Castelli’s new Premio Black bib shorts arrive in by far the best packaging I’ve ever seen accompanying a piece of cycling kit. Maybe I’m venal, or maybe having worked for magazines I’ve just developed an unhealthy interest in these matters, but there are things going on here with printing and paper stock that would have Patrick Bateman shredding his business card in a jealous fury.
It might sound facile, but I always wonder if you don’t care about the presentation, how much effort have you put into the rest of the product? Happily, the shorts contained within Castelli's superb packaging are just as lovely. Along with one or maybe two others, Castelli has long been the reference point when it comes to creating the most genre-defining cycling kit. Its Premio Black shorts aim to carry on in this tradition.
Designed to be the best bib short for pretty much any application, they’re a high-end option and a solid contender for being flat-out the best thing to cover your bottom with any time you hop aboard the bike.
More from less
As an aim, this is perhaps a more radical proposition than it first sounds. Often race kit is race kit, endurance kit is endurance kit, and consumer-focused is frequently a synonym for toned down. Designed to be the most comfortable performance short for any long ride, Castelli’s Premio Black shorts are made from a radically reduced number of components, yet still bristle with clever features. Many of these can be traced directly to the short’s unique, papery feeling fabric which Castelli claims has allowed it to reduce the number of panels required by two thirds.
Take the legs, each of which is now composed of a single swatch. Unadorned by the usual trims and additions, each segment nevertheless provides multiple clever traits. For one, despite being a single piece, the short’s legs are lighter in the thighs and thicker in the hips. Aiming to give tailored compression to each muscle group, the last seven centimetres also grip the leg to keep the short’s raw cut cuffs in place. However, rather than manage this through the addition of silicone print dots or sewn on bands, instead, the weave of the fabric is created so as to bring its lycra stands to the surface throughout this area.
Also seamlessly tailoring the amount of insulation across the short, the fabric, which Castelli claims costs three to five times more than conventional alternatives, is simultaneously very dense and very thin. This not only means that it dries quicker in hot weather, as there’s less fabric to retain moisture, but that it's also better able to block the wind on cooler days too.
For every ride
It’s all part of a construction Castelli hopes will make the Premio Black shorts a default option for almost any use, from seven-hour plus road rides to quick lunchtime spins. Road or trail, warm weather or with leg warmers pinned underneath, while Castelli’s sponsored pro racers at Ineos have the Superleggera or Free Protect bib shorts, the Premio Black has been designed with the consumer in mind.
Still extremely aerodynamic and close-fitting, to this end, it’s less constrictive, and remains comfortable should your tour also include a sitdown stop for refreshment. Of course, the other key component ensuring they fit this broad spectrum billing is the chamois. In this respect, the Premio Black’s Progetto X2 Air pad is the result of over a decade of research and testing.
On top, it features an aptly named Skin Care layer designed to move as you shift on the saddle to avoid abrasions. Beneath this is the padding which takes the form of twin soft and medium-density foam to provide both instant comfort and lasting support. Backed by 3mm gel pads under the sit bones and perineum, the entire assembly nevertheless has the feeling of being a single, seamless piece.
Combined into a supremely tailored package that seems to erase any possible source of irritation, the Premio Black bibs are also a seriously nice looking pair of shorts. At first glance appearing free from logos, Castelli’s famous scorpion motif is just visible, having been laser-etched into the fabric’s surface. Promising perhaps as much as a decade of use and thousands of kilometres, it’s another way the shorts seek to fulfil their endurance brief.
In fact, Castelli claims the Premio Black’s unique construction currently prevents them from printing team logos onto them. This could make them one of the rare occasions where you can spend your way to better kit than that handed out to the world’s top athletes.