Rapha’s Classic Bib Short is now well over ten years old, and in its lifetime it has become one of the core products for those devotees of the brand. After all, Rapha managed to successfully produce a product that blends timeless styling with the absolute cutting edge of performance. Believe it or not, this was a pretty novel thing back in the early days of fashionable road cycling apparel.
With road bike season upon us – it's always road bike season somewhere – the desire to own a comfortable set of the best bib shorts is now greater than ever. Not only do these fetching stretchy garments need to look good, they also need to offer plenty of support for the nether regions and remain cool on those hotter rides.
Thankfully, Rapha hasn’t just let its awesome bib short age and be surpassed by rivals. It's lavished a fairly extensive update on its popular pantaloons to incorporate more recycled fibres, boast better grippers for the thighs and work on the gel chamois pad so it is up there with some of the best on the planet.
Above all else, the constant refinement of this short over the years means it now fits a wider array of body shapes, with Rapha honing the recipe so it now offers arguably the perfect blend of style and performance. Read on to see why I think this might just be one of the most comfortable pair of shorts we’ve tested. They're right up there with the similarly priced Le Col Pro Lightweight Bib Shorts.
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Rapha Men’s Classic Bib Short: price and availability
Rapha’s Men’s Classic Bib Shorts are available solely from Rapha’s website (opens in new tab), priced at £170/$235AU$295. Don’t expect to find many garments in flash sales, either.
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 Classic Bib Short: design and fit
The brilliant thing about Rapha’s Classic Bib Short is that they aren’t too shouty or aggressive, or overtly sporting, or attempting in anyway to be some kind of pro peloton piece of aerodynamically honed equipment.
When specified in navy or black and white, they are understated and timeless. The most garish colour combination is Brick and Dark Navy and even then, they remain an extremely classy piece of kit. See, Rapha does subtle branding well and it’s just enough to let everyone know you’ve just dropped quite a lot of money, on a pair of cycling shorts – but not too much that it gets embarrassing.
The fit is also fantastic and Rapha has done a great job in scaling the comfort chamois to the size of the garment, ensuing it remains snug and in exactly the right place for most riders. Rival shorts attempt to pile on more comfort with a larger gel pad, but it often feels bulky and gets in the way when putting in the hard miles.
The Rapha pad is among some of the best we’ve had the privilege of sitting on while pointing a bicycle to a favoured climb or steering it through some challenging bends. It just seems to fit. Perfectly.
Perhaps one of the only thing to note is that Rapha has beefed up its seams and stitching to ensure they last more wash cycles than before. They feel sturdy compared to rivals but the downside is that they, couple with the tackier gripper strips on the legs, can leave a mark on the thighs. It doesn’t necessarily chafe, but you definitely know you’ve been wearing them after a long ride.
Rapha Men’s Classic Bib Short: performance
Although arguably not the most wind tunnel tested, nor the most aerodynamically advanced shorts on the market, Rapha’s Classic rapidly becomes the garment you reach for when heading out on a warm ride.
Let’s face it, only around 0.005% of the population actually wants something that shaves 1/10th of a second off a personal best, with most favouring a pair of shorts that feel great to wear and look good when you eventually walk into a cafe to scoff a slice of millionaire’s shortbread (washed down with a flat white).
These shorts excel on both fronts, as they are cut low at the front, allowing for plenty of breathability during the hotter months, yet feature a nice high back shape, so they feel properly sturdy when in the saddle. The rear also has a cut out area to assist with temperature regulation.
The materials are soft and kind against the skin, the chamois features modern quick-wicking materials to ensure rides remain dry and comfortable and new, low profile grippers are stickier than ever, in order to stop the shorts riding up. They work great but the chunkier seams, as mentioned previously, leave a mark. On top of all this, Classic Bib Shorts are now made using recycled nylon, so they are more eco-friendly too. As with getting more out of your ride, every little helps when it comes to saving the planet.
Rapha Men’s Classic Bib Short: verdict
Let’s be honest: the price is astronomical for a pair of cycling shorts and criticism could be levelled at Rapha’s original Classic Bib Shorts for perhaps not surviving as many machine washes as they should for such a lofty price tag.
However, plenty has been done to bolster the design, while overall refinement means these are now classier and comfier than ever. Above all else, they rapidly become the shorts that you reach for when heading out on and a ride, and when paired with an equally classy jersey, they make for some stylish kit that can back up its ice cool street credentials with some serious performance.
Honestly, that chamois is one of the most comfortable we’ve had the pleasure of testing and although these aren’t the most aerodynamically advanced things on the market, they are one of the most comfortable and a serious addition to any keen road cyclist’s arsenal.