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Ridden & Reviewed: A love letter to Castelli.

October 2, 2012

Dear Castelli Cycling.

I love you.

There. I said it. I know it’s silly. In fact, it is ridiculous. Love a cycling clothing company? But I’m drawn to the look, feel, value, and rich history that is Castelli Cycling.

Castelli, your story is fantastic; roots that go back to 1876 and a Milan tailors, Vittore Gianni, who dressed, among others, the Milan Ballet and who first made cycling clothing around 1910 for the legendary Alfredo Binda. Your namesake, Maurizio Castelli, was born in 1948 and grew up watching Fausto Coppi race, a family friend who always wore kit from Vittore Gianni, which was then owned by Maurizios father. Maurizio left his father’s side, created his brand, and adopted the scorpion logo (which legend has it has to do something with a mistress) in 1974 after a brief racing career of his own. Maurizio went on to create a good number of cycling-clothing firsts: the first Lycra shorts used by racers and sold publicly, colored shorts, sublimation printed jerseys, synthetic winter clothing, use of windproof membranes in cycling gear, hydrophilic fabric treatments, anatomic chamois, the first women-specific collection, the lightest jersey ever, and most recently the most aerodynamic jersey ever. Tragically, Maurizio died in 1995 while riding up the Cipressa, the next-to-last climb in Milano-San Remo.

Today, your look reflects your tradition. Clean lines, solid graphics, bold colors. Not purposefully retro per se. But generally not appealing to the X-Game crowd either. (For the record, I love watching X-Game sports.) What I love about you, Castelli, is that reflection of cycling’s rich history in the pieces I see on the pros, in the shop, and on Bicycle Sport Shop’s team riders.  (The shop has used your excellent custom house–Castelli Servizio Course–for the past couple of years for shop kits.)

Your bibs and shorts are often, but not always, simple and understated in appearance, but are always stacked with technical features making them among the most comfortable pieces of cycling gear available. Things like the upper portion of the Free Aero Race Bibshort, designed to minimize fabric on the torso–wide set, thin shoulder straps and a low-cut torso opening that drops to the waist–perfect for Texas’s hot weather, the elimination of inner leg seams on many of your shorts and bibs, and generously sized leg grippers on the lower portion of many pieces that are sewn directly into the short fabric, rather than being stitched on. With such attention to detail and quality fabrics, it’s no wonder I could road-surf on my hip this spring in brand-new shop kit and find that my Velocissimo Due Bibshorts had nary a mark on them. Thank you, Castelli.

Similarly Castelli, the fit of your jerseys reflects your fine tailoring tradition with smart torso lengths that cover the back while not bunching in the front over the lower torso, sleeves that don’t flap in the breeze, and collars that sit well whether fully zipped or opened slightly. Of course Castelli, your jerseys also look good. Wear after wear, wash after wash, race after race, Sunday cruise after Sunday Cruise, through all manner of Texas weather including unrelenting sun, torrential thunderstorms, and freezing temps in the early part of the year, your tops, Castelli, continue to look like the day they were new. It all makes perfect sense given your pioneering use of colored lycra and sublimation printing. Teams and sponsors owe you a debt of gratitude.

Castelli’s excellent custom shop, Servizio Course, puts their knowledge of color and sublimation to good use on pieces like the shop-team kit. Photo by Prolly is Not Probably.

The real gems in your line-up Castelli are your purpose-built pieces. Things like the Sottile rain jacket. Finally a cycling rain jacket that keeps you comfortable (re: not overheating) and reasonably dry, without the weight of an actual rain coat, the Leggero vest, which does it’s job of keeping a rider’s torso warm and dry without flapping in the breeze and acting like a parachute, and the CW 6.0 Cross Glove, which features a rubberized, textured palm for grabbing the bike for portaging it over barriers and other manner of cyclocross obstacle. Such thoughtful speciality pieces Castelli. Thank you. Again.

I’ve had the good fortune to find myself working at Bicycle Sport Shop for a number of years. But before I worked at the shop, I would look for opportunities to get pieces of your clothing on sale. Opportunities such as Bicycle Sport Shop’s Fall Sale. Sure there’s all manner of clothing on sale at such closeout events, many of it fine. But almost no other maker combines the wisdom of over 130 years of experience and a dedication to being at the forefront of technology, performance, and design. So when I can, I remind friends to look for last season’s Castelli gear on sale along with whatever else their hearts lead them to.

Coppi & Bartali, share a bottle in the Giro, and share a jersey maker–Castelli.

Against a backdrop that includes Coppi and Bartali racing each other up the Izoard and sharing a bottle in the midst of battle while both wearing Castelli jerseys, your gear today represents what I think is a tremendous value–proper fit, a reflection of cycling’s rich tradition without being stodgy, and capable of withstanding real-world use.

I love you, Castelli.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. January 17, 2014 11:23 pm

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