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Premier quality Italian bib tights put through the wringer
Castelli’s Sorpasso bib tights have been my first choice for the coldest, wettest days all winter. I haven’t written a glowing review in a while, but sometimes a product just deserves it.
Without a comfortable chamois, all the high-zoot fabrics and features in the world can’t save a pair of tights — the chamois test is pass/fail for the whole package. Luckily, Castelli has hit a chamois home run by using their Progetto X2 pad. The Sorpasso’s are one of the only bib tights I’ve found that match a high-quality summer bib for comfort. In fact, prior to testing them I had all but given up on tights with a built-in chamois, preferring to just use a pair of my favorite shorts underneath standard tights instead. The only other tights I’ve used that match the chamois quality are Giordana’s similarly priced Laser bib tights and Nalini’s much more expensive Cirello ($300).
With the chamois test passed, next up is warmth. The Sorpasso’s are incredibly warm, yet are thinner than most winter tights. I was comfortable down to single digits. The secret, apparently, is Castelli’s mix of Thermoflex and Thermoflex Core Due fabrics. The former is a soft, brushed fabric and is used over most of the tights, while Core Due adds a bit of thickness in the form of a red under layer and is used at the knees and butt. Core Due also uses some sort of hollow polyester liner in between its two layers, making it even warmer, particularly when wet.
I had one particularly memorable ride I’d rather forget in the Sorpasso tights. Temperatures were right at freezing, and the precipitation couldn’t decide whether it wanted to be snow or rain, so it gave up and came down as both. When wet, the different materials on the Sorpasso became obvious, with the Core Due sections remaining considerably warmer. Due to the material’s smart placement, particularly at my cold-sensitive knees, I was able to finish my ride — not something I was too happy about at the time, to be honest.
I dig the Sorpasso’s Giro++ bib straps, which are nice and wide and made of a stretchy seamless band. The back panel is mesh and extends most of the way up the back, while the belly is solid and comes up high enough to keep your midsection nice and warm.
Fit is slim, very European. A pair of mediums fit well (no bunches or super tight spots) on my 5’10, 140lb frame.
My only complaint with the Thermoflex Core Due is its red interior, which is slighty visible through the tights as they stretch. The result is a funky red wave across your bottom. That in itself didn’t really bother me, since I can’t see my bottom, but all the “your butt is flashing red!” comments at the local group ride got a bit old …
The Sorpasso’s don’t use an under-foot loop to keep the bottoms from riding up, though I didn’t have any problems of that nature anyway. They do use silicon rubber that grips shoe covers around the ankle to help keep everything in place. They also have a number of reflective bits — the largest being at the ankle and thigh logos — that add a bit of peace of mind on gloomy days or post-work night rides.
Castelli Sorpasso bib tights
Pros: great fit and chamois, warm, reflective bits
Cons: somewhat expensive
The Scoop: one of the best bib tights with a chamois available
Quality is worth paying for, particularly when it enhances your comfort on the bike. Yes, you could buy two, maybe even three pairs of budget bib tights for the Sorpasso’s MSRP of $180, but you’re not going to get the same level of warmth, and they’ll probably be bulkier, too. The chamois will be terrible.
You could also buy half of a pair of Assos Winter.LL tights, but that doesn’t do you much good. And those don’t even have a chamois.
The Sorpasso’s are warm yet thin, have a fantastic cut, comfortable chamois, nice reflective bits, and are stylishly Italian. Can’t ask for much more than that.