Castelli Free Aero Race Bibs Review
Castelli’s new Free Aero Race Bibshort has been redesigned from the bottom up, inside out, and top down, and back to front – it’s a brand new bibshort named after their best selling bibshort ever. Early Spring here at PEZ HQ means I’ve logged a few good rides in ’em and they’ve impressed enough to warrant a stand alone review.
It’s not often we dedicate the space, or time to a detailed review of a single item of riding kit, but there’s a lot of smart thinking and technical design in these bibshorts to make them worth talking about. Virtually every part of the short has been rethought, redesigned and rebuilt – from the materials, to panel shapes, to fit and feel, to replace the Free Bibshort launched in 2007, that Castelli says changed the bibshort industry with the “feeling of freedom it provided” – and there’s where the name came from.
The front is cut low for easy access, and a more comfy fit under the belly, instead of over it.
I count 10 panels of material (plus the seat pad) on the new Free Aero Race bibs (part of their top-shelf Rosso Corsa line) – more than I’ve seen before, but knowing Castelli (they’ve supplied our custom PEZ kit for 3 years now), there’s a purpose to every one of them. Most noticeable are the new look leg panels – that feature a dimpled fabric called Vortex that makes up the large side panels of the legs.
It’s no secret that dimpled surfaces allow air to slip by with less resistance, thereby reducing drag and basically making you faster. These panels run up to the hip, and a third Vortex panel is used across the top of the butt (see it below) that should allow air flowing over your back to slip by more easily and create less of a vacuum behind your saddle than a traditional fabric would. The fabric of the inner legs is called Forza, and uses 38% lycra to add some noticeable compression, that improves fit and helps hold the bibs in place though a full range of motion.
The other very visible change are the leg bands – the flat raw-edge lazer cut design was first used 8 years ago, and has since become a standard part of pro-level cycling kit designs. For 2015, Castelli has changed the fabric and increased the height of the leg bands to about 3 inches. It makes an excellent platform for team graphics, but more than that, the GiroAir mesh fabric uses a healthy blend of lycra to stretch and reduce constriction around the quads by gripping over a much larger area than before.
The flatlock stitching is also new, adding a nice design feature with contrasting thread colors.
Other versions for this design technique have simply not allowed enough air transfer to breathe comfortably, but here Castelli uses a mesh that is fully breathable – you can even see through it if you look closely.
The Progetto X2 Air chamois gets an upgrade too. Already one of the most comfy chamois I’ve had the pleasure of sitting on, thanks to its smooth seamless under-the-butt surface, they’ve gone and found a softer fabric to cover the multi-density padding. The chamois is also ergonomically sewn to create the best support for yer boys. The equipment stays put, and I’ve yet to notice any long term chaffing, giving me one less reason to duck out of a long ride.
Out back there’a more than meets the eye as well…
Above you can see the Vortex dimpled fabric covering the back of the short, but on top, the shoulder straps get a new design as well. A completely breathable mesh is used for the single strap in back, and it’s cut low around the body sides as it sweeps to the front to form the bottom of the front straps. It does not constrict, but does anchor the straps firmly to the shorts.
The top of the straps are lazer cut lycra for a very low-profile fit of the newly designed Carré yoke. They’re a slim fit and lay nice and flat under a jersey, or over a base layer.
There’s a slim pocket on the back strap that’ll do double duty for race radios, ipods, or maybe some emergency coffee cash.
Fit is typical Castelli – in a word snug. I like that Castelli cuts their kit with more of a racer’s edge – but they also come in a huge range of sizes from small up to XXXlarge. The added lycra in the short body offers noticeable support, especially when I first pulled them on. This quickly disappears into un-noticed comfort as soon as I start riding. Like all Castelli’s gear these are cut to fit your body in the riding position, so naturally they feel a tad stretched when standing or walking. The heavier lycra content also adds a feel of higher durability – which makes good sense when you’re spending $199 (which is a very good price for this level of quality). I’ve only been on them for about a month, so can’t comment on long term durability, but overall my experience with Castelli kit in the past 8 years has all been very good. My most worn kit is our custom PEZ kit, and two full seasons in mine is still performing like new.
They come in black with gray, green fluo, or blue accents, and should be in stock at your best local bike shop by now.
And if all that is not enough to get your attention – they’re also being worn by Team Cannondale-Garmin – check out this video for some coolness…