Our passion for cycling often brings our budget to the edge of the cliff, and few of us are those who wouldn’t spend even their last coins on the products they find attractive, regardless if they need them or not. As in any other case, the items that shine the brightest are also those that are the undoing of our wallets, and they typically come from fabled manufacturers. So, it’s no wonder that the price almost all of the time makes the difference between window-shopping and taking home the beloved spoils, hence the main reason for why counterfeit products exist.
As bicycle markets steadily grew, so did the number of genuine products, but also those of counterfeit replicas. Even if a non-genuine piece of cycling apparel does not endanger a cyclist as much as a counterfeit bicycle frame would, it can be, and almost all of the time is, a source of great dissatisfaction. Therefore, we made-up an article in which we compare a set of Castelli authentic cycling equipment with a set of fake Castelli gear, pointing out key difference between the two, that will aid you in telling which is which before your money are thrown out the window. Also, the guidelines can be used, with some adaptations of course, for any other big brand’s products.
Spotting the differences
Looking at the main picture of the article, it can be difficult to identify which of the three sets of equipment is the fake one. However, even from this stage one can notice the different shades of the same colour, a flaw present only in the case of the dummy in the middle. The two panels of the bib shorts should look the same, and in a misleading picture they probably do, but once we pulled them on, the low-quality fabric overstretched and lead to the visual appearance depicted above. On the other hand, the texture of the other two pair of shorts is regular throughout their entire surface, which indicates a high-quality fabric, even more so as the red pair was an S-size, while the counterfeit an M-size.
The shorts offer another clue about who made them, a simple inspection of their ends being enough. Here we find a crucial difference, namely that the fake product uses a cheap and narrow rubber band, while the real Castelli short has a so-called leg gripper. Instead of stitching silicone elastic or a rubber band to the short, Castelli knit the grip material directly into the short in a 5cm-wide band that gently compresses while securely holding the short in place. And which of them is better and why we’ll discuss further on.
Just as important, for us at least, are the panels that compose the shorts. In the case of the cheaper product, only two such pieces form a leg, while in the other instance the structure of a leg is the result of a larger number of pieces. These implications too will be discussed further on.
Of course, key differences appear when inspecting the chamois. The genuine one bears the Castelli logo, but also has a 4-piece structure that secures superior comfort, while the not-so-genuine one has a texture similar to a textile sponge that rather cushions, than actually improves comfort and functionality.
Also, you can notice a slight difference in the way the strapts are knitted to the synthetic fabric, and another easy-to-spot trait of genuine Castelli products is the brand’s logo and the country of manufacturing.
Also, the fake shorts have all kinds of manufacturing flaws, like the unmatching pattern.
As for the jerseys, the comparison proved a bit more difficult as we didn’t have on our hands relatively correspondent products. Besides the high-quality fabrics used for the original products, there are several elements that ensure you are dealing with long-lasting quality. For instance, the seams in the upper pocket area are thicker, and generally speaking the knitting is done with a greater attention to details, even if the Castelli gear we dealt with came from the lower ranks of the product range, being manufactured in countries like Hungary, Bosnia or Moldavia.
Feeling the differences
All these differences in what regards fabrics, structure or lay-up take the shape of the cyclist’s user experience. Because counterfeit products do not use the same fabrics and treatments as originals do, you won’t benefit from the same breathability, antibacterial properties, light feeling or strength features.
We promised we’ll take the differences mentioned earlier and explain their implications. So, let’s start with the ends of the bib shorts. The fake Castelli pair of shorts will compress your thigh on a much narrower surface, which can reduce blood flow and surely leave some traces on your skin. On the other hand, the leg gripper of the authentic product avoids these issues, but also makes sure they stay in place without choking your leg, thus ensuring great comfort and functionality.
Now let’s talk about the panels. The anatomical design is taken to its highest peaks when these strips of fabric follow closely the thigh muscles and the array of movements possible when pedaling. Most of the times when you wear a high-quality pair of bib shorts you don’t even notice these things, but this happens just because the piece of apparel blends in so well with your body. To undo the little magic of the Castelli bibs, just put on the Castelli wannabes.
The chamois represents the vital part of a cycling short, but even so its role isn’t always completely understood by some users. Namely, the chamois has the purpose of reducing the friction between the perineal zone+thighs and the saddle. The idea that the chamois acts like a cushion isn’t completely wrong, but at least in the case of sportive and above cycling, choosing the right saddle influences comfort in a much stronger manner, and you can read why in this article. So, even if a chamois is thick and soft doesn’t necessarily mean it’s also comfortable. However, it plays a great part in influencing comfort, and the real skill that is implied by chamois-manufacturing is finding the right pattern for the softer and tougher patches that comprise it. Of course, the ultimate chamois is yet to be invented, and probably this situation will last for a long time to come, but a high-quality one has the following features: lack of seams, greater thickness in the perineal zone, sometimes having gel inserts, not so dense fabric in order to eliminate moisture, flexible lateral zones and anti-bacterial fabrics.
So, in the end, it would be quite unuseful to state which of the two types of apparel is better. However, if we were to provide a choice and reasons for it, we would pick the genuine equipment for the simple reason that on the long run it’s more expensive to buy cheap things. One of the key features of a genuine product is its durability, which frequently stretches over several years, while another thing that’s quite attractive in our opinion is the sheer experience of wearing such clothes, mainly for their functionality and comfort.