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Castelli Volo bib shorts – review

Castelli have a history comparable to any kit maker in the cycling, having first started producing clothing in 1910, and they’ve built up a well-deserved reputation as one of the sport’s true premium brands. While they’re not cheap, you can get a set of Castelli bib shorts for as little as £75 RRP now, and these Volo shorts are only a little more at £90.

The Volo bib shorts are nearer the budget end of Castelli’s range, but the important thing to remember is that ‘budget’ doesn’t mean the same when applied to Castelli as it does to a company’s whose top-of-the-range shorts don’t cost £175.

Fabric-wise the inside of the legs is made from ‘Affinity Lycra’, which has a lot of stretch and the outside is made from ‘Affinity BLC’, which also has a little stretch but nowhere near as much. The two work together to give a close, secure fit around the thighs. It’s not compressive, but it gives that sort of feel and it’s no surprise that Castelli consider the Volos as part of their race shorts line-up. The leg panelling is held together with flat lock stitching which is extremely comfortable against the skin and caused no irritation at all despite how closely the shorts fit.

The pad is Castelli’s ‘Kiss Air’ which is a multi-layered and variable density design. The top layer is a soft microfiber with a bacteriostatic treatment designed to be both comfortable next to the skin and help you avoid saddle sores and the like. Underneath, the padding is thickest, as you’d expect, in the ischial region (aka the sit bones), and thins out under the perineum. It’s a combination that helps to minimise bulk but provide comfort where it’s needed and it works extremely well. Castelli have been making excellent pads for a number of years now, and the Kiss Air provides all-day comfort in what is, for them, a comparatively entry-level short. To be honest, the Kiss Air is a good enough pad that it could grace shorts well above this price point.

Another excellent feature of the shorts is the grippers. I’ve said before that the current theme of wide mesh-style grippers is vastly superior to their predecessors: the thin silicone band at the bottom of the leg. The ‘Giro Air’ mesh grippers on the Volos are excellent. Fit them in the correct position at the beginning of your ride and they’ll stay there, no matter how hard you push the pedals or how much you’re in and out of the saddle. They’re three inches wide, which helps because it spreads the gripping sensation out over a large area and that, in turn, reduces any feeling of pulling to the point that I felt pretty much none at all. The one seam on the gripper is situated to the rear of the inside of the leg, and the stretchiness of the shorts means that it sits flat against your leg so you don’t even feel it. One smart little extra is the two reflective panels that sit on the back of the legs. It’s a little detail but one that should prove very useful on classic British overcast days.

Having said that, the shorts are well vented and highly breathable so I wouldn’t recommend them for colder days, as you’ll likely find yourself feeling a little chilly. Even if you’re riding hard, when it’s cold outside the surface of your skin has that cold feeling that’s very hard to get rid of. On warm days though these are brilliant and exactly the sort of shorts I really enjoy riding in when the weather is up near 20 degrees and beyond.

Further up, the bibs are made of a stretchy mesh that’s highly breathable and very stretchy, making for a comfortable and not overly tight fit. Sometimes you get shorts where the bibs seem to have been an afterthought but that’s not the case with Castelli. Some of their higher end offerings have shoulder straps made from a similar lycra material to the shorts, but I personally prefer the feel of the mesh bibs, especially on the odd occasion when riding without a baselayer and they have to sit directly against the skin.

Sizing-wise, these are truly Castelli and they do come up a little small. Depending on how tight you want them it’s probably a good idea to try a size up from your usual shorts. Unless you already ride Castelli, of course. Looks-wise I reckon they’re a pretty smart set of shorts, and with the detailing coming in either white, blue (shown here), red or fluo yellow there’s something that everybody would be happy to ride in.

Conclusion

£90 for a set of bib shorts is usually seen as either a rip off or a bargain depending on your approach to buying bike kit. But shorts play such a key part in comfort that spending a little more to get the perfect fit is a worthy investment. The Volos are a quality set of shorts that fall right in the sweet spot where quality and price overlap on the proverbial Venn diagram of bike kit, as far as I’m concerned. Pay much more and you’ll get a few marginal improvements, but the returns will diminish quickly, but pay less and although your pockets may be fuller, you may not get the performance that you want.

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