The cyclocross skinsuit (winter shown here) features a robust, protected zipper © Josh Liberles
As cyclocross continues to grow, it’s not surprising that many brands are re-purposing existing products and branding them for cyclocross to cash in. And ’cross has a history as a hodge-podge of a sport; it started with left over, hand-me-down road and mountain bike bits given second lives in the “off-season.”
Well, times have changed and we’re at a point where things like cyclocross-specific skinsuits make a whole lot of sense – and Castelli just came out with two! They’re brand new products just delivering now, and if you attended the StarCrossed / Rad Racing GP weekend, you saw Francis Mourey sporting the red first NACT series leader’s skinsuits. That’s right, leaders no longer need to compromise and wear series jerseys (although they can if they so choose). But do you really need a “cyclocross suit?” Check out the features and judge for yourself.
Seams are rotated back to avoid hot spots when shouldering © Josh Liberles
- Stand up in a typical road / time trial skinsuit and the zipper starts to pull. The bottom of the zipper is the most common area of failure, leading to tears or the hidden zipper coming apart. TT outfits are designed to fit tightly, and are intended to hug your body in the aerodynamic position. Castelli’s cyclocross suits offer 2.5″ more material from the mid-chest up. This also translates to greater maneuverability when running or negotiating terrain.
- No hidden zipper here – it’s a fat, industrial, external design with a large rubber pull tab easily grabbed with muddy gloves in the heat of battle. The fabric lips over the edges of the zipper keep dirt and gunk out, preventing jams.
- Rather than standard or raglan sleeves, the stitching is at a 45-degree angle for increased range of motion and running with the bike. The seam is also on the back rather than across the top of your shoulder, so there’s nothing digging in when you’re shouldering the bike.
- The chamois pad is moved back further, to keep it from catching on your saddle when remounting (something I’ve done more often than I care to admit). The pad is Castelli’s KISS 3 pad – it’s not the company’s top offering, but it’s slightly thinner and dries more quickly.
- A higher neck provides extra warmth and protection from detritus on nasty days.
- Made in the USA: As is the case with all of Castelli’s Servizio Corse lineup, the ’cross skinsuits are made in the company’s Washington factory.
Mourey puts the first NACT Castelli skinsuit to good use, winning Rad Racing GP 2010 © Joe Sales
The skinsuits are available in the Roubaix fabric – a beefier, more durable lycra – with 3/4-length sleeves, or in the Thermoflex material, which is similar to what Castelli uses for its arm and leg warmers. It’s light- to mid-weight for a thermal, since you’ll be generating plenty of your own heat out on the course once you get up to speed, and is intended for 35 degrees or below.
The Sham-Wow demonstration in reverse - no water absorbs © Josh Liberles
MSRP: Right now, the suits are only available via custom orders. But minimums start at five pieces, and the tiered pricing begins at $125 for the Roubaix lycra and $150 for the Thermoflex and go down from there with order quantities. But the company had so much interest in their suits during the NACT weekend in Washington that they’re thinking of marketing individual non-custom offerings as well.
Other notes: Castelli also has brand new tights, arm warmers and leg warmers constructed with NanoFlex fabric. According to Richard Desmond, manger of Castelli’s Servizio Corse, the fabric makes for gear every bit as breathable as traditional offerings but, as he demonstrated by pouring some water on them which beaded up and wouldn’t absorb, they do a great job of keeping moisture at bay. The tights and warmers look like a good solution for training or warming up for a race, and next year they’ll be joined by a jersey and bib shorts. Waterproof neoprene gloves are also new to the lineup – look for a review of those in Issue 11 of our print mag!