I’m not one to pay much attention to pro sports. I don’t have a television and even now, I’m still catching up on old youtube videos of this year’s Tour De France. But even I’m not oblivious to Team Sky making a major equipment change. For the last few years, their Rapha kit has been one of the more striking designs in the pro peloton, and when that changed people took notice. Having just finished my review of the Rapha Pro Team aero clothing, this felt like the perfect time to switch like Sky has. I tried out the Castelli Inferno Bibshorts and Climbers 2.0 Jersey, to see how they compare.
The reality, of course, is that a team like Sky moving from Rapha to Castelli has very little to do with the performance of a product and a whole lot to do with the running of a large professional sports organisation. That’s the logical assumption anyway. Below that, there tends to simmer a deep wonder if perhaps, just maybe, all the advertising is true, and they really made the change purely for performance reasons. Even if none of this is on your mind, there are still endless forum debates over the performance of the less expensive Castelli gear compared to names like Rapha.
Castelli and Rapha both make top shelf cycling gear, but I think there’s a perception that Castelli is a bit more attainable for most people. The Castelli Inferno Bibshorts and Climbers 2.0 Jersey retail for $229 and $129, about $117 cheaper than the equivalent Rapha kit. In addition, it’s substantially easier to actually find the Castelli gear to purchase. Unlike Rapha, who only sell through their own website and branded stores, you’ll find the Castelli kit available from a wide range of retailers. Making it much easier to find a local retailer where you can try it on and purchase the same day.
At the end of the day, for me at least, it’s really going to come down to performance, though. Does the Castelli kit perform as well as the Rapha kit? The truth is the answer never seems to be as simple as yes or no when I do these types of comparison reviews. The Castelli gear is different.
The first impression of the Rapha gear was all about how silky it felt. The Castelli was essentially the polar opposite. My first impression of the Castelli kit was much more akin to slipping into a favorite pair of blue jeans. Instead of the silky formality of the Rapha gear, Castelli takes the route of casual comfort. The pieces fit just as well, and you are still getting a similar level of performance in terms of aerodynamics and fit, but gone is the ultra silky feel, and it’s replaced with a much more casual, and softer feel.
Some of this comes down to this not being a direct comparison. I looked at Rapha’s most aerodynamic kit, and the Castelli Inferno Bibshorts and Climbers 2.0 Jersey is not Castelli’s most aero oriented kit. Instead they are more focused on being lightweight and dealing with high temperatures. Overall though, Rapha products tend to carry a smoother finish than you find in this Castelli kit. I don’t want to give the impression this is a bad thing, though.
As I said above, the Castelli gear is different. One place this really shines through is in the collar. Both kits feature a somewhat similar collar profile, familiar when looking at jerseys with aero features. The Castelli, however, feels softer and not as tight. This is despite the fact that they actually both fit me in a very similar way.
The one place that the Castelli jersey falls a bit short, in comparison, is the pockets. The Rapha jersey features a hidden zippered pocket that is wonderful for storing my ID and cash, and the Rapha pockets are overall larger and more useful.
On the other hand, as much as I was complimentary about how Rapha handles the cut at the low back of the jersey, and I said good things about the Rapha jersey’s ability to keep from riding up, the Castelli 2.0 Climbers Jersey does a better job. It doesn’t have any silicone gripper, front or rear, and yet, they’ve somehow managed to create a jersey that never needs to be pulled down. Seriously, I never find myself smoothing it while waiting for a light to change. It just stays put.
Looking at the Castelli Inferno bibshort, I was even more impressed. While I feel like comparing the two jersey’s is more of a mixed bag, I actually prefer the Castelli bib shorts and they are $80 cheaper. The chamois has just the right amount of cushioning under the sit bones, and I really appreciate the way it tapers towards the edges and provides a bit more length in the front.
I do find myself getting sunburnt in a dot pattern along the side of the thighs, though; not a feature I appreciate. It’s part of the hot weather features, along with the “Giro leg band,” but while the leg band still provides adequate sun protection, as well as a lot of airflow, the sides mostly just allow more sun exposure than I’d prefer.
The Castelli Inferno Bibshorts and Climbers 2.0 Jersey are both part of Castelli’s Rosso Corsa label, which signifies the highest level of product Castelli sells, and they do not disappoint. These are products designed for racing at the highest level, which absolutely hold their own against Rapha equivalents. This wasn’t an apples to apples comparison between the two kits, but I think it’s close enough to satisfy a curiosity about Team Sky and their clothing change.
The Climbers 2.0 Jersey retails for $129.00 and weighs in at 83 grams while the Inferno Bibshorts retail for $229.00 and weigh in at 188 grams. The fit is comfortable and relaxed in feel, while not giving up anything in terms of performance. Although not a big fan of the dot patterned tan on the side of my thighs – Castelli does recommend sunscreen – I do appreciate the excellent hot weather performance.
When I talk about Rapha gear, one of the things I always like to say is not to kid yourself. You are getting the best, even if you might cringe a bit at the price and brand positioning. Castelli offers all the performance while also saving a bit of money, being a bit more available, and perhaps a more approachable brand image.