Look around your local group ride, and you’ll notice many cyclists are wearing Rapha or Castelli kits these days.
In the past decade, Rapha and Castelli have emerged as among the leading brands in cycling clothing, especially after sponsoring Team Sky, which became Ineos Grenadiers. The team’s success has given Rapha and Castelli plenty of visibility among cyclists.
So which brand is better?
In this article, I’ll do a deep dive into Assos, Castelli, and Rapha and compare their product lineup to understand better what they offer.
Castelli was founded in Milan in 1876 by a tailor named Vittore Gianni. It wasn’t until 1910 that Vittore Gianne started manufacturing cycling clothing. In 1939, Armando Castelli, who had worked for Vittore Gianni since 1935, bought over the business and renamed it Castelli. The famous Castelli scorpion logo that we know today was conceived in 1974 and has gone through several revisions in the last 50 years.
Rapha was founded in London by Simon Mottram and Luke Scheybeler in 2004. Simon Mottram was a director of brand consultancy at Interbrand and a trained accountant before Rapha. Simon was the face of Rapha for its first decade of existence. Luke Scheybeler, Rapha’s creative director, designed the distinctive left arm stripe. Luke left Rapha in 2009 to set up Scheybeler+Company.
Assos was started by Tony Maier-Moussa, a keen cyclist and skier, in 1976 in Switzerland. His initial product was a carbon bike, but he pivoted to creating Lycra cycling shorts due to logistical difficulties in obtaining the carbon materials. His wife, Elaine Maier-Moussa came up with the name Assos, which means the first, the best in Greek. Assos remained a family business until 2015 when the family sold a majority stake to an investment group.
Rapha is now majority-owned by RZC Investments after a £150 million deal in early 2017. RZC Investments is run by Steuart and Tom Walton (grandsons of Sam Walton, who founded Walmart). Simon Mottram and private equity firm Active Investors still hold a minority stake in Rapha.
Castelli is owned by MVC Group, a leading high-performance cycling and winter sports clothing manufacturer. MVC Group also owns other brands, such as Sportful and Karpos.
Assos is majority-owned by an investment group that consists of New York private equity firm TZP Group, Greg Avis, and Philip N. Duff, who is currently the CEO.
Sponsored athletes and teams
In 2022, Castelli is currently the official kit sponsor of the Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl team.
Castelli also supplied the leaders’ jerseys at the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France in the late 80s and early 90s. From 2017 onwards, Castelli is the official kit supplier for the Giro d’ Italia.
Castelli has a long and rich history of sponsoring successful athletes. Its first customer was five-time Giro d’Italia winner Alfredo Binda. Successful cyclists such as Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Carlos Sastre, Chris Froome, and Julian Alaphilippe have worn Castelli kits.
Rapha is synonymous with Team Sky during its most successful period from 2013 to 2016. Chris Froome won 2013, 2014, and 2016 Tour de France wearing a Rapha kit. In 2022, Rapha is currently the official kit supplier for EF Education-EasyPost, EF Education-TIBVO-SVB, and Canyon SRAM Women Cycling.
Assos sponsored World Tour Team Qhubeka ASSOS up until 2021 before the team management decided to shut down. Besides Team Qhubeka ASSOS, Assos is the clothing supplier for the Swiss national cycling team with the likes of Fabian Cancellara.
Being established brands, Assos, Castelli, and Rapha have a full range of cycling clothing from head to toe.
Rapha’s lineup is easily understood and can be categorized into five;
- Pro Team (top of the line, race fit)
- Core (budget to mid-tier, relaxed fit)
- Classic (budget to mid-tier, relaxed fit)
- Brevet (mid-tier, insulated, relaxed fit)
- Trail (gravel and mtb)
Castelli’s lineup can be broadly categorized into two;
- Rosso Corsa is reserved for Castelli’s top-of-the-line clothing and is denoted by RC. It uses the best materials, and sizing is race cut.
- Regular is everything else, from budget to mid-range.
Assos’ lineup is split into two;
- EQUIPE Racing Series (top-of-the-line, race fit)
- MILLE Comfort Series (mid to top-of-the-line, relaxed fit)
The tables below show some popular Assos, Castelli, and Rapha clothing models.
|Aero, race||Equipe RS Jersey S9 Targa |
|Aero Race 6.0 Jersey|
|Pro Team Aero Jersey |
|Lightweight, hot weather||Equipe RSR Jersey Superleger S9|
|Climber’s 3.0 Jersey ($140)||Pro Team Jersey ($165)|
|Training, comfort||Mille GT Jersey C2 Shifter|
|Endurance Elite Jersey|
|Pro Team Training Jersey|
|Every day, comfort||Mille GT Jersey C2|
|Classic design, comfort||n/a||Classifica Jersey|
|Classic Jersey 2|
More reading : Castelli Jerseys Comparison, Details and Pricing
|Winter jacket||Equipe RS Winter Jacket Johdah ($725)||Alpha RoS 2 Jacket|
|Pro Team Winter Jacket ($250)|
|Wind jacket||Mille GT Wind Jacket|
|Aria Shell Jacket ($140)||Brevet Flyweight Wind Jacket ($175)|
|Rain jacket (Race fit)||Equipe RS Rain Jacket Targa|
|Idro Pro 3 Jacket|
|Pro Team Gore-Tex Jacket|
|Rain jacket (Regular fit)||Mille GT Clima Jacket Evo|
|Emergency 2 Jacket|
|Core Rain Jacket 2|
|All-rounder jacket||Equipe RS Alleycat Clima Capsule ($265)||Perfetto RoS Jacket|
|Pro Team Insulated Jacket|
|Premium, race||Equipe RSR Bib Short S9 Targa ($350)||Free Aero RC Bib Short|
|Pro Team Bib Shorts 2 ($270)|
|Lightweight, hot weather||Equipe RSR Bib Short Superleger S9 ($300)||Superleggera Bib Short ($240)||Classic Flyweight Bib Short ($215)|
|Everyday use||Mille GT Bib Shorts C2|
|Competizione Bib Short|
|Core Bib Short|
|Spring/fall (bib short)||Equipe RS Spring Fall Bib Short S9|
|Nano Flex Pro Race Bib Short|
|Pro Team Winter Bib Short|
|Spring/fall (¾ length)||Mille GT Knicker ($199)||Tutto Nano Bib Knicker ($155)||¾ Bib Short ($250)|
|Winter (premium)||Equipe RS Winter Bib Tight S9 ($439)||Sorpasso RoS Wind Bib Tight|
|Pro Team Winter Tight|
|Winter (budget)||Mille GT Winter Bib Tight ($219)||Tutto Nano Bibtight ($180)||Core Winter Tight ($150)|
|Gravel||XC Bib Short ($239)||Unlimited Bib Short ($150)||Cargo Bib Short ($270)|
More reading : Castelli Bib Shorts Comparison, Details and Pricing
|Summer||NS Skin Layer Superleger ($90)||Pro Issue Sleeveless|
|Pro Team Base Layer ($60)|
|Spring/fall||Spring Fall SS Skin Layer ($95)||Prosecco Tech Short Sleeve ($90)||Merino Base Layer ($80)|
|Winter||Winter LS Skin Layer|
|Flanders Warm Long Sleeve|
|Pro Team Thermal Base Layer|
|Summer (Premium)||RSR Speed Gloves ($90)||Espresso Glove|
|Pro Team Mitts ($70)|
|Summer (Everyday use)||GT Gloves C2 ($60)||Competizione Glove 2 ($40)||Core Mitts ($40)|
|Spring/fall||Spring Fall Gloves|
|Perfetto Light Glove|
|Winter (Premium)||Ultraz Winter Gloves ($125)||Espresso GT Glove ($120)||Deep Winter Glove ($190)|
|Winter (Everyday use)||Winter Gloves ($89)||Entrata Thermal Glove ($60)||Winter Glove ($110)|
Socks and shoe covers
|Summer||RSR Socks ($28)||Pro 15 Socks|
|Pro Team Socks ($20)|
|Winter||Ultraz Winter Socks ($25)||Gregge 15 Socks ($20)||Pro Team Winter Socks ($30)|
|Overshoes (Aero)||RSR Speed Booties|
|Fast Feet TT Shoecover|
|Pro Team Overshoes|
|Overshoes (Wind protection)||GT Winter Booties ($100)||Perfetto Shoecover ($90)||Winter Overshoes ($60)|
|Overshoes (Water protection)||RS Rain Booties ($100)||Diluvio Pro Shoecover ($70)||Wet Weather Overshoes ($110)|
|Toe cover||Spring Fall Toe Cover C2 ($45)||Toe Thingy 2 ($25)||Toe Cover (40)|
Rapha and Castelli sizing is true to size throughout the range except for the Pro Team and Rosso Corsa range. The jerseys for these run smaller, and many cyclists tend to go one (or two sizes) up if they’re purchasing the Pro Team or Rosso Corsa range.
Rapha has a Jersey Downsize Offer where they will provide a 50% discount on the new jersey size. There is a simple application form to fill up together with a photo of yourself in a current jersey
Assos doesn’t publish their size charts anymore. Instead, they use an interactive calculator where you enter your height, weight, and age. The calculator will then suggest your ideal size based on their database and indicate if the clothing is very tight, tight, or lose fit at the chest, waist, and hip areas.
Where to buy
Rapha clothing is available on its official website with worldwide shipping. They’re also available at their clubhouses in North America (8), Europe (7), and Asia (6). In recent years, Rapha has also partnered with selected local bike shops and made their clothing available there.
Castelli clothing is widely available from large retailers such as Competitive Cyclist (North America), Wiggle (Europe), Pushys (Australia), and many local bike shops. In recent years, Castelli has been growing their online shop.
Assos clothing is available on their website and in major cycling retailers. They offer a 10% discount for first-time customers who sign up for their newsletter.
Crash and repair services
|Repairs||First 30 days||Not available||Free, lifetime|
Rapha offers free lifetime repair services for most of their clothing as long as valid proof of purchase can be presented. Check Rapha’s website for the list of excluded clothing. The repair duration can take up to four weeks, depending on material and resource availability.
Castelli doesn’t offer crash and repair services at the moment.
Assos will repair the clothing for free if damaged within the first 30 days of purchase. Beyond that, there might be a cost involved, and is evaluated case-by-case basis.
Returns and exchanges
|Return period||30 days||30 days||90 days|
Rapha accepts returns and exchanges for up to 90 days for unused items. The return postage is free, or you can walk into any of the Rapha clubhouses
Castelli accepts free returns for up to 30 days for unused items purchased from their website. For Castelli clothing purchased elsewhere, check the merchant’s return policy. There are no exchange services available.
Assos accepts free returns for a full refund within 30 days of purchase. The item must be unused and in its original packaging.