When one falls in love with a piece of cycling kit, there is always the risk of slipping into superlatives when it comes to describing said kit. Having tested Rapha’s second generation of its Pro Team kit this past spring, I can say with confidence that their latest pro team level bib shorts are hands down the best bib shorts I have ever ridden – meanwhile, the jersey is certainly up amongst the best.
The London based high end cycling brand launched its Pro Team II kit earlier this year. I was sent a set of bib shorts, and midweight jersey in the rather fetching teal blue colour to review in early March.
Rapha have established a deserved reputation for an obsessive attention to detail and style. Make no mistake, the shorts and jersey are not lacking for smartly thought out details in their construction. We took a close look at the kit in our preview piece, where you can read about some of the technical and design focused elements of the shorts and jersey.
It is clear to see when you hold these garments that the design process at Rapha saw someone thinking carefully about all the little details that add up to make outstanding garments. There is definitely a ‘luxury pro’ feel to this jersey and bibs.
While both the shorts and midweight jersey I tested are in matching teal blue Rapha also offer the midweight jersey in pink or black. The shorts are also available in black, white, pink or yellow colourways. When worn together there is no doubting that these items were made to match. The design looks great – colourful in an understated way.
While evidently Rapha kit, both the jersey and bibs can be matched with other options and still look good. I delved into the ‘forçats de la route’ identity behind Rapha’s pro team range in the preview; and while the implications of pain, suffering and sacrifice may sound unpleasant, this identity does no harm to the products in practice!
On the bike, the shorts simply deliver on all fronts without any niggles, with a quality, close cut. Even when hammering away in the drops, you don’t feel the bibs. There is a sense of supported nakedness with the shorts – they simply do their job supremely well. Be it intense short rides, or gruelling day long epics, I had no complaints. There is certainly not as much compression that some brands such as Castelli offer on their pro level racing shorts, but just a good level – so that your legs are encased and supported.
Rapha have reworked the chamois on this next generation of pro team shorts, going as far as developing a different chamois size in each size of the bib short offered. Bigger than most other chamois, more than adequate comfort was provided here. There is differing thicknesses to the chamois, and evident ventilation in the pad, providing ample protection from nasty road surfaces.
However, compared to other shorts, I found that the chamois took noticeably longer than others to fully dry after washing. This may be down to the complexity of the construction, but is something to watch out for if you want to ride the shorts on successive days.
At no point during testing did the bib straps feel uncomfortable or dig into my shoulders. There is a good width to the straps, and they are soft and stretchy – all while keeping the main part of the shorts in prime position. Meanwhile, at the opposite end of the shorts, the leg grippers performed well – with the material remaining firmly in place.
During the testing period, when I rode in other bib shorts, I have found myself constantly comparing to the Pro Team II shorts. While others may deliver in terms of comfort, raciness, or good looks, these Rapha shorts excel on all fronts.
As the warmest of the Rapha pro team short sleeve jersey options (Aero, Lightweight and Flyweight options are also available), the Midweight jersey I tested seemed like the perfect choice for spring in Northern Europe.
The fabric of the jersey is soft and stretchy. While not skin tight in the size M I tested (37-38” chest), by going down a size to S, I imagine I’d get a suitably ‘pro’ skin-tight fit. However, a little looser fit offers more versatility when it comes to wearing thicker base layers or stuffing pockets for long days in the saddle. Indeed, compared to more race orientated jerseys on the market, the pockets of the jersey here were more than up to the task of holding extra layers, food, tools and the like required for long rides.
There are small discrete holes cut under the arms, which help vent away excess heat when hammering away. The collar is more of a modern, racey cut, and thus it would be advisable to take a snood for some neck protection on windier days.
The jersey was extremely comfortable against the skin, and did good job at providing a suitable body temperature for riding. The YKK Vislon zipper worked very well; easy to adjust with a smooth action. An anti-bacterial and SPF50 treatment has been applied to the jersey – welcome additions given how much riding prospective buyers are likely to be doing each season.
One niggle with the jersey, is that I found my phone jumping dangerously high out of the open pockets when riding over rough roads. As a caseless iPhone, it simply didn’t play well with the material. After experiencing this, the phone went into the zip pocket.
In terms of design, I liked the clean, single colour with discreet graphics and lettering that Rapha have opted for. Indeed, this item simply does not scream Rapha from a distance – colourful and understated. The teal blue is suitably eye catching, which helps improve safety, and there are some discrete reflective details for good measure.
I tested the jersey and bib shorts across a range of different terrain and in varied conditions. From cold, windy travels across Flemish flatlands, to warm tempo riding in the hills. Longer rides in Belgian sunshine, that took in cracked concrete roads and the occasional cobbled climb, saw the kit provide ample protection in oft unpleasant conditions. On a short power ride in the Swiss Alps, under a baking midday sun, the kit also performed faultlessly. There was no point where you could argue that the kit let the rider down!
With the jersey being the thicker midweight option, I suspect it would be a little too warm in high summer when temperatures exceed 25c. However I found the thickness of the material perfect for the changeable temperatures of spring in Belgium. Simply pare it up with an appropriate base layer or arm warmers dependant on conditions. On mid-March Belgian days, coupling the shorts with a liberal application of winter embrocation meant I was adequately warm; and I never found the shorts too hot at any point.
Build quality is top notch – and based on initial impressions – and past experience with Rapha kit – I expect the Pro Team II it to last a very long time indeed.
At £135/ €170 for the midweight jersey and £195/ €230 for the bibs, the price point is certainly at the higher end. However, at the time of writing the bibs and jersey can be picked up in a bundle for £260/ €320, making the price of entry more affordable.
While many will rule out this kit based on price alone, it is a matter of assessing whether Rapha’s Pro Team Kit delivers measurable value. In terms of pure comfort, performance, and style, they certainly deliver, and I highly recommend this kit to riders who demand the best. The clear impression I have is that these are no compromise bib shorts and jersey. With the Pro Team II range, Rapha have delivered some of the best quality performance orientated cycling kit available on the market today.
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