A review of the Santini Speedshell Road Speedsuit.
The Santini Speedshell Road Speedsuit. My anticipation couldn’t be higher! Santini’s reputation and rich history mean I am really excited to try the latest iteration of their speedsuit. Santini have been working on the speedsuit for several years, and the end product undoubtedly reflects this effort. Research was carried out in conjunction with the Australian national team, where the pivotal focus was on aerodynamic performance.
To give a little ‘wiggle-room’, despite the very close-fitting tailoring, Santini uses an elastic, compact fit which enables a restricted comfort zone. This skinsuit is designed for an aero tuck position and assumes you will stay in this position while riding.
In fact, when I pulled it on for the first time, I really wasn’t sure whether I opted for the right size. The suit’s fit only makes sense once you get into a very aero position. Then you can unleash its true potential and benefit from the aerodynamic advantage. The same is true for the legs of the bib-short. They cover your muscles in a very snug, second-skin manner. Getting this fit right is difficult; it’s a very fine line and many manufacturers fail to deliver.
The Speedshell uses Santini’s NAT chamois with NEXT technology to deliver a cooling effect. The chamois features a unique core, embedded within a 2 to 4mm thick layer. Check out the video to see how it works. The upper layer has an antibacterial microfibre finish and shaped wings extend down to protect “the most sensitive areas” from irritation. All of this adds up to a comfortable pad, and at no time did I feel any irritation or discomfort.
At the start of the test session, we were greeted with a sunny October down in Southern Portugal. This was perfect as I wanted to test the SPEEDSHELL without any kind of arm or legwarmers. Admittedly, subjective feelings and the placebo effect plays a huge role in reviewing this kind of kit without any proper testing machinery. While I trust Santini’s test results, I wanted to experience the ‘feel’ of being fast, even when riding slowly uphill!
Setting out, the SPEEDSHELL felt a little constrictive around the lower back, though not uncomfortable. Santini have designed the SPEEDSHELL for the aero tuck. Once in the drops the fit is very comfortable. As long as you are prepared to spend a lot of time in an aero position then this is fine. That’s not a challenge for me, as that’s my preferred riding position.
Another thing to consider with the SPEEDSHELL, or any skin-suit for that matter, is it is designed for an elite athlete’s body. I’m lucky to be 58kg with 5% body fat; no muffin tops! Any ‘excess’ will stand out, which will make getting a good fit difficult and show up any failings in your diet! Some of the guys in our group were unhappy with the look and went back to a bibshort and jersey combination…
Being a pure performance outfit, the SPEEDSHELL has some limitations compared to a standard jersey, but again this is true of most skin-suits. One of these is that it is very thin. This was great when riding hard on steep uphill stages in the heat. Returning back home to northern Europe, however, and you don’t want to wearing it in temperatures below 10 degrees C.
Another issue is the lack of pockets, but again this is down to it being a narrowly focused piece of kit. The SPEEDSHELL is going to be used in time-trials, triathlons or on the track, events where you won’t expect to carry anything. I didn’t expect Santini to compromise adding details like this to a piece of aero competition clothing.
Although I said it is designed for riding in an aero position, I actually rode the SPEEDSHELL in some MTB races as well. I have just come to love this suit so much that I didn’t want to race without it! While it was a little uncomfortable in this position, it is just a minor drawback. My only major worry was damaging it in a crash, as it is very thin. Thankfully it (and I) emerged unscathed, but I think you’d be better saving it for road events. Santini have plenty in their portfolio for off-road usage anyway.
Over the test period Santini’s SPEEDSHELL has grown on me, to the point where I want to wear it all the time. This is despite the limited comfort when riding in an upright position which, as I said, I find a minor drawback. Its fit and feel when worn, plus the quality chamois all add up to an addictive piece of clothing!
So to sum up the Santini SPEEDSHELLl is a case of horses for courses. If you are in agreement with the Santini SPEEDSHELL’s major focus and you are fine with its ‘terms of usage’, then you are good to go. Just make sure you try before you buy and lay off the cake!