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Review: Rapha Women’s Detachable Bib Short with Race Chamois

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In the past decade, women’s cycling gear has come a long way, and it keeps getting better. Cycling shorts and bibs have improved for all riders, but particularly for women, with padding that’s anatomically adjusted to take pressure off sensitive areas in shorts and bibs that look good and feel good. 

And thanks to the clever clip which makes nature breaks a snap, Rapha’s Detachable Bib Short has solidified its position as one of the best cycling shorts and bibs brands for women. 

The Pad

Rapha women's cycling short chamois

Rapha makes many styles of shorts and bibs for women. Over the range of its women’s shorts and bibs, the brand has three chamois pads for everyday riding, for all-day riding, and for racing.

Which pad you get depends on which short you buy and in what size. In each short and bib, Rapha offers multiple pad sizes, Rapha hopes to optimize the thickness of the foam parts of the pad to best suit a rider’s weight. So they guess rider weight based on size. XXS-M bib shorts get the smaller pad, and L- XL bib shorts get the larger one. The footprint of the pad doesn’t change based on size, just the thickness of the foams layers.

In the Women’s Detachable Bib Shorts, the Rapha bibs I tested, the smaller pad is 8mm thick at its thickest part, and the larger pad is 11mm at its thickest. “By offering size-specific foam thicknesses we can create the perfect connection to the saddle,” said Harry Osborn, Senior Product Designer.

Comfortable Cycling Shorts for Women

Rapha Women's cycling short
Photo c. Rapha

I wore this bib riding an indoor trainer, gravel riding, road riding, and also mountain biking. I liked it a lot. I often feel like the best test of a chamois pad is riding a trainer because my position is far less dynamic than on the road or trail, which highlights if the shorts relieve pressure or not. 

In some bibs, after about 30 minutes of pedaling, I get squirmy because I’m uncomfortable on the saddle. In this bib, I was able to do hour-plus rides without having to shift around to get comfy. 

On the road, my experience was the same. With some shorts, I have to stand and pedal, not because of terrain, but because my crotch hurts. That didn’t happen in these shorts, whether I was on a local’s epic or training for a century ride. 

All the Rapha women’s chamois have an antibacterial treatment that keeps them from getting stinky or stale feeling on longer rides and on multiple rides. The curved shape of the pad matches the curve of a pelvis, so there’s no extra fabric or foam to feel lumpy, and shorts feel supportive. Inside the chamois pad, dual-density foam minimized pressure while also supporting me on the saddle. Rapha uses softer foam in front to take pressure off and firmer foam under the sit bones. One of the foam layers in the race bib is a thin, high-density layer. So I didn’t feel like I was wearing a diaper, and I didn’t feel like I was getting beaten up by the dirt road or trail beneath me. 

Who Needs These Bibs?

rear clasp closed

rear clasp open

Rapha positions these bibs for “high-tempo riding and racing.” I’d position them for any female rider who wants enough padding between her undercarriage and the saddle, but not so much it’s awkward. You also have to be a rider willing to drop some coin for a great chamois either because you ride a lot, and you ride long distances, or because you have a zero-tolerance policy on crotch pain. 

What makes this one of my favorite pairs of bibs to ride in is the self-centering, magnetic clasp that lets me slide these down to pee by the side of the road without having to take off my jacket and jersey. Whether I am riding alone, with a posse of women, or a pack of dudes, inevitably nature calls. It’s awkward when your male friends take care of business and then have to stand around and wait for the only female on the ride to finish yours because you had to fully undress.

magnetic clasp for nature breaks
Photo c. Rapha

And in a race or on a larger group ride, it’s even worse. Bibs that don’t pull down or unclip hold women back. Struggling to dress by the side of the road isn’t just slow, it’s also embarrassing. With these bibs, the clasp is positioned at the bottom of the mesh upper where it’s one hand releasable–no undressing required.

Other Great Features

compressions leg gripper women's cycling short

The Detachable BibShort is soft, appropriately compressive, and super comfortable. The leg bands don’t ride up, but there’s also no sausage leg. Minimal seam construction reduces both bunching and chafing. And, they dried quickly. Overall, the bib shorts are well thought out and comfortable. What’s not to love?

Rapha women's detachable bib cycling short colors

Available in three colors and in XXS-XL sizing, the Women’s Detachable Bib Shorts sell for $290.


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