Rapha Core Cargo Shorts Review: cycling shorts workhorse with the gift of pockets

Rapha’s affordable Core men's range is exemplified in these very wearable Cargo Shorts

Rapha Core Cargo Shorts Review
(Image credit: Rapha)
T3 Verdict

Bib shorts tend to be the go-to garments for keen road cyclists, but straps aren't for everyone, which is where Rapha's Core shorts come into play. The Cargo versions prove plenty comfortable enough and boast some handy pockets, but there are more performance orientated bib shorts out there for a similar price.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Cargo pockets are brilliant

  • +

    Decent chamois pad

  • +

    Subtle but stylish

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Expensive for what they are

  • -

    High waist

  • -

Think of Rapha’s Core Cargo Shorts as a sort of 'everyday' version of its Pro Team and Classic range, both of which are designed for serious road cyclists putting in the hard miles and cost a hefty amount thanks to it. The Core range is aimed at those who perhaps want something a little cheaper that can be used everyday but don't want to give up the prestigious label.   

But that’s not to say Rapha’s “value” range is cheap, because you are still looking at £95/$120 for a pair of shorts – but then that is what some of the best cycling shorts happen to cost, to be fair. 

Obviously, this particular pair of pedal-friendly pantaloons also doesn't come with the supportive straps found in the bib short alternative, so, where does your money go? Well, you get the same chamois pad (the squishy bit that goes under your bum) as the one used in the Classic range, which is excellent and offers plenty of support over long and arduous rides. There’s also comfortable flatlock stitching to prevent chafing, as well as laser-cut, soft-silicone leg grippers to hold shorts in place and stop them, excuse the pun, riding up.

What’s more, they are made from Rapha’s typical high quality dense-knit fabric, which helps avoid the sticky issue of an opaque ass panel as after the shorts have been worn and washed a few times.

The Cargo bit in the title refers to the fact that this particular model comes fitted with two mesh pockets on the legs, which Rapha claims have been designed and tested to look after all manner of cycling accoutrements, essentially negating the need to wear a traditional cycling jersey with pockets at the rear.

Rapha Men’s Core Cargo Shorts: price and availability

Rapha Core Cargo Shorts Review

(Image credit: Rapha)

You can buy the Rapha Men’s Core Cargo Shorts direct from Rapha’s website for £95/$130/AU$165

Although keenly priced compared to rival premium brands, such as Assos and Le Col, there are obviously cheaper shorts than this out there, with Wiggle’s own dhb brand a good place to start for some savings.

Available in XS to XXL, there should be a pair of shorts to fit most body types, but Rapha’s gear varies depending on shape, with some reporting the need to size up, while others claim they size down. Unfortunately, Rapha doesn’t offer its 'Downsize' scheme on shorts, as this would allow those who have lost weight through riding to claim a 50 per cent discount on new clothing.

Rapha Men’s Core Cargo Shorts: design and fit

Rapha Core Cargo Shorts Review

(Image credit: Rapha)

Rapha’s approach to cycling gear has always been understated and classy. In a field that is full of loud colours and in-yer-face logos, Rapha plays it cool with simple lines and classic details that rarely go out of fashion.

On the surface, the Core Cargo Shorts look a bit plain but look closer and you’ll find subtle tonal branding dotted around, while the overall build quality oozes premium feel. The fabric is light but thick in all the right places,

Like much of Rapha’s gear, I found the sizing was spot on, but then I’m a fairly standard medium anyway. I only struggle in the jerseys, where I find I have to size up. But weirdly, these non-bib shorts sat quite high at the front and I found I had to pull the waist almost up to my bellybutton to get the chamois pad to sit right.

It’s not a massive issue, but if you’re not used to a waistband riding that high while you pedal, it can feel a bit weird at first. Rapha’s Classic chamois pad is also quite bulky compared to the thinner version used in Pro garments, while rivals have certainly slimmed down the pad with little detrimental effect on overall comfort.

Overall, the fit is good and there's something nice about not having to deal with straps. However, straps would help keep the shorts in place, but for casual rides, it's much easier to go to the toilet, which is nice.  

Rapha Core Cargo Shorts Review

(Image credit: Rapha)

Rapha Men’s Core Cargo Shorts: performance

Rapha Core Cargo Shorts Review

(Image credit: Rapha)

The beauty of these shorts is the pocket design, which sounds criminally simple but it’s not often you find two deep mesh pockets on the side of road or gravel cycling shorts. It’s just not deemed aerodynamically sound, although  a pair of Shimano bib shorts I recently tested did have a small pocket for a phone on one leg and it proved properly handy. 

But Rapha has gone hard on the pockets and it really works. I found myself often reaching for the Cargo Short over a more typical bib short when heading out on a casual ride, purely because I could slip my phone in one pocket and a snack in the other. There’s something incredibly awkward about reaching behind you to blindly dig out food from a race jersey, especially after you’ve experienced the ease of fetching a pocket snack.

Rapha has also done well to ensure that whatever is in those mesh pockets doesn’t dig doesn’t into your thighs, although the pockets themselves can suffer from little holes and tears if you decide to put anything sharp or obtuse in there.

Finally, it’s probably not the most pleasant subject to touch on, but these Cargo was it shorts are a hell of a lot easier to handle when it comes to those impromptu convenience breaks on longer rides. 

Rapha Men’s Core Cargo Shorts: verdict 

Rapha Core Cargo Shorts Review

(Image credit: Rapha)

Although not as technically accomplished as Rapha’s own Pro line of elite clothing, the Core Cargo shorts make an excellent everyday workhorse. The leg pockets are genuinely useful and the overall fit and finish is excellent.

When paired with a cycling jacket or more relaxed jersey, they allow riders to jump on a bike without going for the full skin suit look, yet the shorts still offer the chamois pad comfort and streamlined fit to ensure there isn’t any loose clothing getting in the way or a King of the Mountain records. 

On summary, this is a pair of cycling shorts to be treasured – even though personally, I would still prefer a bib short.

Leon Poultney
Leon Poultney

Leon has been writing about automotive and consumer tech for longer than he cares to divulge. If he’s not testing the latest fitness wearable and action camera, he’s out in a shed fawning over his motorcycles or trying not to kill himself on a mountain bike/surfboard/other extreme thing.