The Castelli Omloop Thermal bib shorts successfully keep things toasty when the temperatures drop, and if the leg length is right you're looking at a very, very good pair of bib shorts for cooler weather. If they're just a little long (but fit perfectly elsewhere), you might have the same issues as I did with where they sit at the back of the knee.
Castelli says the Omloops are designed in response to pro riders' desires to have extra leg length without feeling restrictive around the knees. The story goes that when Cervelo Test Team rider Jeremy Hunt cut off his knee warmers in 2009 to achieve a halfway house between a three-quarter and standard thermal bib short, he started "a trend that continues to this day".
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Having tried these, I'm afraid it's not a trend I'll be following. My issue was simply that, with the extended fleece section, you need to have a perfect fit on the thigh to ensure there's no rubbing or chafing around the top of the back of the knee. Yes, the extension is very soft, as Castelli claims, but even then I found the edge still noticeable – and annoying.
I can appreciate it might not be an issue for others. Perhaps the cut that maximises coverage over the thighs in taller riders, and could arguably extend over the knees in shorter riders, is desirable – in which case you'll probably really enjoy using them, especially given the thermal qualities of the entire shorts.
There's a fleece backing throughout that extends upwards into the bib section to cover the lower back, and that gives the shorts a really toasty feel in colder conditions. Seams are flat so chafing anywhere else is very unlikely too. In fact, without the leg extensions I'd say they're strong all-rounders in the thermal bib short market.
Castelli also claims top levels of breathability in the Thermoflex fabric, and I'd go along with that. I never found myself doused in sweat after rides, even when the temperature rose into double figures, although I still felt too hot when the sun beat down and windchill was reduced at times. They're not windproof, but in terms of breathabilty that's no bad thing.
They're very comfortable elsewhere. Over the shoulders, a highly elasticated flat fabric band helps to distribute tension evenly, while the upper back is meshed to allow a little breathability when it's needed. Certainly, I can have no complaints in the large size I had, which although a size up from my normal bib size, fitted like a glove in the top half. Part of this is down to the fact that Castelli kit can come up a little small compared to others, something worth bearing in mind.
As with other Rosso Corsa-level kit, the pad is extremely good too. Vitally important, especially if you're planning on a trip over the cobbles next season, the Progetto X2 Air chamois remains one of the best I've ridden in. It's graded, large, yet very mouldable in a one-piece kind of way (as opposed to straight-up foldable down the middle, like Cytech's tend to be), and will see you through a long (and testing) day in the saddle.
There's no special treatment required in the wash – stick them in with the rest of your kit on your chosen setting (40 degrees or below), and they return in as-new condition, while the quality of Castelli kit generally fully justifies their often-premium price tags.
> Buyer's Guide: Bib shorts – the key to cycling comfort
In fact, £120 isn't too much to ask for – if you're sure the extensions aren't going to bother you. If knee-length bibs or knee warmers just aren't your thing, then I can recommend these wholeheartedly.
Top quality, but leg length does need to be spot on for comfort
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Make and model: Castelli Omloop Thermal bib shorts
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: "We first saw this back in 2009 when our Cervélo TestTeam rider Jeremy Hunt rode the Omloop Het Nieuwsblad in knee warmers that he had cut to knee length. It took six years for it to catch on, but we saw half a dozen or so riders starting the 2015 Omloop with that same look. So we engineered a fabric that lets us leave a soft raw edge at the back of the knee that won't cut into you, and we started riding prototypes. Once again the guys who do this for a living have come up with a new way to dress. It's significantly warmer than a thermal short but doesn't feel overdressed like a knicker.
"At the Belgian classics we've seen the pros cutting off their knee warmers to have a thermal layer just to the knee. So we made up some shorts to ride in and quickly realized that the pros are onto something. It feels significantly warmer than a thermal short but without the restriction of knee-warmers or 3/4 knickers. We developed a soft raw-cut edge so it's not going to cut into the back of your knee. Plus it looks very pro. Long socks required."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Thermal short cut just to the knee
- Thermoflex fabric for exceptional warmth, stretch and breathability
- Raw-cut edge at anatomically shaped knee
- Progetto X2 Air seat pad for long-distance comfort
- Mesh bib straps so that you can regulate insulation with your base layers, not the bib
- Reflective viz strips for visibility
- Weight: 214g
Rate the product for quality of construction:
They are very well made, including the extensions which are great quality and very soft.
Rate the product for performance:
Great pad and bib section, and the Thermoflex fabric is excellent at keeping you warm without overheating.
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for fit:
The legs sat just a little long on me, and I can't help thinking that's crucial; otherwise they're very comfortable.
Rate the product for sizing:
As usual Castelli kit comes up a little small.
Rate the product for weight:
They're light for cold weather bib shorts.
Rate the product for comfort:
For me, they'd receive a 9 or 10 if it wasn't for the extended legs.
Rate the product for value:
If they fit you well, £120 doesn't seem too much to ask for these bib shorts; their overall quality is excellent.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
If you want the extra coverage to just above the knee joint, they're very, very good.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Overall quality, pad and soft Thermofleece fabric.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The extensions. I know that's the USP of the shorts, but they just didn't work for me.
Did you enjoy using the product? I would have if the cut had been slightly shorter.
Would you consider buying the product? No, but...
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Absolutely, if they don't get on with 3/4s or knee warmers.
Use this box to explain your score
The Omloop Thermal Bib Shorts get a high score because the quality is undeniable; the fit just wasn't quite right for me, but if they're the right length for your legs, and you think this halfway house between 3/4 and normal length winter bib shorts will suit you, I'm sure you'll love them.
Age: 27 Height: 188cm Weight: 80kg
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
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