A comfortable pair of shorts with a simple, no bells and whistles design, aside from the aero dimples which we can't really quantify. The fit is good and pad does the job, answering basic requirements whilst the leg grippers to go above and beyond to create a great fit.
Great leg grippers
Claimed aero gains
No toilet-break solution
Tight waist forced to stretch when dressing
Castelli's Free Aero 4 team women's bib shorts are an entirely race focused construction - from the fit, right down to the 'Vortex' dimpled fabric on the quads, designed to help the rider slip through the air at high speed.
Whilst minimalism was kept high on the agenda, since racing requires lots of hours in the saddle, the chamois is designed to cater for that. In this case, it's the Progetto A2 Air Seamless Donna pad, which as you'd hope is women's specific.
A middling level of padding meant that these felt perfectly comfortable on long rides, without contributing too much bulk, which can be uncomfortable when walking around off the bike.
The chamois is sewn into Forza fabric, with a 38 per cent Lycra content. Pulling the shorts on, the tapered waist made getting the size small on test over my hips a bit of a stretch. However, once on the material snapped to fit against my skin perfectly and the V-shaped construction at the front sat close to the skin.
The legs are held in placed with Giro4 leg gippers, which use elastic over a wide area to ensure there's no pinching - and these shorts absolutely do the job there. The gripper was both comfortable and flattering whist staying in place. The leg length is around mid-thigh, so shorter than your traditional Euro style.
The shorts come with a pink, white or blue strip at the lower leg, to match the corresponding jersey, adding a splash of colour without impacting fit in any way, as per models we've seen from other brands
At the quads, there's Vortex dimpled fabric to save watts. It's hard to quantify the exact gains without a windtunnel, so we'll have to take Castelli's word for it. The fabric is comfortable, offers plenty of breathability, and the grey stayed reliably opaque.
The upper body uses stripe mesh engineered fabric, which allows for more of the essential breathability we need in the summer. The shorts have a claimed weight of 156g, and keeping weight low was important in their engineering.
There's no mechanism designed to allow for easy comfort breaks. Though I'd always maintain that comfort on the bike is paramount (you spend more time riding than peeing if you're doing it right), there's a lot of shorts out there that do offer a solution without impacting the fit so Castelli is a bit behind here.
Cycling Weekly's Tech Editor Michelle Arthurs-Brennan is a traditional journalist by trade, having begun her career working for a local newspaper before spending a few years at Evans Cycles, then combining the two with a career in cycling journalism.
When not typing or testing, 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.
Favourite bikes include a custom carbon Werking road bike as well as the Specialized Tarmac SL6.
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