New for summer 2016, the Mondiale bib shorts are Castelli's top of the line design, promising to be the most comfortable and luxurious bib shorts it's ever made. In a departure from how these things generally work, you won't see any of the pros wearing them. We'll come back to why that is, but they're missing out – these are the best bib shorts I've used. Comfort from Castelli's excellent Progetto X2 Air pad is a given, but the fabric used is unlike any that Castelli has used before, combining comfort, support and a seriously classy feel.
Castelli has dropped the Body Paint bibs from its range, but some of their DNA lives on in the Mondiale, specifically in the exceptionally low seam count. Until really not that long ago, you'd pay more for shorts made from a higher number of panels, as they were reckoned to offer a better fit. Thing is, more panels equals more seams, and the seams are rarely the most comfortable part of anything.
With the Mondiale, the only seams on the lower parts run down the inside of each thigh, and up the middle front and back. In a first, as far as I'm aware, Castelli has taped these seams on the inside with a narrow strip of soft fabric tape. Not for water resistance – none is claimed here – but just to maximise comfort.
The major news in terms of the construction of the Mondiale bibs is the use of a brand new fabric called Cinquanta. It's 50% Lycra, a higher percentage than seen on most shorts, with the balance being polyamide. It's pretty classy looking and feels super primo too. Despite the high Lycra content, it's not significantly more stretchy than that used in most bibs, and certainly nowhere near as elastic as the knitted fabric used in Howies bibs, for example.
You can't sublimate graphics onto the fabric, and that's the reason you won't see the pros wearing the Mondiale in races – it is only available in plain black. Fans of big logos, these are not your shorts. Instead, there's a very slick silver Castelli logo stuck on the left leg next to a small scorpion, and that's it. Both are remaining firmly in place thus far. I really like the minimalist, classy look.
When you put them on, the Mondiale bib shorts feel more supportive than Castelli's other top-end shorts, the Free Aero Race. The fabric sits flat against the skin and the fit is excellent. My only quibble was that I found there was a little more pressure around the groin area than I would ideally have liked. Per Castelli's sizing chart, I fall between a medium and a large. This is classic Italian sizing – in reality a medium would have been uncomfortably tight and I'm actually between a large and an XL (as with other Castelli shorts and tights). Consider sizing up, in other words. I tested a large, although in our pictures the model (not me) is wearing a medium.
It is quite remarkable how it is possible to design bib shorts which fit this well with so few seams. On long rides, I found I never felt the need to adjust the position of the shorts – they stayed perfectly in place for hours. Around the thighs, there are gripper strips bonded inside the openings – 30mm-wide bands with "Mondiale" written in lightly tacky letters. Unusually, it's completely invisible from the outside, contributing to the overall classy looks.
The bib straps themselves are also very comfortable, being made of raw-cut seamless fabric. At the front they are lined on the inside with the same red tape as used on the leg openings. The panel at the rear, already made of ultra-lightweight fabric, is perforated to help keep you cool.
I've not really talked about the pad yet; it's the same Progetto X2 Air as Castelli uses across its high-end bibs and tights, and as we've reported previously, it's pretty close to perfection. It's quite a complex assembly with two layers that can move independently of each other, and perforated viscous pads that sit under the sit bones, made of a sort of ultra-soft silicone.
The top layer is made of really soft microdenier fabric with a "bacteriostatic finish". Below this the foam is of varying density and varying thickness, putting padding where you want it and not where you don't. There are perforations through the foam to allow the movement of air, and even riding hard on the hottest of days, I never had any discomfort.
I've owned another pair of Castelli bibs with the same pad and found it consistently comfortable there too. However the various bits of foam and silicone did start to peel apart after a couple of years of regular but not intensive use, on which basis durability may not be on a par with the best.
In the testing period I had no such issues – only the small red stripe between the shoulder blades started to peel off, which has no functional effect that I could determine.
A couple of other details to note. As the Mondiale isn't marketed as racewear, there is no radio pocket on the rear. If that's a requirement for you, you've probably got someone providing your clothing anyway. Finally, an interesting detail which is invisible from the outside. Above each hip there is a large rectangle of the same Cinquanta fabric bonded to the inside of the main panel. I couldn't find any explanation as to its function, but it seems likely that it is intended to contribute to the overall fit, reducing stretch in this region to keep the fabric flat against your skin.
At £190, these are the most expensive Castelli bibs yet, although still some way short of top end Rapha or Assos pricing. A lot of us would struggle to justify that sort of outlay, but if that's your budget, they should definitely be on your shortlist. They're the most beautifully made and comfortable bib shorts I've used.
Stunning luxury bib shorts at a premium price – if you can afford them, you'll love them
road.cc test report
Make and model: Castelli Mondiale Bibshort
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Castelli says: "With the Mondiale Bibshort we simply set out to design the most comfortable, luxurious bibshort we could make. Everything we do in some way goes back to speed, and in this case the Mondiale short is made for your longest training rides to make you faster for race day in your Free Aero Race Bibshorts, or those rides where you're just out enjoying your race fitness. Either way, this short is obscenely comfortable with its new 220g Cinquanta fabric with a full 50% Lycra® content that coddles you unlike any short you've ever worn. The construction builds on the comfort we developed with our Body Paint shorts, but the new higher-rebound fabric provides greater support with improved freedom of movement. Laser-cut ventilation on the back and no-sew bonded seams complete the feeling that we held absolutely nothing back in making the most comfortable short you've ever used."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
New 220 g/m2 Cinquanta fabric with 50% Lycra® content for incredible stretch and rebound and an insanely soft hand
Reduced panel construction eliminates seams for better fit and comfort
Progetto X2 Air seat pad for pro-level comfort
No-sew bonded bib straps with upper-back 3D shaped yoke
Laser-cut ventilation holes on back of bib
No-sew bonded leg endings with silicone gripper
It's worth finding a shop with these in stock just to go along and have a fondle. They feel pretty special, mostly thanks to the high-end Cinquanta fabric and the bonded construction with hardly any seams. They are quite lovely.
Among the absolute best. Brilliant pad and exceptional fit make them comfortable for hours.
I've had other Castelli bibs where the same pad has started to come apart sooner than I would have hoped. No major issues during testing, and it's too early to say how the bonded seams will fare after a few dozen washes.
Wizardry from Castelli to get such a refined fit with so few panels. Only minor criticism was that I found them a bit too tight around the groin.
Per Castelli's chart, my 34in waist puts me between a medium and a large. In reality, the large I tested was a snug but comfortable fit and I rather doubt I'd fit in a medium. Italian sizing, in other words.
Standard sort of weight for bibs.
£190 is pretty pricey for bib shorts, exactly the same price as Rapha's Pro Team bibs. Construction is more premium here, though, more in line with Rapha's £220 Pro Team Aeros. Does that make these a bargain?
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
They've been through the wash a bunch of times and are still looking pretty much as new. No wash bag provided for them.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly. I literally didn't give them a thought over periods of hours in the saddle.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Superlative comfort, ultra grown-up styling, lovely primo fabric.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd like a little more room in the KukuPenthouse area.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? As a special treat, yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Novel fabric and a brilliant fit, plus the fantastic Progetto X2 Air pad, make for near-perfect bibshorts. They're expensive, but they're good enough to justify the price.
About the tester
I usually ride: On-one Bish Bash Bosh My best bike is: Rose X-Lite CRS
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
Jez spends his days making robots that drive cars but is happiest when on two wheels. His roots are in mountain biking but he spends more time nowadays on the road, occasionally racing but more often just riding.