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Castelli Competizione Bib Short Review

One of the all-around best performing road bike shorts for its price
Castelli Competizione Bib Short
Best Buy Award
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Price:  $140 List | $139.99 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Affordable, lean, supportive, cool
Cons:  Padding may hold moisture, stitching may degrade, less comfort on long rides
Manufacturer:   Castelli
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 12, 2022
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75
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#8 of 13
  • Padding and Protection - 25% 7.0
  • Comfort and Fit - 20% 8.0
  • Breathability - 15% 6.0
  • Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness - 15% 9.0
  • Durability - 15% 7.0
  • Style - 10% 8.0

Our Verdict

There were times when we were surprised by the performance of the Castelli Competizione bib shorts. Those times were mostly on short, hard rides when the padding and compression mattered more and the overall comfort and moisture management weren’t as pressing. They’re supportive, lean, quick, and they’ll get the job done, especially compared to others in their price range. Of course, this is why they made our list as the Best Bang for the Buck Award winner. That said, they’re less suited to long rides and can take a little more care in cleaning and drying.

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Price $139.99 at Backcountry
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$93.69 at REI$37.50 at Backcountry
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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Affordable, lean, supportive, coolComfortable, dries quickly and wicks away moisture on rides, reduces saddle chafe, affordableAffordable, supportive, durable, breathableAffordable, more flexible, useful pockets, comfortable strapsVery affordable, low chafe, tough material, supportive
Cons Padding may hold moisture, stitching may degrade, less comfort on long ridesPouch seams can chafe, threading might come undoneLimited padding, fabric can be restrictiveLess breathable, stitching can rub, less supportiveLose comfort after a few hours, waist slips down, can be loose for some riders
Bottom Line One of the all-around best performing road bike shorts for its priceAwesome comfort and performance delivered at an easily accessible priceThese are the right shorts for quick, hard-hitting ridesThese are among the most accessibly priced bib shorts and they’ll work just fine out on the road if you’re on a tight budgetIt’s hard to find a better pair of starter shorts for the price
Rating Categories Castelli Competizio... SUGOi Evolution Bibs Gore Wear C5 Bib Pearl Izumi Expedit... Pearl Izumi Quest
Padding and Protection (25%)
7.0
9.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Comfort and Fit (20%)
8.0
9.0
7.0
8.0
6.0
Breathability (15%)
6.0
9.0
8.0
6.0
6.0
Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness (15%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Durability (15%)
7.0
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
Style (10%)
8.0
8.0
8.0
6.0
5.0
Specs Castelli Competizio... SUGOi Evolution Bibs Gore Wear C5 Bib Pearl Izumi Expedit... Pearl Izumi Quest
Main Fabric Affinity Pro Lycra Evo Plus (polyester/spandex blend) 80% polyamide 20% elastane Top panel: 35% recycled polyester/34% recycled nylon/31% elastane; bottom panel: 80% recycled nylon/20% elastane 80% recycled nylon, 20% spandex
Inseam Measurement 10" (M) 9" 10" 11.5" 9"
Number of panels 7 8 5 8 6
Fit Type Bib Bib Bib Bib Short
Chamois KISS Air2 RC Pro Yes Elite Escape 1:1 Levitate
Weight 5.68 oz 7.08 oz 6.42 oz 6.74 oz 4.62 oz
Other Features Silicone grips, reflective details, flat-lock stitching, Vortex BLC textured fabric on legs Compressive EvoPlus fabric, Powerband leg cuffs Advanced Road insert with Windstopper Cup, reflective logo, flat hem Silicone grips, 2 thigh pockets, 1 rear pocket BioViz reflective accents, silicone grips

Our Analysis and Test Results

To test the Castelli Competizione bib shorts we spent a few weeks rotating between short and long rides as well as between other cycling shorts in our review for side-by-side comparisons. We even suffered through a few indoor trainer sessions to really bring out the noise. Plus indoor rides make notation a little easier.

Performance Comparison


Tight and lean. Great for short, hard workouts.
Tight and lean. Great for short, hard workouts.
Credit: Ryan Baham

Padding and Protection


The KISS Air2 has been featured in other models we’ve tested across the Castelli range and our experience here is no different. The chamois pad is ideal for shorter rides under an hour and a half. We had the best experience on indoor trainers and harder tempo rides. Castelli calls it an all-day comfort, but having spent a few days in the saddle upwards of 5 hours, we’d suggest keeping it to the shorter workouts.


The aspects that go into the KISS Air2 chamois are its cover, its makeup, and its shape. Castelli cuts down on the friction between skin and pad with an especially soft, malleable, seamless fabric cover. It’s very pleasant to the hand and surely helps with the sitting parts. We didn’t notice any undue abrasion or friction.

The next is the pad itself. It’s a high-density foam with varying density and thickness spread around the sitting regions to cater to the areas that need more support and the areas that need less. The result is a firm pad that feels pretty good for the first hour or two of a hard ride. Hot spots might pop up on longer days if you don’t shift around enough. We noted that the chamois itself doesn't have seams, but there are seams for the panels that run against the chamois that can rub or chafe for some riders.

We liked the narrow footprint and smooth, felt-like topper. It's a...
We liked the narrow footprint and smooth, felt-like topper. It's a good chamois for shorter rides.
Credit: Ryan Baham

The last component is the anatomical shape. It’s well suited to our testers and suspect most riders have a reasonable fit as well. The tapered edges along the center perineum portion seem to function well as gentle cushions while the thicker center has a lower density and thickness than the rear portion under the ischial zone, which doesn’t taper at the edges. The padding there is thick and dense all the way to the edge of the pad. The entire pad maintains a small footprint compared to most cycling bib shorts in its range. That’s a significant help in cutting down hotspots and bunching out on the road.

Comfort and Fit


Right off the bat, the Competizione bib shorts feel good against the skin. That’s owing to the Vortex BLC Textured fabric accentuated by Affinity Pro Lycra® (spandex) fabric along the inside of the leg. The body of the shorts are 80% nylon and 20% spandex. This is the sweet spot most high-performance brands use to achieve good flex and tight support. It works perfectly with these. The added Affinity segments give just a little more leeway throughout the pedal stroke to reduce the constrictive feeling that sometimes happens in more supportive shorts.


To keep the shorts in place they use a fairly standard set of mesh shoulder straps. Nothing too remarkable there. Their Giro4 leg grippers are pretty sweet though. They employ long, raised silicone strips to hold the edge in place. They’re both effective and comfortable, even on long rides out in the sun and heat.

Let us tell you, these things grip!
Let us tell you, these things grip!
Credit: Ryan Baham

Breathability


The legs are generally fast-drying, though the Affinity Pro Lycra® segments seem to take a little longer to dry out and seem to hold a little more moisture out on the road. The upper portion is fairly open and the typical mesh shoulder straps work just fine to limit heat and moisture retention.


Frustratingly, the chamois tends to hold moisture and takes a long time to dry, meaning you either keep it in the dryer for longer, wasting electricity and cooking the more delicate fibers or you let it sit out in the air, moist, allowing more opportunity for harmful types of bacteria to grow. You might notice it out on the road too. It’s a difficult to avoid issue with most chamois pads, and the Castelli is no exception.

The open design limits heat retention up top, but the chamois still...
The open design limits heat retention up top, but the chamois still needs some innovating to catch up to the performance we'd expect.
Credit: Ryan Baham

Efficiency and Pedal Friendliness


This is an area where the Competizione excels. Much of the body is comprised of the 80/20 nylon/spandex mix to keep the shorts compressive and tight, limiting wrinkles and bunching. To allow just a little more targeted flex they use a spandex strip along the inner leg called Affinity Pro Lycra®, making them just a tad more flexible and easier to work with.


The Giro4 leg grippers use silicone strips to do their gripping and they do a good job of preventing the shorts from riding up or shifting. The area where we’d encourage some caution is in the seams running along the inner thigh, which could eventually chafe, depending on your thigh shape, saddle, and position. We didn’t experience it, but we did see reports of it and the design appears to be vulnerable to that issue. As we’ve said elsewhere, if you have had chafing problems with previous shorts along inner thigh seams, you will likely have them here too. If it’s never been a problem before, you’re likely fine. Just keep an eye out for it.

The Competiziones very much feel like a second skin out on the road.
The Competiziones very much feel like a second skin out on the road.
Credit: Ryan Baham

Durability


We’ve enjoyed the KISS Air2 chamois in other Castelli models, so we know that the pad has some longevity to it and shouldn’t be a serious concern. Where you might notice some wear is in the shoulder straps and stitching. Mesh straps tend to wear out before some of the wide, sinewy straps you see in higher-end bib shorts. We found reports of stitching issues and can see vulnerable areas of exposed seams in the high-abrasion zone between the thigh and saddle. This can become a problem depending on your thigh-saddle shape and interface. It’s good to keep an eye on it, especially if you’ve had shorts wear out in that region before. You might also find that the Affinity Pro Lycra® fabric improves riding performance, but keep in mind that Lycra®, spandex, does not possess the same strength and abrasion resistance as other common fabrics like nylon and polyester.


Style


Sometimes decals end up peeling off earlier than hoped, but while they remain affixed, the decals on the Competizione bib shorts accentuate each flank quite nicely. Otherwise, the shorts are sportingly sleek.


The Vortex BLC textured legs present as an articulated carbon fiber-like surface. The leg finishes off with a nice, broad cap-end formed by the Giro4 leg gripper with its raised slats to break up the pattern. Even in plain dark colors, the seam lines outlining the panels and the varied textures make for a handsome pair of bike shorts.

In our view, we think the Castellis look pretty sleak.
In our view, we think the Castellis look pretty sleak.
Credit: Ryan Baham

Value


As the name hints, they’re priced pretty competitively. You aren’t spending a whole paycheck for the same shorts the pro riders wear, but you’re also not going to find them in any Bentonville, AR-based box-retailers. You’ll get a pair of breathable, supportive, comfortable bike shorts at a fair bargain.

Conclusion


The Castelli Competizione bib shorts hit exactly the right balance of affordability, performance, and comfort. In fact, that’s how they came to be our Best Bang for the Buck Award winners. They’re not top-of-the-line cycling shorts, but they’re great for short training rides and keeping the weekly rotation of shorts fresh. The KISS Air2 pad is reasonably comfortable but holds a little moisture, so you’ll need to take extra care to clean and dry it after rides. That also means on longer rides it might hold more moisture than some of the high-end bike shorts. All in all, it’s a good deal for its price and that’s why we’ll be keeping a pair in our bike stuff closet.

Catch you guys out on the road!
Catch you guys out on the road!
Credit: Ryan Baham

Ryan Baham
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