Review: Castelli SR Body Paint Tri Suit
Aug 18, 2014
article & images by Nick Salazar
Recently I reviewed the "Course" line of suits from Louis Garneau. In that review, I called out the fact that there are precious few pieces of pro-level apparel on the market. You can buy the bike, the wheels, the helmet, and the shoes. But when it comes to the garb, it can be hard to buy the exact equipment pros are riding, either on the Pro Tour or the Pro Tri roster. But just as I called out Louis Garneau as an exception to that rule, today I'm going to talk about another. Castelli, the venerable Italian apparel company, offers ALL of their pro-level apparel to consumers, and it's amazing stuff.
In fact, today's review is a great followup to the LG review linked above. In that review, I noted that it was a shame that the pattern of LG's Course Skin Suit (itself very similar to Castelli's San Remo Skin Suit) wasn't ported directly to the Course Tri Suit. Well, Castelli's San Remo Tri Suit does have that kind of a pattern. Specifically, it's basically like a pair of bibs with an integrated jersey that zips over the "bib" part of the suit. If that's confusing, have a look at the gallery images below.
Why is that construction so cool? For one thing, it's really comfortable. And when done right (as both Castelli certainly does), it can represent an aero advantage. Form-fitting fabrics, devoid of extranneous seams, can allow you to present a smaller and/or smoother profile to the wind. Put simply, wrinkles can cost time. The better your suit fits, the less drag you incur. How much time can you save? Well, Specialized has recently been publishing a lot of very cool videos from their wind tunnel in a YouTube series called "The Win Tunnel," and recently did a great piece on the aero cost of clothing. In short, there's a BIG difference between loose fit and form fit (in their test, about 1.5 minutes per 40k). So let's get into the suit at hand.
San Remo Body Paint
The particular variant of the San Remo Tri Suit I am reviewing is the Body Paint Sleeveless. It's also available in Body Paint Short Sleeves, and a standard Short Sleeves version (no Body Paint designation). What does the "Body Paint" tag get you? Slightly more advanced fabrics, slightly fewer seams (particularly down by the leg hems), and less use of elastics (the Body Paint suits use seamless hems and integrated leg grippers rather than a seam + elastics). But the overall pattern is the same.
As mentioned above, fit is critical to a good suit. I'd suggest that pro-level suits are generally a slightly smaller (or at the least, tighter) fit than standard-level apparel, since pros are generally on the leaner side. So selecting the correct size is just as important as which suit you choose. For my part, I usually wear size Medium gear, and unless I know better, I always select a Medium when getting new apparel. As you can see in the pictures, it's a very snug fit, true to the "Body Paint" name. Any snugger, and I'd size up. But this one seems just about right, especially when I've been training well and laying off the cheesecake!
So how does it perform? As expected, the suit is fantastic. The legs and shorts stay put, without riding or chafing. The integrated jersey is a welcome fit, and provides the convenience of a separate jersey with the support of bibs. Generally, I dislike tri suits with a waistline seam, but the San Remo construction provides the best of both worlds, adding that waistline separation (for convenient pit stops) without rubbing or cinching at the waist. One caveat is that you need to take a little more time climbing into the suit in the first place, since it's generally tighter than what you might be used to. Not anywhere near as difficult as, say, getting into a wetsuit, but maybe worth an extra 10-20 seconds of effort to make sure everything is in its right place, so to speak.
The storage options on the San Remo are somewhat limited, but still do the job well. It features just two pockets on the back, with horizontally-oriented openings. These are very deep, going all the way to the centerline of the back, and have lots of room. The only danger here is that if you overstuff them, some of your stuff could potentially slide out, so be careful there. For moderate amounts of gear, the pockets work very well, and actually seem a little easier to use from the aero position compared to standard vertical openings. Compared to the LG Course Skin Suit, the pockets seem to sit a little tighter on the back, but offer perhaps slightly less storage volume. Something to consider depending on whether you tend to carry a lot in your jersey pockets versus elsewhere on the bike.
In all, it's an excellent suit, and something to consider for an athlete looking to upgrade.