Having garnered a reputation for blending the cycling equivalent of haute couture with technical performance, Rapha is well known as a purveyor of high end slick cycling kit. Indeed, in terms of quality and comfort, Rapha’s bibs are broadly perceived as sitting towards the upper end of the cycling shorts pyramid. For 2017, the UK based cycling company has revamped its entire range of bib shorts. Three principles have guided the “re-engineering” of the shorts – advanced fabrics, upgraded chamois and a refined fit. The launch of this 2.0 range of shorts is therefore, a big deal for Rapha…
With the first signs of spring arriving in Belgium, I have been sent a pair of the Pro Team II bib shorts and a matching Pro Team Midweight Jersey to test. Both are in matching dark teal. Rapha also included a logo T-shirt to try out for casual, post ride café visits and the like – more on that in a separate piece.
Design wise, both the bib shorts and jersey have a very clean look. It is apparent on first inspection that these are well made and quality bits of kit. Personally, I find the teal colour very attractive. It’s a unique tone that Rapha have opted for, but if you’re not a fan, there are other options available, such as the famous Rapha pink or discreet black for the jersey. The shorts are available in black, white, teal, pink and yellow. Both items are made in Portugal.
The theme across the Pro Team range is ‘forçats de la route’, French (what else?) for ‘convicts of the road’. The connotations may appear a little intense, but the theme certainly underscores the extreme commitment to the sport that the pros must provide to succeed. In fact, Rapha calls the stripe motif that adorns the Pro Team kit ‘convict stripes’. These little nods to the quirks and romance of road cycling you often find on Rapha items are always nice; indeed there are often hidden patches with text that ties into the identity behind each Rapha item.
Pro Team Bib Shorts II
As the most race-orientated shorts in the new Rapha short range, the technical nature of the bibs is evident from the get go. Picking the shorts up they are lightweight and it is clear that the cut is optimised to hug the body. The construction is complex, and the finishing is done to a high standard, with well implemented transitions between different materials.
Holding everything together, the straps are stretchy and well ventilated, and two race radio pockets are stitched into the lower portion of the material.
The bedrock of any decent pair of shorts is, of course, the chamois, and Rapha have gone down the dual density route with the pad here. Actually, the company uses different sized chamois across the range, aiming to provide optimum comfort no matter your body shape. In the size M shorts, the pad does appear larger than most, and the thickest padding is centred around the supportive sit bone area. The Rapha logo also appears on the chamois itself. Overall the chamois appears very promising.
The legs of the bibs are finished with RAPHA printed logos on each side. The left is in the matching dark teal, while the right leg has a black logo. Inside the leg, the grippers are made up of small silicone dots.
It does appear that these are a pair of advanced bib shorts, melding comfort and high performance – it will be interesting how they perform on the road.
Pro Team Midweight Jersey
For this season, Rapha have released four Pro Team jerseys; Midweight, Lightweight, Aero and Flyweight. For the UK and low countries in spring, the Midweight option is probably the best way to go, with Rapha billing it as a ‘performance jersey for training and racing in mild to warm weather’.
The feel of the jersey is very silky and the simple clean design screams aero race jersey, with a cut to match. While not a concern in March, the jersey does have a SPF50 treatment.
There is a full-length zipper which works smoothly with some simple styling at the bottom. Some convict stripes appear at the bottom, as well as internally near the top of the jersey.
Underneath the arms are small perforated holes – handy for cooling when riding hard, and the Rapha armband is embossed on the left sleeve.
The pockets on the jersey seem a good size and are finished with a mesh material inside, seemingly to aid with cooling as well as prevent the pockets filling with water when riding in the wet. There is a zip- up pocket on the right-hand pocket, and more convict stripes appear. On the bottom of the central pocket is a reflective stripe, and on the edge of the left-hand pocket is a soft plastic tab with the word FORÇATS displayed (the Bib Shorts also sport the same tab).
Overall, first impressions of the kit are highly positive, with Rapha clearly having put a lot of thought into developing and styling this kit. The ‘forçats’ identity is certainly interesting, and I’m looking forward to some tough rides in this kit. A full review will delve into all elements of the kit in further detail in the coming weeks.
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