What's Cool In Road Cycling

CASTELLI Winter Kit Review

Maybe the best part of Fall is testing kit for cold weather. The latest winter cycling kit from Castelli has been here for a few weeks, and helped me on more than a few cold rides. Here’s a close look at their Diluvio Deluxe glove, Free jacket, Sorpasso Wind bibtights, Flanders LS base layer, and Diluvio Allroad Shoecover.

Living in the wet Northwest, I’ve come to love neoprene gloves, having worn them for several seasons now. Castelli’s Diluvio Deluxe takes my old fave and turns it one louder – with a longer cuff, added waterproofing on the back, better grip in the palm, and a pre-curved fingers to eliminate the bunching you get from straight-on neo – ok, four louder.


There’s a reason they make wetsuits outta this stuff – it keeps you damn warm when you get wet. So for rainy rides almost any time of year, a glove like this is a must have. The Deluxe model here features longer cuffs that should appeal to racers, adding 3-4 inches more coverage and warmth well past the wrist – this design is ideal if you don’t want to go full-rain jacket, and maybe pair it up with something like Castelli’s NanoFlex armwarmers.


The pre-curved fingers looked weird at first – then I realized Castelli’s design guys are once again a step ahead, preforming the fingers and palm to eliminate the bunching that comes when you roll up a thicker material around something like, oh, say, your handlebars.


While neoprene keeps you warm, it’s also porous, allowing water to penetrate – essentially insulating you in a wearable version of a circulating heat bath. The back of the glove and middle two fingers are covered in a rubber appliqué, which repels a lot of that rain, but leaves enough surface uncovered to effectively regulate the heat.


The palm has been updated too with a whole lot more silicone, applied in a grid that takes care of any wet-induced slippage you might encounter in a rain storm.

Be ready for warm, but wet hands. The only problem I can see is one less excuse to not ride in the rain.

• Get more info at castelli-cycling.com

FREE JACKET – $239.99
I got my first official ‘cycling’ jacket as a prize in a mountain bike race back in about 1985 – a hill climb up a local mountain on a rainy November day where we finished in the snow and froze our you-know-what’s off on the way down. The prize was a full wool jacket by an Italian brand I can no longer remember in bright red, green and yellow – the Rastafarian colors were a hit with the post-ride puffers, bike couriers, and hacky-sackers alike. It even kept me pretty warm – at least by 20 year-ago standards.


Today, cycling outerwear is the best it’s ever been – and established brands offer many models of jackets fine tuned to specific temperature ranges and moisture conditions. I’ve been testing Castelli’s cold weather kit for three seasons now, and have tried several jackets. My fave for deep winter is the Espresso Due I reviewed here – its combination of wind and moisture blocking Windstopper® X-fast 2 on the outside and mesh and fleece interior make it my go to for the coldest days.

The Free Jacket steps in for Spring, Fall, and cooler days as a lighter version of the Espresso Due, with a few details of its own. Maybe the best part of the garment is the lighter weight that gives up none of the protection of the Windstopper X-fast 2. Its water repellency properties are impressive – to the point of replacing a rain jacket in all but the rainiest of days. And it keeps me warm – I rode one day for 3 hours in 10-12C degrees (50-56F) with this over a base layer and summer jersey, and was warm but not sweaty. Of course varying what’s underneath will help get you through a wider range of temps, but as an outer layer – the Free jacket works through a pretty big range.

Like all of Castelli’s best gear, the Free Jacket is cut to fit you on the bike – in your riding position. It might feel slightly tight across the chest when you’re standing in the coffee line, but hugs in all the right places, so regardless of how you feel standing up – you’ll at least look fast.

The side panels are made of Thermoflex fabric – a 4-way stretch that breathes and helps the form fit.


The tall collar has become a Castelli signature – the substantial YKK zipper closes everything for a sleek fit, and the collar extends higher at the sides and back to really seal in the warmth.


While the sleeves are plenty long to cover you in all riding positions, the added cuffs are the same material as the collar top – soft and supple, but also breathable to help regulate warmth, while blocking out wind that might sneak its way into your sleeves.


The waist is elastic – but sans gel gripper – which makes sense as it holds snugly around the bottom, but still slides over your other jerseys, which allows for freer pedalling and no bunching.


The three pockets in back are plenty deep for all your cool day supplies, and stretch only slightly across the horizontal plane – not vertically – which means your gear won’t bulge or sag off your back.

Castelli calls this version of its popular Sorpasso bibtight the “Sorpasso for the far North” – which as a resident of Canada, I’d wager a lot of readers would agree this fits my locale perfectly. It’s still a long way to the North pole from PEZ HQ, but that doesn’t mean we don’t get the chill – the last few days have set near record lows as the daily high hovered at or below the freezing mark. Castelli rates these from -0.4C to +8C degrees, and that makes these well suited to really cold days.


I reviewed the original Sorpasso bibtight here 3 years ago and loved the fit, comfort, and warmth – and it’s been a staple of my winter kit rotation ever since.


For 2013, they’ve added Windstopper X-Fast 2 fabric to the thigh and knee fronts for full wind protection and really ramped up the warmth (see the gray stuff above). This is a truly great fabric for cold weather and while it doesn’t stretch four ways, Castelli cuts and places it correctly to fit snugly, but without restriction. It’s got a windblocker on the outside (which also repels water better than anything that’s not labeled “rain gear”), and a fairly deep fleece on the inside to trap warm air and aid in moisture transfer.

The red fabric around the body core is their Thermoflex Core Due (pardon the pun) which is made of hollow tube knit fibers that shave weight but add warmth by trapping warm air where you need it.


The back, leg backs and below the knees are Thermoflex fabric with more stretch to secure the fit, and more breathability to aid in heat transfer. Straps are their proven Giro++ lazer cut lycra – very low-profile but strong enough to shore up secure shoulder placements.


The ankles are woven lycra ribs, designed to fit sleekly over (or under) a booty and secure the ankle in place, while the zipper is handily placed to the outside of the ankle for easier access .


Saddle duties are handled comfortably by Castelli’s Progetto X2 Air seat pad, with strategically placed padding in the sitbone and perenium areas, and a smartly sewn in front panel to add comfort-increasing shape ‘where the boys are’. The main seat pad is seamless, which eliminates the possibility of chaffing from a seamed ridge, and also perforated to aid in ventilation.

It wasn’t so long ago that finding a decent base layer was about as hard as getting that funky smell to wash out of old-style polyester. But modern textiles changed that, and in addition to base layers that smell like new when you wash ‘em, we can be thankful for knits and fabrics that make getting sweaty in the cold a whole lot more appealing.


The Castelli Flanders LS Base is rated for cool to mild days, is quite light, and I can see it getting use through most of my season. It’s made of a ‘multidenier polyester’ that’s basically designed to not absorb moisture, but instead pass it from the wet side away to the dry side – (ie: moves it away from your skin)


Like most of the Castelli range, the fit on this one is “superb” (to quote a certain PEZ editor from ‘Down Unda’) – that’s because in addition to cutting the panels to fit like a glove, the 3D structure rib knit body stretches around the torso for a fit without bunches or pulls, it just covers you like a warm fuzzy cover that I hardly noticed under my jersey. The ribbing also holds the fabric from lying in 100% contact with your skin, which allows for some better air flow to keep you vented.


Big vents are added under the arms, made of a perforated poly-mesh that’s a thoughtful touch to make the garment more useable when the sun comes out.

The sleeves are also the multidenier poly, but not the 3-D, which helps the Flanders base layer fit better under snug sleeves or arm warmers. They also used flat-lock stitching which makes sense because well, it’s flat (a much desired trait in a base layer.)


The mock-T neck is snug and doesn’t stretch, so getting my tester over my bean was a small struggle, but worth the effort as I really prefer blocking out the wind with high-necked items.


Here’s the third evolution of Castelli’s Diluvio shoecover, which I first reviewed here and am still wearing (going into my 3rd season on em). The second edition Diluvio 16 added a taller 16cm ankle to the original (excellent idea), while this latest version opens up the foot bottom to allow use with MTB shoes. These also feature the tall 16cm cuff, a highly reflective sealed rear zip, and beefier toe.


The toe is reinforced, and since this was the first area I wore through on my two-season old Diluvio originals, I like it.

The zipper runs full length up the back of the ankle, so getting ‘em on & off is pretty easy. The zip is also sealed, and does a pretty good job of keeping water out – for how long depends on what kind of conditions you’re riding in of course.

The ankle is topped with a stretchy rubber “o-ring” designed to better seal at the ankle top. The smart guys will run their leg covers over top of the booty, and even better if you’re running something that repels the water as well as Castelli’s NanoFlex bibtights.

Like most booties made of neoprene, if you’re riding in a major downpour, the water will eventually get through. The upside is that your feet will remain warmer longer, thanks to the awesome insulation properties of this man-made wunder-material. The open bottoms offer some nice versatility, especially since mtb shoes, or other shoes with treads could wear through an enclosed neoprene bottom in pretty short order – so these offer a more practical option for a lot of riders – commuters included.

• Get more info at castelli-cycling.com

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