Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Review: Castelli Tri Apparel - Free and Bodypaint collections

The name Castelli has long been associated with cycling, but only recently has come to the triathlon market. As their website says, "We're new to triathlon, but we're coming in as a recognized speed leader in cycling and we're working hard to make you faster from the starting gun to the finish line." Castelli partnered with K-Swiss this year as a sponsor of an elite triathlon team that includes Timothy O'Donnell, Mirinda Carfrae, Leanda Cave, and the Raelert Brothers.

I was fortunate to get to try their two new lines - the "Free" (photo above in red/black/white) and the "Bodypaint" (all black) collections and can give some feedback on them both here.


First off I can say these are true to the size charts (yay!). I was exactly the measurements for a medium and the mediums fit very well (I'm 5'7" and 129 lbs as a reference point). I've needed a large top in other brands so one can't be too sure.

Castelli Free Donna Tri Top and Tri Short

The Free set (black/red/white) is hands-down a new favorite two-piece tri kit, and I have worn a number of brands over the years. The name "Free" is well deserved as it is ultralight, comfortable, and non-distracting, allowing me to focus on my workout rather than the fit of my kit. It's like wearing butter. If butter were wearable.

It's pretty flattering and eye catching. The two slanted rear shirt pockets don't catch water and make it easy to access gels and supplies. I'm a big fan of the topstitching on the tri-shorts, and that along with the red Castelli leg grippers breaks up the rear view. The shorts have a rise that is high enough but not too high. I think some manufacturers have gone too far in a low-rise hip-hugger tri short (especially in front) which is OK on the bike but if you are tall like me on the run, that just means midriff exposure, which moms do not appreciate! 

The best thing about this kit is the clever inclusion of the hook-and-eye option that allows you to connect the bottom back of the shirt to the top of the shorts in two places to keep things in place and prevent sunburn on the bike. It gives the coverage of a one-piece with the easier access of the two-piece. 

hook and eye closure on the rear (shirt shown inside-out below)

I've worn this kit on several bricks including one in which I was in a downpour on the bike and especially with the mesh-like back of the top, it dried very fast for the run that followed. It's pretty much my go-to kit for brick workouts now.

Castelli Bodypaint Donna Tri Top and Tri Short

The Bodypaint kit is a heavier material and currently only comes in all black (that is expected to change in the next collection). When I'm out biking and running, I want some degree of visibility for safety reasons and so I am hesitant to wear all black to train.

The nice thing about the bottoms is they have no seams and the leg-gripping surface is integrated into the leg. They are very comfortable and I've been choosing these tri shorts for my long bike rides with no chaffing!
The heavier, slightly compressive fabric of the Bodypaint top was more than I prefer for training. That said, if I were at a cold race -- one of those where we are contemplating putting plastic inside our tri tops as a wind break -- I would like this top. However, it felt as if with the bit of stiffness and despite the grippers at the bottom of the tri top, it had a tendency to shift/rotate a bit on the run and swim. That could also just be a fit issue particular to me.

test run!
test swim!

Socks and Arm Sleeves

The arm sleeves and socks, like the Free line, are also like "wearing butter". They are the softest things ever. The arm sleeves are a nice extra layer for cooler training and a good lightweight sunscreen in the summer.

This photo is a reflection in my minivan window. I just thought it was cool, and shows the arm sleeves that were much appreciated on this cold, foggy, morning ride. You can't see the Castelli name down the side, but they look good.

I had on the Castelli socks when the dog grabbed my ankle on the bike :(
RIP Castelli sock. Luckily they sent two pairs so I still have three good socks out of four.

All-in-all, I'd have to say that Castelli has done well with their introductory tri line. It offers two distinctly different kits - the ultralight, stretchier Free collection and the Bodypaint pieces that are more compressive. I appreciate Castelli's innovations like the hook-and-eye top/bottom attachment, the angled rear pockets, the seamless Body Paint short, and the overall cut and fit. Both sets also offer a one-piece tri kit and a cropped top.

Find out more about Castelli's triathlon products online at or find them on Facebook!