The Castelli Mondiale bibshorts pair incredible comfort with understated style. Could they be the perfect cycling shorts?
Castelli's Mondiale bibshorts were designed to be the Italian brand's most comfortable cycling shorts ever and after hundreds of miles in the saddle, we have to agree.
It's clear there's something special about the Mondiales from the moment you lay your fingers on them and feel the texture of the new Cinquanta fabric. Smooth, soft and utterly luxuriant, the sense that they're a class above the rest is instant.
An evolution of the brand's super comfy Body Paint shorts, the Mondiales have been created with a hold-nothing-back attitude for day-long comfort. It's remarkable how Castelli has managed to manufacture the shorts with so few seams.
The smooth design not only promises exceptional chafe-free comfort, but gives the Mondiales a sophisticated look that's hard to come by from a pair of cycling shorts. If you're not into bright colours, large branding and out-there graphics, these are certainly the shorts to aspire to. Then there's also the fact that the muted design matches well with every jersey out there.
Rather than sew any seams that do remain, Castelli has opted for a bonding process that equals lie-flat comfort that's particularly noticeable on the wide, stretchy shoulder straps. The detailing is just what you'd expect from Castelli: functional, yet stylish. The no-sew bonded hems give the shorts a crisp finish while the underside features silicone grippers spelling out the shorts' name, which speak to the brand's passion for quality and attention to detail.
The laser-cut perforations on the back of the bib are similarly thoughtful, aiding ventilation without foregoing the support and comfort for the thin, smooth material there. Like the lower section of the shorts, the straps are remarkable for their simplicity, practicality and style.
The all-new bibshort design of the Mondiale is paired with an old favourite – the ever dependable and sumptuously comfy Progetto X2 Air seat pad. The same used by Tour de France pro team, Cannondale-Drapac, this industry-leading pad features a seamless four-way stretch layer with optimized airflow to aid evaporation, antibacterial protection and variable thickness padding for the ultimate in on-the-bike comfort.
All these features come in at an incredible 171g (size large) – even lighter than the race-specific Free Aero Race bibshort.
On The Bike
The first impressions of comfort are immediately borne out when you pull on the Mondiale bibs. The Cinquanta fabric, which has a 50 per cent Lycra content, gives a compressive fit that holds the quads in a comfortably close embrace. I'm usually a medium and this proved the best size for these shorts too. The torso is also close fitting without causing any pressure and the stretchiness of the straps' white and red sections make for a comfy, tailored fit.
After saddling up, it's pure class. The Progetto X2 Air pad gives all-day comfort for contact points and the Mondiale's unique material takes care of everything else. Despite the cossetted support, there's the utmost freedom of movement – simply no restriction at all. Add to this the lack of annoying seams to rub on the saddle and you're left with complete comfort and smoothness.
The first real test for my pair of Mondiale bibs was 95 unseasonably warm miles of the Dragon Ride. It's perhaps a gamble to try new shorts in this environment, but so convinced was I of the material, and the Progetto pad's compatibility with my backside, that it didn't seem like one. On the contrary, it's exactly the sort of situation to break the shorts out – when comfort over a long, hilly day takes priority.
In fact, it proved to be a great decision. As the miles wore on and other minor annoyances – such as a very slightly off-angle headset cap – became amplified into major distractions, the Mondiales were just perfect, still hugging the legs in a reassuring way that almost seemed to whisper, at least to a slightly bonking mind, 'Don't worry, it'll all be over soon. Nearly there.'
Every ride I've worn them on since has been the same story – no fuss comfort. In fact, that initial compression has relaxed a little after a couple of washes for even greater comfort. The shorts also stay in place on the legs so beautifully that over 90 miles, the silicone grippers stay so true that you could read the mirrored Mondiale name on my quads! If you ever find shorts riding up an issue, rest assured that the Mondiales are the answer.
Despite growing heat, and Castelli's lower breathability score compared to the brand's more race-orientated shorts, the Mondiales have performed consistently well in the UK's hottest riding conditions, with no feeling of excess sweatiness or heat build-up. This was my only worry with the shorts, and a final potential stumbling block that the usual Castelli magic has overcome.
Simply put, in the case of the Mondiale bibshorts, the second-skin cliche is actually applicable. They're beautifully made, gorgeous to look at and feel amazingly comfortable to ride in.
Tom Ballard – Saddleback digital content editor.