Castelli San Remo Speedsuit

When I was a kid going to Catholic school, before our first confession we were told that every priest had heard every sin, that nothing we could say to them would be new or surprising, so we should just get over our embarrassment and misguided ideas that we were somehow committing rare or special sins and get on with the business of confessing our misdeeds. What they were really trying to instill in us was the belief that there is nothing new or unusual we might do. I didn’t buy it.

I get the feeling that designers in Italy responsible for Castelli’s many innovations had a similar childhood. I’m sure they tired of being told there were no new ideas. How else could you labor as a clothing designer for years on end if you didn’t believe that the world was big enough to hold a few surprises yet?

It is into such a void that Castelli thrust the San Remo Speedsuit. The first couple of times I saw it I didn’t appreciate just what it was. Watching guys on TV I couldn’t tell that what I was seeing wasn’t just another ultra-tight Castelli jersey paired with a set of Body Paint bibs. Oh, but the San Remo Speedsuit is nothing ordinary. But just what is it, if it isn’t ordinary?

In broad strokes, it is the skinsuit for the 21st century. Or maybe it’s the traditional jersey and bibs rethought in as aero a manner as possible. That’s the thing: The skinsuit family tree forked a few years back. The traditional skinsuit used in a time trial has become an ever more aerodynamic garment, with fabrics that make normal Lycra seem as slippery as sandpaper on skin. Long sleeves and integrated gloves have helped ratchet up the aero-ness of an already speedy outfit. The San Remo Speedsuit heads in the other direction. It takes the skinsuit as the starting point and makes it more functional, providing the wearer with a skinsuit that is more comfortable and practical than the Lycra jail that is the traditional skinsuit.

The San Remo Speedsuit begins with Castelli’s top-of-the-line Body Paint bib shorts. They are mated to a full-zip Aero Race jersey. To look at the garment is to see something that appears utterly obvious, but it takes a bit of explaining. The rear hem of the jersey and its accompanying gripper are removed; the jersey is sewn directly into the short. Consequently, the bibs are discarded. Also, unlike the Body Paint bibs, the front hem is brought up higher, making the Speedsuit more comfortable than Body Paint bibs for people who aren’t running 4 percent body fat. The front of the Speedsuit features a full zip but the fabric is anchored where the bibs would begin their run from the belly to the shoulders. What that means is that when you unzip the front of the Speedsuit, you realize two benefits. First, you don’t end up with a disco-style V-neck design running to your navel, you end up with real ventilation. Second, you also end up with a garment that doesn’t require Houdini-like powers to remove.

Let’s back up a sec. A few years ago I had the opportunity to try one of Castelli’s Body Paint jerseys. It was like a Lycra condom for my torso. Someone is reading this right now and thinking—”Perfect! That’s just what I’ve been looking for.”—but my experience was one of claustrophobia. I couldn’t have been more surprised by my reaction. Somehow, the fact that the garment wasn’t integrated into a skinsuit made the jersey intolerable. So I didn’t review it.

Whatever wasn’t working for me then has been sorted. It’s worth mentioning that the jersey portion of the Speedsuit uses more polyester which helps eliminate the whole ohmigod-I’m-covered-in-latex-in-public thing. The front up to the shoulders is Lycra, but the sleeves and back are poly. In the pits a textured material is used to help speed air flow in what tends to be a fairly turbulent area.

Of this garment’s many selling points is how it offers three usable pockets. It’s impressive because the pockets lie flat—as they should—but they aren’t so snug that it’s difficult to get your hand in or out while holding a gel. With pros wearing their jerseys snugger, this has caused jersey pockets to sit higher because all you’re really doing is wearing a size smaller, and that makes the pockets harder to access. Well one of the added bonuses of the Speedsuit is that the pockets sit lower than they would with a similarly cut jersey, making them really easy to access.

There are those ultra-hot days when all a base layer does is absorb sweat. Ditto for bib material. Imagine a garment that is useful enough and comfortable enough to ride a century in but eliminates as much bulk as possible. It’s amazing how comfortable the shorts are given there’s only a single seam running up the inside of each leg. Despite reading about all the science that went into these things I’m still amazed that they can fit so well.

The ends of the legs are lazer-cut and receive just the barest treatment for a gripper to prevent them from riding up. My one knock on them is that there isn’t enough pad in front to protect shifting equipment, and even if chafing isn’t a problem, modesty can be. However, the Progetto X2 pad is very comfy and does a great job of offering support without staying wet with sweat.

Having just finished a ride in the Speedsuit I’m reminded of just how much easier it is to open the dam for a controlled flow than with a traditional skinsuit. It’s also better than a skinsuit in that you needn’t be the human equivalent of skim milk (fat-free) to look good in it. I’m not at all sure how they pull that off, but maybe that’s part of why they patented the design.

I reviewed a large Speedsuit, just as I wear when I don a pair Castelli’s bib shorts. Now, I normally wear a medium in Castelli’s jerseys, but that wasn’t a problem with the Speedsuit. As I mentioned previously, the top was snug without being vacuum-chamber tight. I suspect that riders who normally wear a large jersey would still be comfortable in the large Speedsuit. I really only see there being a sizing issue for those who actually have a real upper body and wear a size jersey larger than their bibs; those riders will be faced with either loose shorts or an ultra-tight top.

Castelli claims this thing has a temperature range of 53 degrees to 95 degrees. Yeah, maybe if you slather your entire body in some Mad Alchemy Madness, but honestly, I won’t wear this thing out if the temperature is much below 80. As to that upper temperature recommendation, I’m of the opinion that if it’s not too hot for you to ride, then this is a suitable answer. I’m going to RAGBRAI soon and I’ll have this thing along with me. If it’s as hot as it was last time I rode the event, I might be washing it in a sink at the end of each day. Temperature aside, the material used in the back of the Speedsuit is ventilated enough as to be practically see-through; I was able to a buddy’s chest strap through his. On bright days wearers would do well to apply sunscreen to their backs all the way from their shoulders to the waist.

Some folks will flinch at the $350 price tag. Given the quality of the bibs, the incredible fit and just how functional it is, the San Remo Speedsuit is worth every cent. Maybe not a bargain, but I once had a bargain skinsuit and I can say that was a waste of $120.

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46 comments

  1. Jim B

    Padraig,

    How did you find the sizing? I have a pair of small body paint bibs which I like very much but thinking it might be wise to go medium with the speed suit. I’m 5’8″, 142#, 37″ chest and 31.5 waist. Thanks for any thoughts. Very informative review.


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Jim: Sorry, I’d had some notes on the sizing that didn’t make it into the final copy out of sheer forgetfulness; I’ve updated the review to include them. In your case, I do think you’d be a medium in the Speedsuit.

  2. michael

    I picked up a team Garmin speedsuit from one of the numerous online stores selling them at a pretty good discount after they brought Sharp on board and the previous 2012 issue speedsuit no longer met sponsor obligations.

    i am 6’1“, 160 lbs. I am 44cm across at the shoulders with a skinny torso at 36cm. 34“inseam. i ordered a size large. it is tight standing up, snug on the hoods and fits like a charm in the drops.

    best piece of kit i have ever owned, hands down. riding unzipped on hot days and not having your jersey flapping all over the place is a sadly undervalued and frankly misunderstood feature (or what passes for hot days where i live. heat wave here = more than 2-3 days in a row of 20 celcius or so). I wear a thin base layer underneath given how airy it is.

    if I could afford to have 3 or 4 of these in different colorways in my closet, i’d get rid of all my jerseys and bibs. no lie.

    Hiya Castelli product department, any thought to offering something other than red, black and white or variations thereof to your kit? Sincerely, this speedsuit is crying out for design options :)

  3. Jon

    I originally bought a Sanremo for its aero properties, but now that I’ve experienced how comfortable it actually is, I would wear it even if it was the most non-aero thing in the world.

    Part of it is obviously that the chamois works for me, but I had no idea how comfortable not having bib-straps was until they were removed. Makes a world of difference. Also, I finally am able to unzip completely now, which is something I never did before because I hated the way the jersey would sway if the pockets were loaded. No problems with this now as the jersey is still anchored to the shorts in the rear.

  4. patrick

    Padraig, Don’t forget to mention the benefit of speed. Shortly after purchase, I rode a regular route and noticed a significant increase in average speed (about 4 – 5 kph). That was just a training route. How much would it help in a race? I would say quite a bit — even if only psychologically.

    As to sizing, I am 6’2″, 195 lbs. and normally wear XXL in Castellie shorts, and XL (snug) or XXL (a little loose) in jerseys, but wear an XL SanRemo comfortably. It’s snug standing up, but it’s not tight or restricting in the drops. It is not loose or flapping, but that’s not it’s raison d’etre anyway. The chamois pad (Progetto X2) is almost as comfortable as the Assos pad. I did try the XXL in the store, and it was not loose either, but the XL fit and I did want that second skin speed fit. And yes, the Body Paint shorts are so comfortable, you forget you’re wearing them even after hours in the saddle.

    Oh, and nice six-pack! (picture 2)

  5. Bernhard

    @Jim B | regarding sizing:
    I wouldn’t go up a size from your Bodypaint bibs.
    I personally find the SanRemo a more relaxed fit (also in the short/hip section), compared to the Bodypaint bibs.

  6. Tom

    I have the bib shorts and they’re wonderful. I went looking for the speedsuit and have decided they’re too pricey at this time.

  7. Smitty

    Hi Patrick, as one of those Castelli guys involved in the ideation and development of this speedsuit, here are a couple of other interesting bits about the San Remo…
    – the leg endings aren’t actually laser cut, they’re knit like that. So there’s no way they’ll ever unravel. The last 5cm of the legs are 43% Lycra and that’s what grips your legs to keep them from riding up.
    – in testing this in the wind tunnel we get the same aerodynamic drag as the skinsuit that Team Garmin used to win the TdF team time trial last year. Without giving away too much, it’s mostly due to the fact that the fabrics on the shoulders and back are extremely fast, while we were able to minimize the drag from the pockets and exposed zipper. In real numbers, at 40km this saves about 8 watts compared to our aero race jersey which is 10w faster than your old style race jersey. That’s about 53 seconds saved every 40 km.
    – I’ve used mine in temps down into the 50s with a thicker base layer and arm warmers.

    Michael – watch our website for Summer 13 with new graphics and more color options

  8. michael

    @Smitty – now THAT is what i call proaactive product placement. I assume reveals will occur at Eurobike shortly?

    Secondly, if you fine folks would make the cx version available as part of the collection and not just a custom piece, I am positive it would be a big seller in the cooler parts of the world (entirely selfish wishful thinking on my part!)

    Not all of us can afford to place a minimum order for 5 suits ;)

  9. Smitty

    Michael – the San Remo ‘Cross Suit is available in the collection beginning with Fall ’12. You can see it up on our website castelli-cycling.com

  10. Robert

    Smitty,

    I have a San Remo Speedsuit and love it. Looking forward to more graphics/color options. I’m thinking of picking up a CX Speedsuit for the colder weather coming – am I seeing the photos correctly, does the CX version not have rear pockets?

  11. Smitty

    Robert – the CX Speedsuit does not have pockets. All our ‘crossers vehemently urged against it when we were developing the piece, although now that it’s out I’m hearing a lot of support for pockets. We’re going to have to take a look at this. I’d be interested to hear other opinions.

    We also have the San Remo Thermosuit – one of my favorite pieces from this winter 12 line. It basically uses San Remo suit construction to join our best wind jacket (Trasparente) with our best tight (Sorpasso), so you end up with a phenomenal one piece suit with no air drafts coming in through the waist, and really quick to dress as you sneak in those lunchtime rides when the days are short.

  12. Robert

    Smitty,

    Thanks for the quick reply. I would guess that your pro ‘cross racers figure they don’t need to carry anything, since they have support there to take from them or hand them anything they might need, including a freshly washed bike each lap, but for me, I would be interested in the CX suit as a colder weather Speedsuit, but the lack of pockets is a deal-killer.

    I’ve had my eye on the Thermosuit and will check it out, though I’m guessing I would be turning to the CX version (with pockets!) more than the Thermosuit during a typical Southern California “winter.”

    Robert

  13. Smitty

    Robert – I totally understand. Don’t take it personally. We look on you SoCal guys with envious disdain. So not putting pockets on the ‘Cross suit was our little way of getting back for you guys riding through the winter with 60° and sun while we’re wearing two pairs of booties.

  14. Christian

    Purchased one of these and agree with everything said – simply the best summer kit I have ever had the pleasure of using. If cost were no object, four of these would be the totality of my summer riding kit. It is exceptionally comfortable on the bike, and as airy and light as a jersey and shorts can be.

    As a size reference for folks, since sizing of these is difficult to find and inconsistent across websites: I am 5’11”, 155-160 lbs, and a size L fits me as intended (i.e. pro-snug).

  15. refthimos

    Christian: I think those of us who have tried the San Remo Speedsuit need to enter into a pact to stay quiet on just how great this kit is – if not, pretty soon everyone will be wearing them and we will no longer have our “unfair advantage!” (sorry Smitty)

    Smitty: Despite living by the beach in SoCal where it never gets that cool, I couldn’t help myself, and picked up the Thermosuit (it has pockets! haha). Perversely enough, I’m almost looking forward to a nice cold snap or a trip to NorCal or Utah this fall/winter in order to ride in it – my initial impression is that it definitely lives up to the San Remo name.

    Sizing: I’m 6’1″, 178, saddle height 80cm or so (not sure of my inseam), and the Large works well for me in both Speedsuit and Thermosuit.

  16. Fredrik Lindh

    I can only agree on how great it is. It’s definitely my favorite garment for a ride. Although there is one thing that no one else seems to experience. If you put some stuff in the pockets it has a tendency to pull down the hole piece causing the pants to not stay in place.

    It might be a size issue but it shouldn’t. My aero jerseys are in size XL as well as my suit. The strange part is that the jerseys are very tight fitting but the jersey part on the suit actually is a little bit loose…

    Living in Sweden that thermo suit seems appealing. ;)


    1. Author
      Padraig

      Everyone: Thanks for your comments. I just had a rather epic day (89 mi., 5000 ft. of climbing) in the Speedsuit; crazy-hot day here on the coast and I was amazed at how dry the material was at the bottom of descents. I don’t think there are many garments could have kept me as comfortable on such a hot day.

  17. refthimos

    PSA: For those of you without connections or a team deal w/ Castelli (I am seriously considering one of the local teams here just so I can get the Speedsuit on the cheap), you can snag one of these for $169.99 by monitoring Chainlove.com or for $174.98 at Backcountry.com using the coupon code SAVE50

  18. Erik

    Sizing: I’m 6’1″ 32 waist, 32 inseam, 42 chest, 169 lbs. Thinking a large would be the right size but thought I’d run it by you guys first…. thoughts?

    -E

  19. Smitty

    Erik: I think you’re right in between an L and an XL. Having seen probably 120 different people trying the San Remo, I’d say the L will feel snug when you try it on but will feel good (but still snug) when you’re on the bike. The XL will feel much looser. So it depends a bit on how you like your stuff to fit: I personally don’t like overly snug shorts but I like my jerseys not to flap.

  20. JC

    I am 5’7”, 135 lbs, chest 37, waist 29. The medium aero bibs fit me and the small climber jersey fits but is a bit tight in the shoulders and chest. Should I go Medium or Small for the San Remo?

    thanks

  21. JC

    Hi Smitty, thanks for your help. I am looking to also wear it with a long sleeve base layer for the cooler months. Will size Small be able to accomodate armwarmers and layers for me?

  22. Robert

    I’ve been wearing the San Remo exclusively for a year now (I have five of ‘em) and I started at your exact height and weight and wear a L. I am now down to 170 and have been as low as 165 and the L still works (the material is very stretchy without being constricting). I have no need to go down to a M even at 165, and probably would not want to given my height. At 180, a L will be quite snug, but IMHO that’s what you’re looking for in the San Remo. This is me at 175 in the San Remo: http://www.forum.slowtwitch.com/gforum.cgi?post=4208497

  23. Sylvain Lareau

    5’6″, 70 – 71 kg (154 -156 lbs),

    Just got mine, in medium size.
    it fit but its a tight fit specially at the arm/ shoulder and standing up. Should have a bit more slack while riding.

    I will probably get use to it but wondering if a size L would be more relax.

    S.

  24. Robert

    I’m pretty surprised at your assessment. I have been wearing San Remos exclusively for over a year now (my team is sponsored by Castelli) and at 6’1, 170, the L fits great. I would imagine the L would be huge on you. I have actually been in the L San Remo at a weight of as high as 180 and as low as 164 and it still fit me great – but hard to see the L as being a good size for you.

  25. Nate

    Hi guys very nice review. I need help with sizing. Im 6’1″ 155lb and have a small torso for my hight. I were a large bib size and a small jersey size in a pro cut. What San Remo do you think would be better suited for me a Large or Medium size? It seams like a need a custom small top with large bottom model.

  26. Smitty

    Hi Nate, I’d probably go with the size L though it may not fit. The suit is cut rather tight and in your case the determining factor is going to be the length. One of the difficulties of this suit is that it doesn’t adapt to strange shapes very well, and some people just won’t fit it. You should try it on at your LBD. I’m 5’10 /150lb and the M fits me well, but I don’t think it’d stretch in length enough to fit a 6’1″ torso.

  27. Michael

    This is the best review of the speed suit I’ve seen, and I think I definitely need one. I’m 6′, 150lb and a 36″ chest: I’m not sure whether the medium would fit, or whether it might be just too short. Any ideas?

  28. Smitty

    Michael – the fabrics we use in the body of the SR Speedsuit have very little lycra so that we can keep the good moisture management. This means the polyester fabrics are relying on mechanical stretch: when they stretch in width they get shorter, or when they stretch in length they get narrower. I’m guessing that your thin torso will be just enough to let you stretch the length. It’s borderline, but you should be ok. Might pull a bit when standing, but definitely try it in the riding position.

  29. Frederick

    Hey smitty, looking to get one of these soon, my size large inferno shorts have been great but tearing around the front pad so perhaps a little to tight, however I am a size medium in ur jerseys, wat size suit wud u recommend? I’m 6ft2 and 78kg

  30. Robert

    Our team is sponsored by Castelli, I’ve been wearing the San Remo exclusively for about 1.5 years now, and have a bunch of teammates in all shapes and sizes in San Remos. So trust me when I say that you want a Large.

  31. Smitty

    Robert is right. You want a large. I’m basing that somewhat on the fact that you’re wearing L in Inferno and M in our jerseys so I’m assuming you like stuff to be close fitting. Someone your height/weight who likes their clothing a little less tight could go XL.

  32. Poul

    L or XL for me? I am 181 cm, 80 kg, use XL shorts (not bib) and L Jersey. I like the size of my shorts. I do not like a to tight Jersey. But it must not be so loose that it takes part of the aero advantage or look too loose.

  33. Andy Bryant

    The correct size really depends on your upper to lower body proportions. I’m a triathlete build rather than a pure cyclist, 5’7 133lb 37″ chest but only 30″ waist,, usually wearing small shorts and medium race-cut jersey. I hesitated before buying the San Remo, but liked the concept so much that I just bought one in small size. It feels great everywhere, apart from being slightly tight around the biceps. Very pleased and can’t wait to give it a try on the bike!

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