Definition of inferno: “A fire that’s dangerously out of control” and a reference to Dante’s “Hell.”
That pretty much sums up doing a hard mountain climb on a scorching Summer day, legs burning, heart rate soaring, as you suffer in your own private Hell on two wheels.
Castelli wants to save your legs and your soul with the Inferno bib short ($199). It’s expressly designed to keep you cool on the hottest days of the year.
In accomplished this feat, Castelli used seven different fabrics in the Inferno and those panels are beautifully integrated with Italian style. First, on the side panels, there’s a perforated nylon fabric that brings some cooling without the mesh drawback of too much stretch and too little support. It’s a smart way to prevent overheating and again, unlike the more transparent mesh, you’ve got protection against sun exposure.
We have several lightweight bib shorts and the trade-offs are always apparent. A lighter, thinner fabric weight inevitably means less muscle support and the pad feels looser, victimized by a fabric that can’t keep it securely in place. Castelli has taken the time to find that intelligent balance between light, breathable and supportive and that’s why the Inferno costs more and performs at a higher level.
On the inner thigh panel and seat area, they spec’d an abrasion-resistant ballistic nylon combined with a moisture wicking polyester. Again, the mandate is keeping you cool and the bonus is a tougher, built-to-last material good for many Summers to come. We particularly liked that textured seat for the style contrast with the smoother, shiny panels and we also felt less sliding around on the saddle.
The panel story doesn’t stop there because there are more fires to extinguish. Over the front of your quads and hamstrings, Castelli uses another of their Inferno-exclusive fabrics. The rib construction brings compression to the muscles and an extra degree of breathability.
Worth noting that somehow, some way, Castelli worked titanium dioxide — the protective ingredient in sun screen — into the fabrics. A tan is nice but cooking while climbing isn’t.
Wrapping things up is Castelli thin, elasticized Giro3 leg grippers with the Rosso Corsa lettering. They not only look slick but stay put and never slide up.
This brings us to the Progetto X2 Air seat pad. All that cooling isn’t worth much if you’re not comfortable. What’s interesting about the Progetto is that the surface layer focuses more on skin care with what’s described as a bacteriostatic fabric. It’s seamless and designed to mold to your nether region yet still deliver airflow. That’s one of those good-to-know things but it’s hard to pin down the experience on the saddle.
What we can say is that after two months in the Inferno, we’re super happy with the fit and comfort. It’s not an overbuilt pad and the variable density foam layer features Castelli’s Viscous insets so your pressure points are happy. What we like is the Progetto provides more comfort than you’d think for a race-inspired pad and in particular seem to mold right in to our body geometry.
While the Inferno bib straps are pitched as lightweight and nearly transparent, we didn’t find them to be that differentiated from other Summer-weight straps.
They were tighter in the standing position but perfect once you’re on the bike. In fact, overall fit was excellent but make sure you’re sticking to your diet — the Inferno is race-cut, designed for the skinny climbers of the Garmin-Sharp squad who are burning 8000 calories a day while racing up the high mountains of the Tour de France.
Final thoughts: Castelli has made a determined, full-scale effort to create a bib short for the hottest days. If you’re riding in an inferno, then the Inferno is what’s required.