Put to the test - Rapha Team bib shorts
There's no doubt about it - a decent pair of shorts should be a priority on every cyclists investment list, as should looking after them. Badly cut, poor quality, or bacteria clogging shorts can only lead to rather unpleasant consequences - not to mention a rough ride; and you certainly don't want to stash a slab of raw steak down them like they used to in the good old days of saddle sores.
One name that has rapidly become associated with the best and most stylish bike gear on the market is Rapha, a company well known for their jerseys and other wear, but a little less so beneath the waist, which is why we took a pair of Rapha Condor Team bib shorts out for a ride; well - it turned into a few weeks of riding to be honest, just to make sure of a few things - because like many things Rapha these shorts are a little bit different to your average bum tubes.
Out of the neat Rapha pack and they look great, modestly adorning their team sponsor's names, and the familiar pink and white flash. A run of the fingers across the letter shows seemingly old style flock vinyl lettering - it looks good, but way back in the day this kind of lettering was often sent out and ironed on stuff at home, and promptly cracked and peeled - no sign of that with these yet, and we're sure they've been long term tested by the Rapha team - but we'll report back in a few months to be sure of the durability of the lettering.
From the outside they look like a nice quality pair of shorts - made in Italy from decent Lycra style material, with tape leg grippers, quite pronounced seams and a nice black mesh bib, with 3 rear radio pockets. Turn them inside out and you'll find a Cytech chamois style pad, all black, very soft - and also very big, and with a centre seam stitching, which is not common on high end shorts.
When pulling on the shorts the first thing you notice is that the padding does feel big. It has a larger thin layer around the centre pad, which is designed to reduce saddle side chaffing, although we're not so sure on that one. Pull on the bibs, and you can hardly feel the upper body - it really is an ultra comfortable bib.
On the bike and these really do feel surprisingly comfortable, although we had to ride them for some time to really get used to the feel of the padding, and to be honest we still figure it's a little excessive - but there is no denying that they are a quality and comfortable pair of shorts.
The bottom line - we had to take some time to get used to these shorts - they are a bit different. For sure they are comfortable, a bit stodgy off the bike, and we'd like to see how things work out on durability. At GBP145 they are expensive shorts, time will tell if they're good value or not, we'll report back in a few months.
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