The Castelli Tabula Rasa Bib Shorts are well made, breathable and comfortable, and a good option for all-day riding, although the bold design won't be for everyone.
- Pros: Comfortable, breathable
- Cons: Straps could be stretchier, design won't appeal to all
The Tabula Rasa are mid-range bib shorts for Castelli. One of their highlights is that the entire shorts fabric can be printed on, but this hasn't been done at the expense of some of the other key features. Their unique design won't necessarily be to all tastes, with bold orange stripes across the shorts on top of a dark teal colour, but they put in a good performance – particularly over long distances.
As with all bib shorts, one of the most important elements is the seat pad. For the Tabula Rasa, Castelli has used its Kiss Air2 pad, not the Progetto X2 Air that you find in its top-of-the-range models but still an impressive pad. It has variable foam densities which help you stay comfortable in a number of positions and it keeps you well supported throughout long rides. I found that the shorts performed well even after several hours in the saddle.
Breathability is good for this price range, although not quite up there with some of the more expensive options. I'd say they're a good option for spring rides and cooler summer days, offering a little more warmth when starting out on a cold morning but not letting you overheat when temperatures begin to climb.
The ProFit Lycra used throughout the legs allows for a decent amount of movement, although they have less stretch than others I've used, so don't offer quite as much freedom. Castelli has used five panels on the shorts, one large on each side wrapping around the majority of the leg, two wrapping around the legs at the hem, one across the seat pad of the shorts and one large panel running up the back of the legs and elongating up the back. These are held together with strong stitching and flatlock seams on the legs to maintain comfort.
Up top, Castelli has included meshed straps with a hem to stop twisting. These work well for breathability as the mesh allows heat to move away from the body quickly. However, the fabric used doesn't have as much stretch as some, so for those with long bodies (like myself) the straps could be a little tight. If possible, try before you buy.
An RRP of £110 isn't cheap, but isn't astronomical compared to what you can pay for top spec bib shorts. They are comparable to the Nalini AHS Marmotte bib shorts that I tested last year, which come in at the same price. The Castellis don't have the same amount of stretch, but I'd say they just edge it when it comes to the pad.
Their biggest rivals are probably the Rapha Men's Core Bib Shorts, with the current offering coming in at £85 (although they were £100 when we reviewed them a few years ago). The Tabula Rasas offer a more exciting design, although Rapha's offerings pip them on price.
Overall, I found the Tabula Rasa bib shorts to be comfortable on long rides and breathable – a good choice for endurance events. I also liked the interesting design that really caught the eye. However, they could do with a bit more stretch in the straps for those of us with longer bodies.
A good pair of endurance bib shorts, slightly lacking in stretch but comfortable and breathable
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Castelli Tabula Rasa Bib Shorts
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Castelli says, "With the Tabula Rasa bibshort, Castelli set out to create a performance short that allows for all-over printing for maximum creativity in the graphic design. It had to be a no-compromise short, one that you would take for our longest rides. It does feature a durable dyed nylon insert for the saddle contact areas but the rest of the short is all printable, but all performance as well."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
KISS Air2 seat pad for all-day comfort
ProFit Lycra® fabric offers maximum flexibility in graphic designs
Printable bib straps and back
Lie flat leg band
18°-30°C / 65°-86°F
Well made with strong stitching used throughout.
Performed well throughout the review and particularly good for longer rides.
Relatively thick material combined with strong stitching means they are likely to last.
Around the legs and crotch they fitted well, though they could do with a little more stretch in the straps.
Again, generally size up fine but could do with a little more stretch in the straps – especially for those with longer bodies.
Very comfortable on longer rides thanks to a well-made pad.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy – with brightly coloured printed fabrics there is always a risk of fading or running, but nothing of the sort with these.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performed well, offering comfort and breathability over long rides, and I like the head-turning design.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The pad is great over long distances.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The straps could do with a bit more stretch.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They are comparable to the Nalini AHS Marmotte bib shorts that I tested last year, which come in at the same price. The Castellis don't have the same amount of stretch, but just edge it when it comes to the pad. Their biggest rivals are probably the Rapha Men's Core Bib Shorts, with the current offering coming in at £85 (although they were £100 when we reviewed them a few years ago). These shorts offer a more exciting design, although Rapha's offering pip them on price.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes – though I might size up for the straps.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The shorts offer a lot of comfort and breathability plus they have a head-turning design. Overall they're a decent pair of endurance shorts with a great pad, and if they had a bit more stretch in the straps I'd give them an 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cinelli Gazzetta My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.