Just a couple of weeks ago Rapha rolled out some new spring & summer kit with a few special editions of classic kit and a lot of sky (not Sky) blues. We mentioned a bit of an update to bib shorts, but it looks like it goes deeper that we had originally thought. We here at Bikerumor’s EU HQ tend to be a bit reluctant about some of the fashion-y focus of parts of the Rapha line-up, and balk at the pricing on some of their kit. But the bib shorts have always seemed like good value to us. They’ve been one of the few brands of shorts that have withstood our abuse season after season, and with their free repairs policy the only shorts that we still have in the closet that are more than 4 years old are all Rapha. So when Rapha makes the statement that “we have revised our entire range” we wanted to know more…
Rapha are calling it the “next generation of bib shorts” and it looks to focus on improving fit by working with new fabrics, but mostly in tuning the chamois more to the size of the rider. Much like size specific tubing and layups in carbon bikes, Rapha thinks that they can offer improved comfort and dependability by sizing the pad to the rider as well.
Classic Bib Shorts II & Women’s Classic Bib Shorts
The new size-specific chamois kicks off in the bread-and-butter Classic bib shorts that enter a new generation II. The new chamois is said to better contour to your body on the bike, and comes in three pad sizes. So the XS shorts don’t try to squeeze the same size chamois in that would be relatively tiny in an XXL. Of course, with the new year Rapha adds new colors here too, with the 200€ Classic Bib Shorts II now available with navy blue or dark purple mesh bib straps to go with the standard white, cream & black. They also add a dark gray and navy lycra for those who want a bit less black in their wardrobe. A special edition of the new shorts is also available for their RCC – Rapha Cycling Club – members to show off the Rapha pride.
On the Women’s Classic side, for the same price the bib shorts seem to get a smaller updates carrying over the same one size of women-specific chamois, but they do get a new thinner, lower-profile silicone gripper that claims to be more comfortable against the skin. They also add a new color option, with dark navy blue shorts paired to a light blue mesh bib upper.
Brevet Bib Shorts II & Women’s Brevet Bib Shorts
The Brevet shorts also enter generation II with a completely new fabric selection to go with a new chamois. Here the pad is one size fits all, but it gets more varied foam densities to offer more support for longer days in the saddle. While most pads compress enough over time that they lose comfort and breathability even over the course of an all day ride, this one has been designed to be more resilient. At the same time the chamois has perforations that are actually intended to make it dry faster off the bike, so that out on an adventure tour you can wash the shorts in the sink after a day of riding and have them dry overnight and be ready to ride again in the morning. Of course the added benefit there is that they are more likely to stay breathable in the saddle and keep you butt dry on the bike. As for fabric, the update is mostly in the more open striped mesh bib straps that improve breathability & wicking over the lycra front straps of the previous generation. Colors on the 210€ bibs are black with yellow & silver reflective accents that might please the crowd looking for a bit less pink.
For the first time the ladies will get a new set of Women’s Brevet Bib Shorts as well very soon too. They will get the same supportive, fast-drying chamois tech in a women-specific shape and the striped mesh upper with a full coverage, zipped front and a single racerback bib strap. The same price will get women a navy/white option or an all black version, both with a pair of more low-key reflective leg stripes for visibility.
Pro Team Bib Shorts II & Souplesse Bib Shorts II
These are really Rapha’s most premium performance shorts developed for road racing at the top of the sport with both men’s and women’s pro teams. For 2017 Pro Team Bib Shorts II get a total overhaul, again starting with size-specific chamois pads. Here though it isn’t just width variation across the size range, but also pad thickness. In order to truly get the same top performance for each rider, the smallest riders who tend to be lighter and wear smaller sizes will get thinner versions of the new dual-density chamois, while larger heavier riders will get thicker variants.
The 230€ Pro Team Bib Shorts II also get reshaped & more supportive bib straps with bonded seams for a lower-profile fit that is also claimed to put less pressure on the shoulders, and now come in the regular or long leg lengths across five colors. All of the bib shorts stick with classic black legs, but now offer color matched mesh bibs & logos in chartreuse, high-vis pink, white, dark teal, or black. Not available just yet, Rapha also promised that a members-only ProTeam II RCC version is also in the works and will be released soon.
Here courtesy of the Canyon//SRAM pro partnership women also some top-level upgrades as well in the Souplesse Bib Shorts II. The new 220€ shorts use a new main body lycra that is at one time both softer on the skin and more abrasion resistant. They also get a new cut that eliminated several seams in the bib straps for less chafing, while also claims to cut down on bunching up of fabric across a wider range of rider body shapes. A new wider thigh gripper is thinner in profile and lighter for better feel against the skin and less sausage effect. The new bib upper retains the openness, but now benefits from the same flat bonded seams as the men’s Pro Team for a more comfortable, low-profile fit in the new more stretchy and breathable mesh fabric.
We’ve got some of the new Rapha bib shorts on order as we are curious to get a hands-on look at them and see how they compare to the previous generations. Keep an eye out for an updated review once the weather is warm enough for us to get without thermal shorts or tights.