The Castelli Premio Black bib short is built around Castelli's Progretto X2 Air chamois pad, which is among the best chamois pads on the market, and they combine to offer unrivalled levels of excellence
The only seam is at the back of the thigh
Progetto X2 Air chamois
Tags on bib straps add just enough structure
Fabric isn't soft
Short bib straps will be a challenge for tall cyclists
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Much of the time the top-of-the-line bib short offering from a given company is a product designed for racing. It's a badge of honour if the garment is part of a sponsorship deal and spends time in the pro peloton - but if you don't race, where does that leave you?
Most people don't race and even if you do it often represents a small part of your overall cycling experience. If you still want the best but aren't as concerned about wind-tunnel-proven watt savings or don't have much need for a radio pocket, Castelli has an option. The Castelli Premio Black bib short is a top-shelf option that's not specifically designed for racing. Keep reading to see how they stack up against the best cycling shorts on the market.
Design and aesthetics
The chamois put to use in the Premio Black bib shorts is not new. It's the Progetto X2 Air, and you can find it in other Castelli offerings although it's not exactly the same here. It uses a 'four-way stretch microfiber top layer' that feels like a low-pile fleece. It's incredibly soft and Castelli uses a mostly grey and black colour profile with only a bit of darker red. Other bibs from Castelli have an opening in the cover, and that's missing here, but it is still free to move independently of the padding.
Below the soft covering is dense padding that protects the contact points. It's not large so it does its best work paired with a more aggressive bike fit, but it does handle sitting up or tucking down just as well. Right where the sit bones touch the saddle is the densest structure with a gentle decrease in density as it radiates out from those points.
While the chamois is excellent, it's not exactly a new design. That said, the Premio Black bib shorts as a whole use an all-new design featuring two primary innovations. The first is a brand-new Castelli-developed fabric that is woven instead of knitted.
A knit fabric uses a single piece of thread and interlocking loops. Woven fabrics are different because they use two pieces of thread over and under each other. Woven fabrics keep the thread at a higher tension during manufacturing which results in a thinner, denser fabric with less stretch.
Castelli combats the lack of stretch by upping the Lycra content all the way to 38 per cent but the feeling remains unique. The thin fabric helps keep a tight fit that promotes moisture evaporation but it's also tougher and less prone to snags. At the leg opening, you won't find traditional silicone, instead, the Lycra threads are at the surface. There's plenty of grip without being difficult to get on and this design forgoes the need for a separate panel.
The lack of panels here, and in the rest of the Premio Black bibs is the other major innovation. Castelli can sometimes favour complicated patterns with lots of panels in an effort to get the bib shorts to sit perfectly. It can be successful but it leaves open avenues for chafing as well as the possibility of manufacturing errors. With the Premio Black bib shorts, the whole lower section is just three pieces. Each leg uses a single piece of fabric that comes together at the back of the leg. That keeps the inner thigh and groin area completely free of seams that could otherwise cause chafing.
The two legs join in the centre of the bibs and there's a space left in the low back section that uses a traditional knit fabric with a soft texture. In an effort to stave off any fabric transparency, Castelli has doubled up this panel which then attaches to the rear panel of the straps.
The strap design might not be a groundbreaking technology but it is still a high point of the design. Through the back, the shape is wide with large perforations. The edges use a bit of fabric folded over and secured for plenty of strength - the design changes at the lower back area. Over the shoulders and down the front the straps are a single piece of fabric with raw cut edges. Castelli has managed a nice balance of lightweight but enough structure to resist rolling. A tag stitched to each strap in the chest area adds further structure.
Right from the first time I slid these on I knew I was going to like them. I am a huge fan of the Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bib shorts that I recently reviewed and these take just about everything that they lack and fix it while keeping the best pieces. They still aren't perfect though, so let's talk about what works and what doesn't.
I love the usual Castelli fit, and these somehow manage to improve it. The difference is subtle and in some ways, the change is as much about the leg grippers as anything else. Make no mistake these are still a race-fit garment, and they are tight-fitting. There's just a bit of extra width in the panels between legs and there are no hard-to-slide-on silicone grippers. It's easier to get the Premio Black bib shorts on as the grippers will slide when pulled.
Along with the excellent fit in the legs is a high waist which comes up to just below the belly button. It's on the sides that the height is particularly noticeable coming up just shy of the lowest ribs. This is a similar cut to other Castelli bibs but there’s a bit more compression on the sides. Once you spend some time with these on the bike the chamois starts to come into play. Castelli already has one of the best out there but until you try the Premio Black Bibs you don't realise how it could possibly benefit from improvement. In the Premio Black design, the chamois sits further forward and doesn't move, and there's more padding right where you need it.
One of the few bugbears has to be the feel of the fabric. You get used to it, and it's not something I find myself dwelling on, but there are better-feeling fabrics on the market. Measuring in at 5'9" tall, I found the straps a little bit shorter than I'm used to and, while it works fine for me, it might affect taller riders.
I haven't ridden thousands of miles in these and I don't have any epic stories yet but I expect that to change. They lack the seam through the inner leg but have the same great fit and chamois as my favourite Castelli Free Aero Race 4 bib shorts. If I was putting together a wish list these would fit the criteria and so far, my testing has found them to live up to the expectations.
As the name suggests, the Castelli Premio Black bibs are a premium product and they aren't cheap but they do live up to the hype. With an innovative fabric, minimal seams, and an excellent chamois, they will suit the needs of most - casual and competitive cyclists alike. There are no specific aerodynamic details but they are comfortable and won't chafe. Unless you want a special race-day bib short these are the best choice for most people.
The only thing to keep in mind is that while the Premio Black bib shorts are ever so slightly more relaxed, the fit is still Castelli. They fit tight and, in this case, might not work for taller riders. As long as you can get the fit to work for you though there's almost no downside.
Tech Specs: Castelli Premio Black Bib Shorts
- Price: £220.00 / $259.99 / €220.00
- Materials: Forza fabric with 38% Lycra content
- Weight: 156g
- Size availability: S-XXXL
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