The legacy of the innovative Free Aero Race Bib Short includes several now includes several iterations and variations, but the Free Protect Race Bib Short is a whole new piece of gear. While Castelli's standard Vortex short fabric for the Free Aero Race was actually protective and durable, the limitations in high-speed crashes or on truly rough surfaces were real. The Protect has an interesting genesis. This short was initially made specifically in response to a request from Chris Froome to help protect him through the first dangerous stages of the Tour de France. He wanted something to reduce road rash in case of a crash on those stages when everyone wants to be at the front and crashes are frequent.
Castelli went back to the old trick, familiar to track riders, of wearing two pairs of shorts, knowing that Lycra® sliding on Lycra® is the best way to prevent or reduce road rash on your hip. For the Protect the design team used our Vortex fabric from the Free Bibshort on the outside, then added an internal layer of a stretch woven fabric reinforced with a ripstop grid made from Dyneema®, the same miracle yarn used in rock climbing ropes, supple winch ropes- even in bulletproof vests. This combination will help prevent the inner layer from ripping in many situations, sparing the rider from deep, dirty and painful abrasions. We put this dual-layer construction over the side panel of each leg, which gives generous coverage for the hip and thigh in the event of a crash. Why is this more relevant now beyond just serious pro's with a ground tour on the line? The answer is gravel- and the massive increase in gravel racing and general riding. It may not be like wearing gel impact padding, but the Free Protect Race Bib Short can spare you a half naked, bleeding ride home after a hard slide on true rocky hardpack.
So yes, there is some added price for the protection, but much less than a trip to the ER and weeks of bandages. The great aspect is you still get so much of the Free Aero Race concept and overall performance: Forza fabric on inner legs with 38% Lycra® content for perfect fit, the awesome Giro4 leg gripper elastic for better grip distributed over larger area, the stripe mesh-engineered minimalist bib construction to keep you cool, along with the famed open Doppio V construction in front for increased support and comfort. You also get perhaps the best overall race and mileage seat pad available.
Yes, this bib short houses the excellent Progetto X2 Air Seamless chamois pad. The anatomic design and 4-way stretch suits the cut and stretch of the short perfectly. The breathability from dedicated perforations within the edge padding dispel moisture and heat to keep your as fresh and dry as possible, while the soft, seamless top sheet stretches and moves with the skin. The soft microfiber also features a bacteriostatic treatment that helps to keep your skin healthy. The multi-density, variable thickness foam padding has been placed and sculpted for optimal comfort, while reducing bulk where it isn't required and under the sit bones perforated viscous inserts add an extra layer of protection. This pro-level chamois pad will carry and protect you all day long, and then again the next.
The breathability, fast moisture transfer, ample use of flatlock stitching, and super clean finishing details are here as well. In other words the Castelli Free Protect Race Bib Short truly only lacks the aero fabric component, but that is truly supplanted for need by the Protect system. Look, no cyclist wants to hit the ground, but the more you ride, the more risk there is, especially in large groups, racing environments, and yes, on gravel or rough roads. Four hours into a ten hour event you drove 12 hours to experience is a sub-optimal time to tear up your hip or upper side of your thigh. Especially in dirt, rocks, gravel, etc. Is that worth $50 to you? Of course it is. So now you have the option of a comfortable, high performance bib short with a premium chamois and extra protection. What choice will you make?