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Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bibshorts review

2 Jul 2020

Lightweight summer shorts from the pro peloton

Cyclist Rating: 
Second-skin levels of comfort • Breathable • Best chamois I’ve used in years • Not astronomically expensive
You need the physique of a racer to carry them off • Bib straps could be wider for added comfort

What’s that you say? You’re a big fan of WorldTour teams’ kits, but don’t want to run the risk of ribbing and ridicule from your cycling mates for going full ‘PKW’? (I’m not going to spell it out; Google it if you’re unsure…) You’ll be needing a pair of Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bibshorts, then.

Designed with input from the professionals at Team Sky (now Team Ineos), this pair of bibshorts packs race-ready detailing, clever design and barely-there weight into a stylish, performance-focused package that doesn’t scream, 'Look at me; I’m a huge *insert name of team* fan'.


Moisture management

Castelli recommends the Free Aero Race 4 bibshorts for use in temperatures from 15 to 35°C. To fit that bill, you’d expect the garment to feature very little in the way of insulation or windproofing; instead, you’re looking for breathability, because nobody (from Alan on the club run to Froome on the Tourmalet) enjoys a sweaty ride.

Buy now from Tredz for £115

The upper portion of the Free Aero Race 4 bibshorts is made from a striped mesh that looks like it’s made from a pair of 15 denier tights. Not only is it sheer, allowing maximum airflow through the body of the shorts, but also the stripes are ever so slightly ribbed, which keeps the material from sitting flat against the skin (or baselayer).

The material continues around the back portion, allowing hot air to vent freely.


Chamois isn’t clammy

Arguably the most important part of any bibshorts – pro level or otherwise – is the point at which they meet the bike: the chamois. Hand on heart, I’ve not ridden in shorts that caress my downstairs area as well as these in many a year.

Buy now from Tredz for £115

The Progetto X2 Air Seamless seat pad in the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bibshorts has just the right amount of flexibility (so, unlike some, doesn’t feel like you’re strapping a nappy on), the foam density over my sit bones is near-perfect for long days in the saddle, and the elasticated fabric dividing the foam from your modesty is amply breathable.

Also, the way in which the shorts have been tailored shows great understanding of what it takes to create something you can wear all day in comfort. The intersection of the panels at the front of the seat of the shorts demonstrates this attention to detail.


It’s not a race

Race kit is a funny old thing; most of us don’t actually need the features it provides. However, there are a number of bonuses to the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bibshorts that elevate them. Firstly, the raw cut hem of the shorts’ leg is held in place with hella-effective vertical silicone gripper material, which keeps the shorts where you want them (and makes for crisp tanlines).

Secondly, there are dimples in the material running from hip to hem, designed for minimum air resistance, but supplying venting on warmer days.

Thirdly, there’s a pocket for a race radio at the rear. If you’re the type to listen to music on your bike, it accommodates an iPod Nano perfectly, and eliminates earphone cable tangles.


Physical foibles

Two areas mark these shorts down for me. The bib straps become narrower as they stretch, meaning they don’t sit as well as they could over my crooked collarbones. Like motorcycle leathers, these shorts are designed to work best in a racing crouch; concessions to more relaxed riding are few.

Buy now from Tredz for £115

Also, the compressive front portion of the shorts stops shy of the naval, which causes my stomach to plop over the front like a hernia when breathing heavily.

For reference, I’m 64kg, with an athletic build (or so says my Tinder profile), so you might need to combine the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bibshorts with a slightly looser jersey, or develop abs of steel to get the best out of them.


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