Slip into some epic
I’m a sucker for big fonts, and epic shots of permatanned dudes wearing shorts with big fonts moments before riding epically. So needless to say I was intrigued by Rapha’s new Pro Team Bib Shorts. Luckily for me, Rapha proved themselves unbelievably generous by sending me a pair so I could pour my decidedly Rubenesque figure into them. Let’s see how that worked out for me.
Rapha Pro Team Bib Shorts first impressions
Upon first glance, I was overwhelmed by the Pro Team Bib Shorts’ details. There’s an intensity in these Pro Team products due to their singleminded technological focus. The welded seams, the black stripes on the exterior of the right brace, the dual interior radio pockets, and the crisp white material all give an overall edgy feel. This is only heightened by the stark contrast between the shiny black lycra and the bold set white RAPHA along the outside of the right leg. There is a tangible feeling of PRO.
But wait, did you say shiny lycra?
This is where I had an actual, “Aww, mannn…” moment. I’ve sold the black stretchy stuff for a long time, and shiny has always been synonymous with cheap. Although I haven’t stuffed myself into Rapha’s Classic Bib Shorts, from what I can see they are definitely not shiny. Regardless of the techno aspect driving the piece, I still couldn’t come to terms with the sheen. Most (not all) high-end fabric at this range has a more matte, if not completely matte appearance.
But that reaction is simply an impression based on a pre-existing expectation. In truth, the lycra chosen does its intended job well. It compresses like a beast, it feels natural on the skin, and definitely does not look or feel like cheap lycra. In fact, Rapha goes to great length to apply the right material for the right purpose. In addition to the leg compression material, they’ve used a heartier weave for the backside of the chamois and seat contact areas. Oddly enough, this fabric is what I might have expected/wanted for the legs as well, but that’s my opinion. Flatlock seams handle the stitching duties for the bib area, while a combination of flatlock and welded seams pull together the braces.
Cytech pad. Enough said.
The sensitive bits receive the finest treatment of all—a delicious Cytech pad. Cytech makes the pads for many of the finest shorts in the market, and this is no exception. Although, Rapha went a little further and had them create a custom version that performs best when the rider is either in the drops or going full-gas on the hoods. Again, PRO.
How the Pro Team Bibs ride
As stated above, the pad is niiiiiice. Perfect for any ride you throw at it. No hotspots or rogue stitching rubbing things raw. Haven’t felt any ass fatigue even during 4 hour ventures, and I’m sure they won’t blink at more. While in the saddle, you hardly notice the pulling at the shoulders I stated above, which is exactly how they were designed. However, when performing out of the saddle efforts, I did notice the sensation on the shoulders as well as in the dos pelotas area where it provided a magnificent moose-knuckle. I have to note that after repeated usage and washing, the pulling isn’t as severe as it was when I first tried them. That was a shocker.
Since there is some tugging at the shoulders, something eventually has to move, and that happens on the legs. By the end of the first couple of rides the shorts had crept upwards at least an inch past my perfectly crafted permatan. If you’re also a permatan artiste, then you’d find this as alarming as I did. My first thought was—deal breaker. It was inconceivable to me how a company whose visual aesthetic is founded on the cultivation of cycling traditions could violate such a trust. However, I’m happy to say that just as the tugging at the shoulders decreased over time and usage, so did the creep. Plus, I started the ride with the shorts slightly past the razor edged line of my tan, whereupon by the end of the ride it was in the perfect spot, keeping the protected skin as white as a sun-starved cave dweller.
The compression is very firm, but not constricting. Your muscles feel well supported during any effort on the bike. The Coldblack® treatment truly shines when the sun is doing the same. I have yet to experience any hot-crotch during several humid, upper 90˚F rides here in the DC Metro area. Same temps with other non-Coldblack® fabric shorts definitely bake the boys.
The Rapha Pro Team Bib Shorts in my opinion, have a more than a few opportunities. Aside from the aesthetic choice of the shiny lycra, there were some quality issues as well. The gripper band on one of my legs started “The band itself seems like an afterthought in comparison to many of the exquisite details seen elsewhere on the piece.”to come undone looking tattered and damaged. The other band, however, is unscathed from the terror that is my massive thighs. The band itself seems like an afterthought in comparison to many of the exquisite details seen elsewhere on the piece. Their Classic bibs use a tidy looking gripper that falls in line with the rest of the industry at this price range. I would’ve simply used that instead of the unrefined looking method seen here.
Lastly, there are at least two spots where some stitching came undone. Both look like incomplete finishing stitches. Nothing’s actually falling apart, but if tugged right it could start to unravel the flatlock where it originated. After cutting them off, neither seemed to get any worse.
Final thoughts and rating
You can tell I’m conflicted by the Rapha Pro Team Bib Shorts. On one hand, I’m overwhelmed by the style and technical innovations. On the other, I’m underwhelmed by a fabric choice (aesthetic opinion), fit issues, a faulty leg gripper, and some careless finishing. The leg gripper could very well be a one-off issue, but one as I pointed out above that may not even be needed. The fit just may not be right for me, but I’ve never had an issue such as this. Lastly, for a pair of bibs at the $200+USD range, there shouldn’t ever be a loose stitch. I realize that’s a tall order, but I hold Rapha to high standards, as I’m sure they do themselves.
So in the end, if you don’t mind the fabric choice, fit them better than I, and you don’t experience gripper/stitching failures, these are some bad-assed bib shorts. Hell, they make me look dope while performing Rule #80 at a stoplight. That’s not an easy task.
PRO FACTORS: Dripping with style and elegance, perfect chamois, highly effective Coldblack® fabric treatment, and a firm compression.
OPPORTUNITIES: Change of fabric (aesthetic opinion), alternative gripper-band solution, shore up the stitching issues.
RATING: 80% – Overlooking a few issues, at the core the Rapha Pro Team Bib Shorts are grinta-PRO.