Tested: Veloforma 2010 Custom Kits by Castelli
The team kits came in at the beginning of March and I had a chance to put some good long miles in to give them the once over. Veloforma partnered with Castelli for 2010 after a relatively ho-hum experience with Champion Systems last year (the price is right, but you definitely get what you pay for).
Here’s the scoop on our new superhero outfits.
LOGISTICS AND ORDERING
Let’s address the elephant in the room. Castelli has had it’s share of troubles in the custom world. I was personally cautioned by a few different people when we decided to engage with them. (Thanks for those words of wisdom, by the way – they were very much appreciated.)
We decided to move forward with Castelli for a number of reasons. We viewed several custom lines prior to making our decision and went with what we considered to be a stellar product that had truly evolved over the past few years after lots of R&D with Cervelo Test Team. We were also very eager to work with Castelli because they are a local company.
Castelli worked with us, which we appreciated – and our concerns about logistics, production and delivery were assuaged by their strategic (and very smart) hire of a man named Rich Desmond. Rich and VF Board Member Russell Cree have known each other for a number of years and his addition to the Castelli team increased our confidence in their ability to deliver on time, get the creative right, and nail the logistics.
And they delivered.
The kits came in the week of March 1st and we’re very happy with the end result.
SwiftPlus Creative (that’s my little shop!) handled the artwork for the VF kits, which means that my favorite designer, Mr. Sal Bondi labored over templates, illustrator files, and rounds of input from the VF Board of Directors for a number of weeks in late fall and early winter.
Castelli was instrumental in helping us navigate a few details to make concept more directly map to execution. They’re good at what they do, they understand their patterns, and they’re effective in communicating with you about design strategy. We appreciated their guidance and input throughout the process.
[Note: the red-white-black arm warmers and leg warmers that you may see on some of our ladies are not part of the custom design - it’s a stock product that we bought as part of our agreement with Castelli.]
FIT AND FUNCTION
Castelli products are specifically engineered for a good on-bike fit. For this reason they look and feel better when you’re folded over your bars than they do when you’re standing around cooking Bob’s Red Mill before your ride. One of the bonuses of the Castelli custom line is that it’s not a dumbed-down version of their in-line products. You’re getting the same quality products and technologies that have benefited from years of research and development dollars.
These are the parts and pieces that I’ve tested.
Women’s AC Chamois: This pad is phenomenal. An instant win. After a year on ChampSys chamois, which are universally underwhelming (though I adapted to them with time), the difference was immediate and accompanied by an encompassing feeling of relief. Love at first ride. Truly.
Women’s Bib Short: Four words – NO ELASTIC LEG GRIPPERS. Halle-fuckin-julah. The elastic-less leg band is a things of mercy and the hand feel of these bibs is satisfying. My only gripe about this item is that they dip much lower in the front than a traditional bib. This was explained to us in the presentation as a “fit meant for an athlete” (athletes are fit and therefore do not need the girdling qualities of a high bib). I appreciate the approach, but I think that it’s a miss. Because of the tailored cut of the jersey, raising arms above the head causes the belly to be revealed on just about every body type out there. For fast women who like to win bike races and stand on podiums with their arms raised high, that’s a definite drawback. Part of me thinks that this might have been an innovation to allow men to pee with greater ease, though that was not specifically said. In either case, it doesn’t help the ladies much.
Women’s full-zip jersey – This is a great all-around jersey made from a slightly textured material with riptstop look. As I mentioned earlier, the jersey is “tailored” for a more feminine fit. In my case, this results in a length that I feel is about an inch too short, but it’s plenty long enough to do the job. Two pockets in the back are cut shorter which makes getting into them a heck of a lot easier – and though I initially thought I would miss the third pocket, I haven’t yet. The heavy zipper used with an ultra lightweight fabric results in a little bit of rippling. These jerseys feel best when you’re bent low over your bike, going for the glory – definitely not designed for standing around stuffing your mouth with pastries (which is how I initially went about testing).
Race jersey – This top of the line unisex jersey designed specifically for racing is buttery soft with an aggressively engineered fit that looks fantastic on the bike. Basically, it’s like wearing the top half of a skinsuit (with pockets). Soft, smooth, seamless and sexy. Though the ½ zip makes it less practical for training, I’m going to have a hard time not wearing this one all the time. The unisex fit is modeled after the pro cyclists body, so I’m wearing a medium and loving the fit (it’s long enough, too!)
Long-sleeve jersey - Fleece-lined and body-skimming, this is a cozy alternative in the winter and will work like a charm as a light spring jacket during morning rides in the warm seasons. The fit is dialed – close enough to feel sleek and aero but roomy enough to accommodate a thin baselayer and jersey underneath. I predict this will become one of my favorite layering pieces.
Pros: Great working relationship, fantastic communication, timely delivery, accurate execution, amazing chamois pads, and the best non-sausaging leg grippers we’ve ever loved to death.
Cons: Bib dips too low in front, jersey could be cut an inch or two longer, might miss the third pocket (I’m thinking about nabbing a mens jersey just so I have something with three pockets for longer rides). Cost might be prohibitive for some though I’d argue that the increase in quality (particularly over Champ Sys) is more than worth it.
Overall Grade: Custom is some tricky business and having gone through this process with several companies (Champion, Pactimo, Hincapie, Voler) I’m going to give Castelli an A-, which is the highest grade I’ve awarded yet.
Recommendation: If you’ve been thinking about giving Castelli a try for custom, now’s the time to do it. The changes they’ve implemented internally and with their production have significantly improved their overall custom product and process. They’re raising their game and the result is impressive.