As Egan Bernal crosses the line in Paris he is ascending to the top step of the sport of cycling, and he’ll be snug in a pair of bib shorts that is about what you would expect for a rider of his stature. Team INEOS have been working with Castelli to dial in the comfort and performance of arguably the most important article of clothing a cyclist has, and the returns on the Free Aero Race 4 bib shorts are pretty stellar.
Part of the Rosso Corsa line of top Castelli offerings, the Free Aero Race 4 bibs do a few things better than any other bibs I’ve owned:
* Featherweight -- I’m not a weight weenie, but if you are, these bibs will speak to you. A mere 172 grams feels like pretty much nothing. What I am, though, is an all-season rider, and while the light bib mesh might not help you feel snug against the early spring winds (recommended for 60-plus degrees), it’s a godsend in the hot summer months.
* Frictionless -- The Forza fabric on the inner thighs is well-constructed and combined with the firm grip of the vertical elastic bands, you get the solid sensation that nothing is catching externally anywhere. More importantly, over the chamois is an antibacterial fabric that floats over the pad material, so to the extent your seat area moves as you pedal, the fabric goes with you rather than holding firm and heating up your skin. Oh, and the external panels are supposedly pretty aero, but I’m not, so I’m taking their word for it.
* Comfy -- About that pad, that’s the Progretto X2 Air seamless pad. It’s not the thickest, most comfortable all-day pad I know; these are race shorts and they aren’t going for that feel. But the lack of any seams is good, and in general I’ve had no problems sitting on this one for three hours. Overall the seams go unnoticed and the entire construction is thought out to please the demands of pro cyclists.
* Extras -- Let’s see... there’s a small pocket on the bib, apparently for a race radio, but you could slip a car key in there as well. That’s about all I can think of.
I do have a couple concerns to pass on. The bib mesh is already tearing a bit, something that comes with the light-weight, ultra-airy construction. The seams on the bibs are rock solid so even this tear is merely cosmetic. Related, I might go up a size, given that this is classic Italian sizing. That might have something to do with the tear.
Overall, though, these are the best summer bibs I’ve ever owned, by a long shot. At $199 (or less if some internet sales are to be believed) they are a pretty fair deal for what you get: pro-level racing quality construction and materials, with so much thought given to the needs of people who ride hard and won’t accept any discomfort.