One of the fun things about cycling is that while you watch the best of the best racing Le Tour, you can geek out on the equipment and actually ride with it yourself. And while a world tour level bike might be a bit out of your price range, there are all kinds of little things that are completely accessible. One of the most visible right now is the Castelli kit that Team Sky is currently keeping in front of the cameras. I actually reviewed the Castelli Inferno Bibshorts and Climbers 2.0 jersey last year, but one of the most important pieces is something I haven’t reviewed before. This year I had an opportunity to take a look at the Castelli Core Mesh 3 Sleeveless baselayer.
For me, a baselayer is something I never ride without and it has to do more than just look good, it has to perform. For the last few years, I’ve worn Rapha baselayers most of the time and a Castelli short sleeve winter baselayer that I reviewed previously. When I took a look at the Castelli Core Mesh 3, what I wanted to know was how did it compare to the Rapha baselayer I’ve become pretty attached to and perhaps more importantly, does a hot weather kit, baselayer included, really make much difference compared to other summer specific cycling kits?
One of the reasons I never reviewed the Castelli Core Mesh 3 Sleeveless baselayer is because when I review things, I have to use them, a lot, and there are certain things I get a little bit stubborn about. Baselayers are one of those things. I like them to be short sleeve, not sleeveless, and the Rapha proteam base layer is so good that I never wanted to mess with success.
When the Castelli base layer arrived, I didn’t even touch it initially. I let it sit there next to the other gear I’m currently riding with, and there was a while where I’d look at it before I went out but ultimately decide not mess with it. I’m glad I finally took the plunge and made a change. As soon as I finally started wearing the Castelli, I stopped wearing my other base layers completely.
The thing that really endeared the Castelli Core Mesh 3 to me was the fit. A good base layer just makes me feel more put together. I’ve never owned a nice suit, but I imagine putting on a nice suit is similar, in a way, to putting on a nice cycling kit. Everything just feels right and a big part of that is the fit of all the little pieces and how they work together.
The Castelli Core Mesh 3 is a bit longer than other base layers I’ve worn and despite being a small/medium, it fits my small frame like a second skin. It just feels right. There’s no seam out of place and no discomfort to be found anywhere on the Core Mesh 3. Once it’s on, the most noticeable feature is the mesh fabric. Because the holes are so large, you can feel the spacing of the mesh, but it’s not something that’s uncomfortable at all, just noticeable.
It’s this large mesh that leads nicely into my second question, is there a noticeable difference between a hot weather summer kit and a standard summer kit? In the past, I would have said no. It’s in my nature to second guess that kind of marketing claim. It just feels like given how minimal a summer cycling kit already is, could there really be much difference going a little bit more minimal? When I’ve worn hot weather gear combined with the Rapha baselayer, I didn’t notice much difference, but I went all in with the Castelli Core Mesh 3, the Inferno bibshorts, and the Climbers jersey 2.0, and it was pretty noticeable how much of a difference it actually made.
That large mesh on the Core Mesh 3 combined with the super lightweight design of the Inferno bibshorts and the climbers jersey 2.0 mean that as soon as you start moving a bit, you can really feel the air on your skin. It’s surprising how much the Core Mesh 3 contributes to the feeling. It’s not something I’ll be discounting again.
So, even if you don’t have the budget for the top of the line frameset, maybe $59.99 for the very best of the best baselayer has a bit more appeal. The Castelli Core mesh 3 sleeveless weighs in at 71 grams and is built with 90% polyester and 10% Elastane into a perfect fit. It’s definitely earned a long-term spot in my cycling apparel.