New technology rarely arrives at the entry-level, and that's true of these shorts. Castelli's woven construction sets the Premio Black bibs apart from anything else the brand produces - the result is extremely comfortable, and quick drying. If the £200 price tag is within reach, you won't be disappointed, and if not, then join us in waiting with bated breath for the indivertible trickle-down effect to take place.
No digging in on legs or body
Weather management (heat, wind and rain)
Show up marks easily
Slight pull on one thread at the seam early on
The Castelli Premio Black bib shorts - available in men’s (£220) and women’s (£200) versions - arrived amidst huge fanfare. Delivered in a presentation box and with an elaborate booklet to detail their evolution, Castelli clearly considers these shorts a monumental step forward in the brand’s offering.
Using a woven fabric to minimise seams and panels, these shorts utilise an entirely new production method when compared with other options within Castelli’s extensive and well-regarded wardrobe.
The result is extremely comfortable indeed. It is also very expensive, and a little bit unconventional in its look and feel.
Castelli Premio Black Women's Bib Shorts: construction
The Premio Black shorts are Castelli’s newest top-of-the-line offering, they’re all about comfort that goes the distance.
The woven construction method means that Castelli has reportedly replaced the 10 components of a ‘traditional’ short, with just three. This cuts down on seams, and thus the chafing and digging in that can create discomfort.
At the lower leg, raw cut and silicone backed edges bring proceedings to a close, and each leg creates a cling-film like wrap around the thigh, with the pad held in place by the high level of support across the body.
The women's cuff measures 6cm, whilst the men's is 7cm (so, the price difference is based upon mathematics, one assumes), and the Castelli logos are lasered on.
The fabric at the stomach extends fairly high up the midriff, with extra stretch panels at the waist on either side. The centre of the shorts houses one of very few seams, which is flatlocked and bonded at the top to avoid any discomfort. The rear panel uses perforations for breathability.
The four-way stretch fabric feels dramatically different when compared with traditional lycra shorts, with a papery property to it. The Italian brand hasn’t actually told us what the material is constructed from, presumably - like a sacred lasagne recipe - it wants to keep some information within the family.
Castelli will share with us that it’s woven ‘like a denim, poplin or taffeta’ - with 35 per cent Lycra added for elasticity. The dense material allows Castelli to cut weight by a claimed 30 per cent, our size small shorts weighed in at 145g. Along with the vague detail on the actual make-up, there’s no comment on the environmental credentials of this fabric, sadly. The brand does share that this material costs “three to five times more” than traditional options, hence presumably, the price tag.
As well as limiting chafing, and offering support via compression, the shrink-to-fit style carries claimed aero benefits, there's ribbed texture on the legs too. Without a windtunnel, we can't comment further.
Easier to verify is the fact that the low volume of the material means that it dries quicker in hot temperatures (and, indoors), whilst the tight weave keeps cold breezes out.
The pad is of course the heart of any pair of bib shorts, and Castelli uses its Progetto X2 Air Seamless pad, with a Skin Care layer close to the skin and separate cushioning below. In keeping with the long-distance remit, this is a relatively well-padded affair.
The anticipation which preceded these shorts, billed to me as ‘Castelli’s most exciting launch in 10 years’, set these bibs up with quite a mission in my mind. In all honesty, I was a little underwhelmed on unwrapping them from their celebratory packaging.
However, pulling them on, the construction method did come into its own.
‘Papery’ is the best adjective to describe the feel of the material, to the touch, it feels like it could form a viable component as part of a papier-mache project. However, it is surprisingly supportive. Every inch of the fabric stretches to meet its match. Most notable is the way that there’s no cuff to dig in at the thigh, and the close fit around the chamois, which limits any movement as you yourself move around in the saddle.
Being so light, the fabric dries exceptionally well, making these a great option for turbo training sessions; the Premio Black shorts held on to a lot less moisture when compared with traditional shorts. I also tested them on a wet and windy afternoon out on a classic ‘British’ summer’s day and was pleased to note that water droplets beaded off them beautifully, despite no mention of any water-resistant treatment.
Castelli does note that these shorts will show salt lines more than most. Having used them on the turbo, I didn’t see any evidence of this. However, the fact that I’ve never experienced cramp on the bike should suggest at my low salt output. Marks from sticky gel (or, on less healthy days, sticky bun!) residue, for example, did show up and so messy sweaters or eaters should be made aware.
I was also disappointed to see a couple of threads had freed themselves from one of the seams at the lower leg after just a few washes. Having cut the strays off, no more emerged, suggesting this was more of a teething issue, but it’s one I’d rather not see on a £200 pair of shorts.
In terms of chamois comfort, the primary takeaway for me was the way the pad offers exceptional comfort by way of staying close to the skin, thanks to the body of the shorts. However, it is also comfortably padded and offered me ample protection for four-hour rides.
Before I'd had the chance to wear these shorts on the bike, I'd built them up to be a 'special occasion' pair of bib shorts, the fabric feels more delicate than 'every day'. However, once on the bike they're pretty fit and forget and - despite the few stray threads - they've passed the longevity test.
Value and conclusions
Like the thread on the lower seam, this is where things begin to unravel a bit.
At £200, these shorts are significantly more expensive than the likes of the recently tested Assos T.laalalai_s7 shorts (£165), Gore’s C7 Long Distance shorts (£179.99), and really most shorts we have on test at Cycling Weekly (an exception goes to the Rapha Souplesse detachable shorts, £195).
Castelli says that this fabric costs substantially more to produce, and that is always going to impact the RRP.
My take on the value question is this: if you can afford to put £200 into a garment (and don’t mind them showing up sweat or cinnamon bun residue), then these are a great bet. If not, you can continue to be well served by the construction method on traditional shorts, and stay safe in the knowledge that this tech will no doubt trickle down to more affordable packages in the years to come.
- Weight: 145g (size small)
- RRP: £200 (women), £220 (men)
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Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper, where highlights included interviewing a very irate Freddie Star (and an even more irate theatre owner), as well as 'the one about the stolen chickens'.
Previous to joining the Cycling Weekly team, Michelle was Editor at Total Women's Cycling. She joined CW as an 'SEO Analyst', but couldn't keep her nose out of journalism and in the spreadsheets, eventually taking on the role of Tech Editor before her latest appointment as Digital Editor.
Michelle is a road racer who also enjoys track riding and the occasional time trial, though dabbles in off-road riding too (either on a mountain bike, or a 'gravel bike'). She is passionate about supporting grassroots women's racing and founded the women's road race team 1904rt.
Michelle is on maternity leave from July 8 2022, until April 2023.