Summer is here and it seems like a strange time to think about cold-weather cycling gear. But ‘cross will be here before we know it, and if your team is considering new kits or warmer garments for the cyclocross season, now is the time to get organized, find the right vendor, and get your orders in so you’ll get your gear in time for that first chilly race.

To help your road, mountain, or cyclocross-specific team find the right products and vendors for kits for the ‘cross season, we’ve taken a look at some of the top custom clothing companies and their cyclocross-relevant product offerings. Today we’re taking a look at Castelli. Previously, we reviewed Nalini and Mt. Borah.

by Brian Hancock

Castelli started out as a small tailor shop in Milan, Italy, in 1876. Specializing in high end sports clothing, they moved into the cycling world in the 1950’s. Headquartered in the Dolomites, Castelli’s name is synonymous with both Italian style and the great names of cycling.

Free Bib Short

The bib shorts have unusually wide and low-cut bibs, which takes a bit of getting used to.  That being said, you'll forget they are bibs after about 5 minutes in the saddle.

The bib shorts have unusually wide and low-cut bibs, which takes a bit of getting used to. That being said, you'll forget they are bibs after about 5 minutes in the saddle. by Kristie Hancock

Fabric Details: Three different fabrics are used on the Free bib short with qualities manipulated for specific needs. For the seat area, Castelli uses stretchy Action Micro Fabric with Prosecco for durability. This makes for a short that will not wear out in the long run from chafing on the saddle. For the side panels, Energia Micro Fabric is used as a soft, stretchy fabric. The shape and material of these side panels helps to prevent bunching as your legs move through the pedal stroke. For the front and back panels, moisture control was a foremost goal, so Castelli incorporated Breathe Micro Fabric. This is a very soft, stretchy fabric that helps transfer moisture from your body to the surrounding air.

Pad: AC Seat Pad

Construction/Panels: 9

Esordio Long Sleeved Jersey

The Esordio long sleeved jersey was much more roomy in XL than I expected, compared with the XL Free bib shorts.  Sleeve length was perfect while the fleecy material was very stretchy and comfortably warm.

Castelli offers a wide selection of clothing for the cyclocrosser. by Kristie Hancock

Fabric Details: Fleece lined Warmer fabric, an unbelievably soft, brushed fleecy fabric with a good amount of stretch and warmth. Full zipper, 3 rear pockets.

Construction/Panels: 8

Nano Knee Warmer

Windproof knee warmers work amazingly well but aren't terribly stretchy, so order your size accordingly.

Windproof knee warmers work amazingly well but aren't terribly stretchy, so order your size accordingly. by Kristie Hancock

Fabric Details: Fully printable windproof Stratolight on the front of the knees, thigh, and calf; Action stretchy lycra on the back.

Construction/Panels: 4

Sottile Jacket

The Scottie jacket is made of a very lightweight material that was moderately breathable but completely waterproof.  This blows traditional rain capes out of the water

The Sottile jacket is made of a very lightweight material that was moderately breathable but completely waterproof. This blows traditional rain capes out of the water. by Kristie Hancock

Fabric Details: Laminated mesh polyester, breathable, stretchy, wind-resistant, semi-transparent material

Construction/Panels: 12

Castelli Product Details:

Care Instructions:
Wash gently and hang to dry (best for longevity).

Country of Origin:
All of the fabrics are from Italy. The assembly is in Europe, Asia, and/or the United States. All of their custom clothing is assembled in the U.S. A rep in the U.S. is used throughout the custom process.

Varies, check with Castelli for a custom quote. A 50% deposit is due with your artwork and order form.


Minimums: Castelli is flexible, and pricing will be determined in part by the quantity you require.

A minimum of 10 units per style is required, or $1,000 is required to reorder. One-offs are possible but will be subject to a 20% surcharge. There are no storage fees or set-up fees.

Lead times:
Castelli aims for eight weeks from the time of final order approval to production. Time from initial contact to order placement will vary depending on artwork requirements.

Max colors:
No maximum, and the number of colors will NOT affect the overall price. With digital sublimation, the artwork can be very diverse.

Both digital and traditional sublimation processes are used for the custom clothing. Unless the units are really big (200-300 jerseys…), digital sublimation is used for custom sublimation jobs. Each of the sized pieces are done individually, that is, the small jersey has a specific digital graphic and an extra large has its own specific digital graphic.

Castelli can help with the design process or you can submit your own Vector files. Photographic images can be used as long as they are at least 200dpi resolution at actual size.


Simply stated by one of my riding buddies, there is a LOT going on with the Castelli Free bib shorts! Visually they look unlike any pair of shorts I’ve ever ridden. There are seams and panels in places you wouldn’t expect to find them, and it isn’t until close inspection that you notice the subtle differences in fabric choices throughout the shorts.

Castelli feels bibs should only help keep shorts up and in place, so why make the bib fabric out of more than it needs? Of course this open design for the bibs felt pretty awkward the first time I put them on (I’m used to more of a traditional, “full coverage” bib), but after riding in them I started to realize the benefits of the “less is more” philosophy. Castelli uses bib patterns that are set off to the sides and very minimalistic to make sure the front of your body is “free” from any unnecessary fabric. Let your baselayer do its job (moisture management) and let the bibs do their job (keeping your shorts in place). New for 2009 the bib fabric was redone to enhance breathability.

I tested an XL in the Castelli Free bib shorts and the fit was a bit snug from what I’m used to. By no means do I have monster sprinter legs, but even so the shorts were just about as tight around (leg circumference) as I could comfortably wear. That being said, the multi-fabric shorts did a great job keeping the front nice and dry throughout my rides. The new fiber-enhanced seat panels (designed to enhance durability) can’t be fully reviewed until I put a few thousand miles on these. There is, however, a slight difference in texture which would lead me to believe they will indeed last longer than standard Lycra shorts. The more durable seat fabric would be a nice benefit for ‘cross since shorts do take a bit of abuse throughout the season. Constantly jumping on and off does wear on the shorts, and most shorts aren’t designed to do much more than sit on the saddle. Castelli’s choice of beefed-up seat fabric could potentially be a great development for ‘cross-specific shorts.

The Esordio long-sleeved jersey maintains a traditional sleeve pattern (as opposed to raglan-style sleeves) and boasts a soft, fleecy lining. This is the kind of jersey that would be a great substitute for a jacket for you in the warmer climates; here in Michigan it would be a great fall-weight jersey. I had the opportunity to ride this during the late spring. On 50-degree days, this was great with a short-sleeved baselayer underneath. While not windproof, the fleece lining holds a thin layer of air between you and the outer fabric to trap your body heat. Consequently, this was warmer than just a traditional long-sleeved jersey but lacked the overall warmth of a thick, windproof jacket. (If you’re interested in something long those lines, Castelli has a full compliment of fully customizable winter-weight jackets).

The jersey’s zipper is a full-length zipper partially exposed from the outside. In the XL size I tested, I was a bit surprised on the overall roominess compared with the XL Free bib shorts, which were a bit snug. Most important for me was the sleeve length, which was excellent. The size allowed me to use this as a warm-up jacket before a few races. A baselayer, jersey, and arm warmers fit comfortably underneath. Three roomy pockets in the rear allowed for lots of food and cell phone storage.

The Nano knee warmers were an interesting piece of clothing to test. My knees seem to be a bit sensitive to cold, so especially on training rides I am a big fan of knee warmers. The Nano knee warmers feature a completely wind-proof front fabric and a dual upper gripper (on both the inside and outside of the warmer).

To start with the wind-proof feature, it is exactly what it states. Not as stretchy as “normal” knee warmers, the Nanos felt just a tad stiff when I first put them on. The stretchy Action lycra on the back helped to keep the warmer flexible, but there is a seam that runs horizontally in the back that seemed to fit uncomfortably unless positioned at exactly the “bend” point in my knee. After fidgeting with the position for a while, I never noticed anything uncomfortable about them. It just took a while, as compared with other, more “tube-like” knee warmers, the Nanos fit best in a particular position on your body.

Functionally, these would be awesome for those cold, windy days on the bike when you need a bit more wind protection than can be afforded by a traditional knee warmer. For those of you that ride in areas with massive corn fields, think of these as the perfect piece of clothing for the late fall after the corn is harvested, the winds pick up, and the temperature drops. Ok, maybe that analogy won’t work for you in sunny southern California, but it sure hits home here in the upper Midwest.

I tested the Nanos in size XL, and I’m sure glad I did. Again, no monster legs here, but the nature of the wind-proof fronts made these fit just a tad smaller (and less stretchy) than most other knee warmers. For comparison, I usually wear a medium or large in knee warmers, so plan your sizing accordingly! The dual grippers on top did a great job of keeping these perfectly in place. No slipping here, as the gel-like grippers held onto both my skin and the inner-part of the shorts. Combine that with the gel-grips on the Free bib shorts, and these don’t go anywhere.

Lastly, the Sottile rain jacket is a very complex piece of clothing. Compared with plastic-like clear rain jackets, the Sottile is in a separate class. First, this fits and feels more like a normal wind jacket than anything waterproof. The overall mass is more along the lines of a single sock than a jacket. It is packable, lightweight, and breathable…three features that I’m not terribly used to when it comes to waterproof jackets.

In a size Large, this jacket would fit comfortably over most jerseys. The fit is more tailored, so anything bulky might tend to bunch up beneath this amazingly breathable raincoat. While on a ride, the skies opened up and I donned the Sottile. While my body was dry, my arm warmers underneath soon became uncomfortably hot. This was quickly resolved by simply taking the warmers off, but it took me a few rides to learn how to layer underneath this piece.

One very unique feature was the side zipper access for your rear pockets. This jacket was highly functional and would be a great addition to the discerning ‘crosser’s wardrobe. The only drawback would be the overall weight, as since it is so light and stretchy, I would worry just a touch about tearing the jacket while shouldering the bike on a run up, during warm-ups, training, or a race. I’ve never personally worn a rain jacket during a race, but it would be something to watch out for. For training in the early spring or fall, this is a great piece to keep in your pocket in case the weather turns a bit for the worse.

Castelli offers a wide range of fully-custom clothing. Currently there are no major U.S.-based ‘cross teams wearing Castelli but the company is looking to find its way onto one of the larger teams in the near future. They do make the kits for the Cervelo Test Team of off-season specialist and 2008 Tour de France winner, Carlos Sastre.

For more info:
Castelli Custom Cycling Apparel
Servizio Corse:

For pricing, contact [email protected] (A full quote can be developed based on what exactly you need.)