Rapha has recently expanded its Performance Trailwear for Mountain Biking, adding the Fast + Light Collection dedicated to hotter, sunnier climes. The range covers men’s and women’s technical apparel, and includes the Fast + Light Trail Pants, Fast + Light Trail Shorts, as well as a Lightweight Tank that is available in a women’s cut only. Having already spent a good chunk of time riding Rapha’s original line of Performance Trailwear, and having been very impressed, we were keen to check out their solution for keeping riders cool and comfortable on long summer days in the saddle.
Review: Rapha Women’s Trail Fast + Light Shorts & Lightweight Tank
Upon unboxing the new threads from Rapha, I was delighted to find that included with each garment was a dedicated repair kit. Just as they did with their original Performance Trailwear, Rapha has repurposed leftover material to create a selection of adhesive backed repair patches that can be ironed on over torn areas of fabric. So, when you do bin it on the trail, you don’t necessarily need to bin your torn kit, too.
I’m stoked to see more following in the footsteps of Patagonia, a brand renowned for their sustainable approach and free care and repair program. Like them, Rapha are also offering a free repair service to customers who consider their damaged garment to be beyond the at-home-repair. They are actively encouraging customers to repair their clothing before buying a replacement. Bravo.
Rapha’s aim with the Fast + Light Collection was to use the Performance Trailwear as a foundation, but to shave grams and improve ventilation where possible. That said, it’s not like the garments from the Performance Trailwear line were by any means hot or heavy, but some of the items like the Trail 3/4 Sleeve Jersey do feature more durable panels in key areas vulnerable to wear and tear, such as on the arms, that do feel less breathable than the fabric used on the main body area.
The Fast + Light Collection strips it all back to prioritize low weight and heat management, in a stylish but understated package that can be repaired multiple times, for free. I tested the Womens Fast + Light Shorts, and the Lightweight Tank.
Rapha Trail Fast + Light Shorts
Though you will find Rapha’s Fast + Light kit at some retailers, most of you will, I am sure, be purchasing online. Thus, it’s super important to have a sizing guide that is accurate, so that you aren’t subjected to a trial and error process and all the trips to the post office that come with it. So, is the Rapha kit true to size?
Having already tried a set of the original Trail Shorts for women, I knew that the size medium Fast + Light Shorts would fit me well, and so they do. However, it’s important to mention here the discrepancy I found between Rapha’s sizing recommendations and reality. I measured my hips at 37.5″; according to Rapha’s sizing guide, that puts me somewhere between the XS and S. At the waist, I measure up at 32.5″, which puts me closer to a size L.
As you can see from the pictures, I don’t have the classic hourglass figure that it seems the Rapha clothing has been contoured around; quite the inverse, in fact. Nevertheless, I found a happy medium with the Size M. For more context, I tend to wear jeans in a UK 10.
While the main body of the shorts is made up of a 4-Way stretch fabric, it is nowhere near as stretchy as the rear portion of the waistband. Honestly, a more comfortable waistband I am yet to come across. It extends the full width of the wearer’s hips, and is a minimum of 2.5″ tall, meaning any stretch that does need to occur is spread across a super wide area, leaving no tight spots, or that feeling of being cut in half when in the seated pedaling position. I wear these with Rapha’s £90 Trail Liner shorts; again, a more comfortable chamois I am yet to wear. With the Size M, I find there is plenty of room to accommodate the padded shorts underneath, without leaving excess material around the crotch region that could get caught on the nose of the saddle.
The waistband closure consists of a zipper with two plastic poppers at the top, as compared to the zipper + metal slider seen on the original Trail Shorts. Two points of closure is better than one, in my opinion, both in terms of comfort and in the interest of having a backup should one of them fail. Again, in comparison to the Tail Shorts, the Fast + Light option does feel lighter; the fabric is also softer to the touch and more supple, less noisy when moved. You’ll often see brands laser cut holes in shorts and pants to add a bit of ventilation, but the breathability of the fabric used on the Fast + Light Shorts negates the need for that. Altogether, I could almost forget I was wearing them at all.
The inseam length is perfect for me; for context, I have a 31″ inside leg length. I wore the shorts with Bluegrass Solid D3O Knee Pads, which are some of the chunkier soft-shell knee pads you’re likely to come across. The shorts are long enough to avoid the appearance of a skin gap between shorts and knee pad as the knee comes up and over the pedal stroke, and the opening is also just about wide enough to allow the shorts to fall down just over the knee when standing.
The Fast + Light Shorts offer just one pocket which is zippered. It is positioned on the backside of the left leg and is roomy enough to accommodate my iPhone 7 and a set of keys comfortably. Inside the pocket is bright orange patch upon which a detailed description of The Ledges, Bella Vista, Arkansas can be found (shrugs), in addition to a small partition to help keep pocket contents compartmentalized.
So far, my experience of the Fast + Light Shorts has been fantastic. Are they worth the $125 USD price tag? Hard to say just now. I haven’t put many miles in on these yet, so I can’t comment on how well the derriere region will hold up to the hundreds of thousands of friction cycles it will be subjected to over the coming miles. There is no additional reinforcement in this area, and a wearing down of the material here is unlikely to be something that a repair patch could handle. This review will be updated as and when I have more feedback to provide.
Rapha Lightweight Tank
Rapha’s Lightweight Trail Tank is about as minimalist as it gets for mountain bike kit. Made from a lightweight 90 gsm fabric, two featherweight fabrics are combined to optimize sweat-wicking and antibacterial properties. I can confirm, the fabric that makes up the lower half of the garment is in fact see-through, so when the light catches it in a certain way, anything you may or may not be wearing underneath can be seen. I’m OK with that, but i’m sure some folk out there will be put off by that.
The openings at the shoulders are also quite large, dropping low down the wearer’s sides to maximize ventilation through the garment, creating incredible airflow over the skin. This is going to be ideal for the hottest days of summer, paired with a good quality SPF 50 sun cream, of course.
Sizing is more than a little off with the Lightweight Tank. My chest measures up at 38.5″ (32C bra size); according to Rapha’s size guide, that suggests I should wear a large. Luckily, I ordered a size small (based on the size of Rapha Trail Technical T-Shirt I wear), which offers a much more sensible fit than a large might. Even down-sizing by two sizes, the Tank is still pretty baggy and billowy.
Not much more to say about this one, other than the fact that it has plenty of length. I did find the the Rapha Trail Technical T-Shirt a bit too short for my liking, but the Lightweight Tank is a fair bit longer. It does leave me feeling a little vulnerable, though. While it is incredibly lightweight, and ideal for hot summer’s day rides, I’m not sure i’ll ever get used to riding technical trails with almost entirely bare arms. Pick one up for $70 USD, available in sizes XXS-XL.