Aero is fast. This skinsuit is designed for all day riding.
Nearly everyone likes increased efficiency on the bike. The reduction in wasted effort can result in either riding at the same speed with less effort or going a greater speed with the same effort. It’s a win both for those who feel lazy and those who feel energetic.
When it comes to aerodynamic drag, the body is the biggest obstacle and the hardest to streamline. One can bend elbows more, drop handlebars lower, to minimize frontal area, but it’s always going to be there. But flapping clothing doesn’t have to be. Loose-fitting clothes, even at slowish speeds can slow you down further, especially if it’s a windy day, or you’re wearing something extra-big.
It’s for this reason that “race suits” have become a thing. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s most loosely defined as a skinsuit with pockets or a road racing skinsuit. For bike racers, the small gains achieved by having sleeves that don’t flap or clothing that doesn’t billow can be the difference between winning and losing, so, too can the ease of taking a “nature break” in a race suit versus a skin suit. For the rest of us, it just makes the ride go by easier or faster, or both. And the longer you ride, the bigger the difference. Ride for an hour and the difference may seem small (though it could be in the range of two minutes in a 40km time trial, which is well beyond marginal). But make it four hours, and it gets big.
There’s a bit more to the race suit. Many of them are designed to get in and out of more easily than a traditional skinsuit. In practical terms, this means that the front torso panels are separated from the legs, while the rear torso panels are stitched to the legs. It’s a design Castelli pioneered in 2011, and nearly every spandex cycling clothing manufacturer has their take on it. If they sponsor a racing team, on or off road, they make one, and if they don’t, another company is making them and slapping on another name.
Santini’s Genio Skinsuit is a consumer version of the race suit they designed for their pro teams, including both the men’s and women’s Trek-Segafredo squads. Santini has long been a major supplier for race teams, but the Italian company has rarely ventured outside of Europe. You’ve probably seen the SMS logo, short for Santini Maglificio Sportivo, aka Santini, Maker of Sports Shirts, on plenty of pro racers over the years. They’ve been slowly growing the presence in the US, both with consumer- and team-wear.
The suit follows the “traditional” form of race suits, separating the front panels from the bottoms, but stitching the back and sides to the shorts. This both makes it easier to get on, while still holding the shorts in place with the back and sides functioning as bibs would. To keep things bib-like, there’s a bit of mesh netting across the front above where the shorts end, which probably also helps with holding the shorts up. Santini designed the suit for both comfort and performance. Three full-sized pockets in back, so you can take food, drink, and spare clothing. The bottoms have raw-cut, silicone-backed spandex bands across the bottom of the legs. Thunderbike Power spandex is used for the rest of the bottoms. The back and pockets and sleeves are made of a very thin Bodyfit spandex, with the sleeves featuring raw edges. The side and front panels are a meshy Rudy spandex.
We went with the Small size.
The 8cm wide leg bands are the hardest we’ve ever had the pleasure of tugging on to our body. We found it essential to turn them inside out to get into place. The spandex in the legs is fairly compressive, but still light. The pockets measure 17cm tall, have excellent stretch, and extra elastic at the top of the pockets to hold things in.
The pad uses is Santini’s top-of-the-line C3 chamois. They rate this an eight-hour pad, with a soft, dimpled top, and multiple thicknesses of padding and differing densities of padding as well. The sit bones are protected by a gel and there’s a deep channel between the sit-bone pads. The channel seems a bit stiff, which holds the padding blocks apart.
There’s a big contrast when wearing the Genio. The leg bands are really noticeable, the leg panels fairly noticeable, but the upper half of the suit feels like it’s barely there. The sleeves in particular seem light to the point of barely existing.
Getting into the Genio top is much easier than a skinsuit. Once the legs are in place, the top goes on like a full-zip jersey. The fabrics have so much stretch that it was easier than some other skin-tight jerseys we own.
On the bike, the legs feel snug, but they give when they need to and the legs don’t slide at all, even when dripping wet. The top still feels barely-there. And unlike traditional skinsuits, the separated front panels mean there’s no bunching of the zipper, even when riding in the drops with elbows bent. The arms, even when sweat-soaked, stayed in place, despite not having any extra elastic or gripper material.
The pockets ride about where they do on a number of our jerseys. They were deep enough to hold a bottle and stretchy enough to be overfilled and still work. And, thanks to being part of the suit, overfilled pockets didn’t slide or bounce.
The chamois feels a bit thick off the bike. Once riding, it pretty much disappears, which is a good thing for us. The padding compresses and doesn’t get in the way. the dimples do a fine job of helping wick away sweat.
We’ve worn this on various spring and summer days, with the temps as cool as 60-degrees and as warm as 90-degrees. At 60, a base-layer is necessary. That need disappeared at about 65 degrees and riding hard. It remained comfortable on the 90-degree rides as well. The front panels are well aerated, and the back panel seems to wick and breathe better than most spandex we’ve worn.
While we didn’t take the Genio into a wind tunnel to validate aerodynamics, it is comfy and doesn’t flap around, making it great for any time we want to go out for a few hours—either we can ride longer or get back quicker, mostly the former. And on hot days, not having the overlapping material of bibs under the jersey is a plus for comfort. It’s the first time we’ve tried a skinsuit outside of racing. The only drawback is the incompatibility with “polite” society, but then, just about all spandex fabric has that same issue.
If there’s a complaint, it’s about how this should fit. Their size chart suggested we go with a small, but the legs we measure at 27cm long, which is longer than any other shorts we’ve owned in this size. It’s also longer than the size listed on the size chart, which suggests they should be 21-22cm. All the more striking considering how the top fit perfectly.
Even if the legs aren’t perfect, the comfort is great and the reduced drag is welcome. There are times when a skinsuit seems like a onesie. But this Santini Genio Skinsuit gives childlike freedom, which seems extravagant, except when riding.