Castelli's Free AR 4.1 jersey takes proven race tech and blends it with everyday convenience features, making an aggressively cut top that everyday riders might want to buy.
- Pros: Good aero fit for many, aero fabrics, lightweight, cool
- Cons: Price is a bit steep
A few years back, when aero clothing designs were really starting to emerge beyond their pure racing confines, you'd often buy them knowing that you sacrificed something, whether it be comfort, practicality or your vanity. The Castelli Free AR 4.1 has none of these drawbacks, while still feeling like a bone fide aero jersey.
While there are claims of a 12-watt saving when rolling at 40km/h thanks to the use of 'Velocity' fabric, which is dimpled around the front of the torso and over the shoulders to create a boundary layer for onrushing air to flow smoothly over, plus 'Nervato' fabric at the arms to trip air, it's the cut that lends the jersey its appeal-to-many characteristic.
It's very slim yet has enough give within the fabric to allow anyone with a reasonable amount of bulk to fit in their normal size. I had no trouble fitting into a large – my general size of choice for a jersey – and at no point felt restricted in any position on the bike. I can't definitively tell you if it made me faster, with all the variables of the real world thrown in, but there's very little 'noise' and flapping detectable around the jersey, which indicates that it's probably slicing the air relatively cleanly.
As was demonstrated with the Entrata 3 jersey – which is marginally more relaxed, in my view, than the Free AR 4.1 – Castelli seems to be hitting a great blend of fit and comfort with some its jerseys, moving away from the classic Italian small cut we've become used to.
The cuffs don't feature a single silicone strip, instead favouring a textured mesh fabric that's 'raw-edged' to retain position on the arms. It's a good solution – it keeps the fabric flush against the skin without creating a tourniquet-like band around the arm. It also helps to minimise chafing and rubbing when the weather heats up, you're sweating, and there's some sun cream in the mix too.
The length is adequate without causing bunching at the front, and the rear pockets are a decent size too. The length in the rear of the jersey helps to facilitate this, as well as the easy-to-reach openings, which don't take Mr Tickle's arms to get into. It also benefits from a zipped security pocket, which is always handy to keep things like keys and money safe and separate.
At the neck you'll find a zip garage to allow it to be zipped the whole way up without catching or chafing. With my wide neck (and yes it is me in the pics), I needed to have it released slightly to allow unrestricted breathing, but it's rare for me to come across a jersey that fits me perfectly in this area.
It's quite light, too, at 155g, and in the recent warm spell that followed the back end of our freezing winter/spring, it's proven very breathable and cool to ride in – ideal for the British summer, layered with a lightweight gilet when needed.
The design is stylish without being garish – so will likely appeal to a wide range of riders – and can also be had in two greys and a navy alongside the red on test. I also found that typical Castelli quality is also present, remaining practically as-new after 40-degree washes with no frays or deterioration.
At £95, the Free AR 4.1 jersey is a chunk more than the Entrata 3, but for that you get a little extra in the aero department. And, to some, that's worth its weight in gold. Then again, there are others out there such as dhb's Aeron Speed that offer aero and a lower price tag.
Very good performance jersey with all-round appeal alongside aero nods for the racers
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Castelli Free AR 4.1 Jersey
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
"This jersey is an evolution of our top pro racing jersey from just a few year back. It's also our first aero race jersey that didn't get retired when the next generation of faster, more aero jerseys came along. The Aero Race 4.0 Jersey was very fast but also an amazing mix of classic good looks and a stretchy fit that works on a lot of body types, not just the skinny racer. For the 4.1 version we've taken it a different direction, away from pro racing, by giving it the convenience features that seamed superfluous when we designed the 4.0 to win the Giro d'Italia. This updated jersey gets a zippered rear pocket, a flap behind the zipper to protect your neck, updated Velocity dimpled fabric on the front and an angled pocket for easier access. This makes it the one ideal jersey for all your rides, whether you're sprinting for the win or trying to survive the Sunday group ride."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Saves approximately 12 watts at 40 km/h compared to a normal race-fit jersey
- Velocity dimpled fabric on front and shoulders for improved wicking and faster drying
- Full-length YKK® Vislon® zipper with neck protector
- Nervato fabric at armholes for improved aerodynamics
- Silicone gripper elastic at waist
- Mesh raw-edge arm grippers
- Zippered rear pocket
Quality, as you might expect.
No complaints here – seems to do what it's meant to, even if we can't verify the wattage gain.
I had no issues with it.
Generally, a very nice fit for a normal-sized rider.
More generous than Castelli's usual sizing – almost exactly to size.
I'd perhaps expect an 'aero' jersey like this to weigh a touch less, but it's not exactly heavy.
Very comfortable, no question.
There's bags of performance here, but I think £95 is a premium price in anyone's book.
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
Really well – it feels quick to ride in.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Aero fit for the masses, breathability, general quality.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing, but the price is high.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Classic Castelli quality with some added aero fabrics; that drives up the price a touch, but overall it's still a very good performance jersey.
About the tester
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: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding