping in through these vents, so they must be working properly. The vent itself runs clear across the back, from one sleeve to the other, and all the way down the back.

You can see the mesh layer clearly, which separates the vented shoulders from the rest of the jacket. The gray fleece is the inside layer of the Windstopper® X-Fast fabric used throughout the jacket – front, sides, back, and sleeves.

The collar is nice and high – with an extra tall flap that can be worn up or down – but really does seal the neck against the cold. The zipper is YKK® Camlock, and has a nice big tab for easy gripping with gloved fingers.

Overall breathability is helped by a very light, and very vented mesh layer that covers most the the inside back.

Extra zipped vents are added at both cuffs, and on each side of the chest front. I found the cuffs a tad tricky to close with gloved hands, but they do a nice job of regulating warmth, and can be worn inside or outside of gloves. The sleeves on my medium were plenty long for full arm & wrist coverage even when stretched out on the drops.

There’s a small pocket inside the chest to hold your tunes – and some nicely detailed guides for the earbuds that keep the wires from flapping around. The pocket is sized for a couple generations old Ipod Nano, and could do with a slight size increase to at least hold an iPhone.

Overall I really like this jacket – it’s become my go to outer wear for winter riding. It is quite warm – the warmest in my line up now, and I suspect will really appeal to guys living between 40 -60 degrees latitude. The only bad news is I have one less excuse for riding when it gets even colder.


Castelli USA & PEZ HQ are located close enough to each other in the Pacific Northwest to share pretty similar winter weather patterns – so we also share an appreciation for fine wool fabrics. The natural fiber is ideal for holding body heat in, and keeping cold out. It breathes well. It’s renowned for not getting clammy and cold when it gets wet. It even resists stink – making it ideal for a cycling base layer.

I’ve been wearing this one as my base under either a summer jersey & winter jacket, or even under a long sleeve jersey and jacket for really cold days. I’ve even worn it as a base when I’m out there doing Fall yard clean up.

The Australian merino wool is very fine – even ‘ultrafine’ – which explains why it feels so good against the skin. The flatlock stitching is a nice touch that smooths out any seams and locks in the comfort*. My size medium fit just right, although I might even try a size smaller since I do like a snug base layer.

Another benefit of wool is that it resists stink – so you don’t have to wash it after each use – although personally I do, in a gentle cycle on cold, and ALWAYS hang dry.

Also avail in zip neck with higher collar for $100.

* – Did I really just write that?

PAZZO JACKET – $180.00, black/white; black; red/white

The Pazzo should appeal to anyone who likes getting more than they pay for – it’s a mid-weight jacket with removeable sleeves, which doubles up as warm vest for cool days.

The primary fabric is Castelli’s SG0.6, which is a hollow-core polypropylene – made to be both warm – and lighter than comparable fabrics. I weighed my sample jacket at 411grams, (while the Espresso Due weighed in at 522 grams).

The sleeves zip off easily, converting the jacket to a nice thermal vest.

Castelli suggests it’s good for temps as cool as 7C degrees, and while I prefer something a bit heavier when it gets that cold, I do like this jacket for Fall & Spring days where that nip of winter is still in the air.

The Pazzo’s three pockets are sized to handle plenty of storage for cool day rides.

The removable sleeves are a nice touch and the garment has plenty of coverage around the shoulders to function as thermal vest if you so choose. Once removed, they’re bulkier than a set of simple arm warmers, which I noticed when stowing them in the rear pockets.

The sleeves zip off easily, but I’d recommend not doing so while actually riding.

Castelli does the high collar especially well – which keen observes might note can be worn with the base jersey zip worn down… or up.

POLARE BIBTIGHT $200 – black
I had the same warming experience with this bibtight as I did with the Espresso Due jacket. Credit again goes to the fabric – these are made from the same Windstopper® X-Fast as the Espresso Due jacket, and the difference versus almost everything else I have here is notable.

Since I’ve already addressed its warmth, I’ll add only that I really noticed the difference of the wind stopping properties in these bib tights, since I normally don’t wear a base layer under my bibs – all the protection is handled (as it should be) in the one piece.

On a blustery cold day, I could feel tiny pangs of chill through the breathable sections on the Sorpasso bib, where I felt none while being shielded inside the Polare bibs.

The fit is snug – as I’ve come to expect from Castelli’s bibs of all lengths – and I found the overall comfort to be very good. I noticed slight bunching at the knees and around the mid-section, (but not enough to distract while riding) which is wholly a function of the material (not the craftsmanship). The reason is simple – the protective barrier that makes the Windstopper XFast work so well, is not as flexible or stretchable as the Thermoflex. If it were, it would let a whole lot more cold air pass through.

While the bibs are made primarily of the Windstopper® X-Fast, there are two panels that run up the back of the legs from ankle to butt made of breathable Thermoflex fabric (as are the straps) to help regulate temperature. The Thermoflex is not water resistant but it is designed to move moisture away from the body, which should make things a bit more comfortable under the shoulder straps.

The chamois is their KISS3 pad – which Castelli uses in a lot of their bibs & shorts. The ‘pad’ part is made from one-piece of foam which is shaved to different thicknesses, so you have more foam placed to cushion areas of the anatomy that need it. I’ve been running this without chamois cream and found it consistently comfortable, non-chafing, and holding up well after repeated washings.

The high T-strap in back does a great job of keeping the shoulder straps in place, so there’s no worry of them slipping off the shoulders. The Thermoflex fabric is breathable, which helps regulate sweat build up under the straps, and has enough structure to stay nice and flat against the body as you ride.

The bibs are ergo shaped – designed to fit smoothly while in the riding position – so naturally you’d se the bunching in back when you stand up.

The Windstopper® X-Fast fabric runs clean down the front of the legs, to ankles that stay snug with both a zipper, and gel gripper, which effectively prevent the legs from crawling up while pedaling.

Here’s a lightweight micro fleece long sleeve jersey that could answer the age old question: arm warmers or not?

The lightweight ‘Warmer’ fabric allows for a lot of options to cover you across a variety of riding temps. Match this one with a short, or long sleeved base layer to cover a bunch of riding in the shoulder seasons. Add a vest and you just went deeper into the cold.

The jersey is available in blue, red, or black, and the graphics have a real ‘Team Italia’ look, which is no surprise since Castelli has often supplied kit to the Squadra Azzurra.

The ‘Warmer’ fabric’s weave makes it easy to see wear the airflow happens.

The zipper is a full length YKK Camlock, with the big tab that’s easy to grab with even fully gloved fingers. There’s a gel gripper that runs fully around the waist to keep the jersey from riding up, the back is slightly longer than the front – clearly tailored to fit while in the riding position. The overall fit is what I consider classic Castelli – snug and racer-ish, but still comfortable.

RISVOLTO WINTER CAP $30.00 – comes in various black/white, black/ red, & red/white combos

This one’s great for the coldest days I’d care to ride in – like when it’s just too dang chilly for the standard skull cap. The Risvolto features two layers of warmth – an inner light fleece lining that wicks & breathes, and the outer is their “Warmer” fabric. The whole thing is breathable so you’re less likely to overheat, and the earflap is foldable for a snappy ‘Robin Hood’ look. They say it’s good down to 6C degrees, but I’ve found it quite comfy even closer to zero – all depends on the individual.

If my feet are cold, and that chill gets into my toes – it’s just a matter of minutes until my ride is ruined – it becomes a race to get home… and warm. And living where the wet winters are bad enough to make things miserable – (and no doubt toughen me up), but still just warm enough to ride, staying warm from the pedals up is key to getting out there.

Finding a shoe cover that keeps my feet both dry and warm has become a quest that’s renewed each year as the cold sets in, and I cast a glance about for anything new and ‘revolutionary’ on the market.

The Diluvio shoecover offers a tried and true option that has worked well for years – – good old neoprene. The 3mm thick neoprene is light enough to not feel bulky, but still block out the wind, a lot of water (even though they are not waterproof), and keep the feet warm in a variety of temps ranging from 5C – 15C degrees (your mileage may vary). I road these in temps around 5C degrees (about 40F), and stayed pretty warm with a thick wool sock as the base.

My mediums were a snug stretch over my size 40 shoes, but also looked pretty aero for a winter shoecover. The graphics are snazzy, and certainly add some pizzazz to an item that is all too often plain old black.

The seam runs down the top of the shoe – but is thermosealed to help prevent water seepage. As of this writing, the exceptionally dry first half of winter at PEZ HQ hasn’t offered up any real wet weather, so we’ll have to wait on that portion of the review.

The cleat openings at the bottom are durably stitched, and I’ve seen no signs of de-threading in 5 weeks of use.

The simple Velcro straps snug the ankle, closing on the inside of the leg, so the look remains clean & smooth. They come in any color you want as long as it’s black.

MECCANICO SWEATER – $150.00, black, or red

I recently watched the original Pink Panther movie from 1963 (that’s 48 years ago for anyone keeping track at home…), with Peter Sellers, David Niven, and an especially young and dashing Robert Wagner cavorting around Cortina d’Ampezzo. What struck me was how current the fashions looked – fitted sweaters, narrow trousers – there’s a reason the styles are coming back in fashion – and as cyclists, we’re perfectly suited to sport ‘em.

This Meccanico wool sweater would have been right at home in the film – the fitted cut, high collar, full zipper have “euro-style” written all over it. It’s 70% wool, 30% acrylic blend that feels soft against the skin, but there’s a ruggedness about it that the ladies will surely dig.

When a garment looks good, it looks good – regardless of the era – and that’s what makes this one a classic. It’s washable at home – use the gentle cycle on cold, and be sure to hang dry it.

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