09 September 2009

bikefix Exclusive Review: Castelli Endurance bibshort

Since this review, Castelli have contacted us with some interesting information on some of the effort that went into the Endurance's development. Read more here...

Last summer, I had the good fortune to try Caselli's range-topping Free shorts. The Free's quickly become my favorite shorts and have held that position ever since. The fit is fantastic and the relatively dense but unobtrusive AC pad does a very good job of running interference between my tender buttocks and lightly-padded racing saddles. Still, at $200, they're not inexpensive and I find myself saving them for more special rides. As if answering my desire for a (slightly) less expensive race short, Castelli have introduced Endurance shorts and bib shorts for 2009.

With the Free range, the Endurance line shares Castelli's best-effort AC multi-density pad. The AC pad uses temperature-regulating ComfortTemp materials to help it maintain a constant 98 degree temperature when worn and it's top layer an anti-microbial velour. The pad itself is three-dimensional, seamless and fairly dense under the sit bones. All of these factors come together very nicely to provide one of the least unobtrusive pads I've ever worn. Being a more race-oriented pad, the AC seems most comfortable with less-padded saddles. While there are a number of saddles that I find comfortable, it's the minimalist Fi'zi:k Antares and classic Flite Trans-Am that seem to work best with the Endurance's pad. More heavily padded saddles, for some reason, don't seem to play as well with the AC, a fact that feels entirely in keeping with the Endurance's racy design.

The cut of the Endurance seems ever-so-slightly looser than the Free, possibly to the reduced use of compressive fabric (only the thin sliver seen on those sexy thighs is made from Castelli's Energia material). The Endurance's legs are still plenty supportive- I've just been spoiled by even more supportive shorts. The leg grippers are fairly minimal and thin, built of a single layer (no seam at the bottom) of low-rebound fabric printed on the outside with silicone scorpions. Some people may be bothered by the lack of grip, but I find the Endurance's not-terribly grippy grippers extremely comfortable, and wonder if they help (or at least don't hinder) circulation to the lower leg. Like the Free, the Endurance have a reflective tab at the back of the thigh. Despite my initial concerns, it's never proved irritating, though I have to think that it might be more effective if rotated a bit towards the outside of the leg. The legs themselves are a bit on the short side and might to well with another cm (3/8in) or so of length, but I never feel exposed while wearing them (just make sure that sunscreen is applied a little higher than usual). The big red Castelli scorpion logos on the left buttock and right thigh are a matter of personal taste but began to peel off within a half-dozen rides, leaving my bibs looking a bit prematurely tattered. With a bit of patient coaxing, I was able to remove them altogether, and the bibs again look like new.

The bibs' straps are made of a very comfortable mesh that I never felt dig into my neck or shoulders- tall (but thin) riders like myself will like them much more than the shorter straps used on other companies' bibs. There's a large panel of Energia fabric at the lower back that is the basis for my only real complaint about the Endurance bibs- the panel seems a bit large for its function and can create a bit of a clammy patch. A switch to a lighter or more wicking fabric there might help a bit (though most bibs have this problem to some extent). Seeing as it gets more than a little warm here in the desert, I found myself riding with the straps down on hot days. It might have not been the most aerodynamic approach, but the fact that the bibs stay put without the straps is very impressive.

And that's really what makes the Endurance bibs/shorts seem altogether justifiable at $160 and $180. The cut of the bibs (and I have to imagine the shorts) is such that they just plain work. With the exception of a bit of dampness at my lower back (which will be a non-issue with the shorts), I never notice the Castelli's while riding. The pad is fantastic and stays where it belongs, on road or off, the shorts never seem to bunch up or gather unnaturally, and the shoulder straps never draw attention to themselves for any reason. While the peeling logos are a bit disappointing at this price point, the construction seems otherwise excellent, with no signs of wear after a summer's use. Despite not being a natural bib fan, I find myself Endurance's out of the closet every time they're clean. If Castelli can find a more comfortable material for the lower back and add a smidge of length to the legs while making them a bit snugger, they would pretty much have nothing between them and an ideal club racer's short.



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