Rapha goes off-road with new Performance Trailwear

Pioneers of the kit which defined the newest age of road cycling, Performance Trailwear is a striking new direction for the British brand

Rapha’s new, performance-engineered trailwear is designed specifically for mountain biking. The range features bib liners, trail shorts, t-shirts and jerseys. In addition to apparel, the collection includes a helmet in collaboration with Smith Optics and accessories such as hats and hip packs.

Rapha has dabbled in off-road apparel before with its Brevet collection, designed for gravel and ultra endurance racing, but its new Trailwear collection ventures even further into new territory and marks a stark departure from the brands heavily-road focussed roots.

Despite being a step-change, the garments can still be clearly identified as part of the iconic brand, with the jersey featuring the signature Rapha stripe on its arm. The colour choices are eye-catching but muted, with grey, blue and green hues ensuring visibility but still being well-suited to the off-road terrain the collection has been designed for. To differentiate the Trailwear from other sections of Rapha’s extensive collection, a new emblem has been designed in the shape of a diamond trail marker.

The Desire Selection: Rouleur's guide to the best products in cycling

Despite the new features of its latest release, Rapha explains that its core mentality towards riding is consistent throughout the brand, but mountain biking is a perfect new challenge for the company due to the tough demands it places on cycling apparel. This has forced innovation and led to the design of products which are very different from what we’ve seen from Rapha before. 

Shop the collection

The development of the collection

The nature of mountain biking means that MTB kit needs to be durable but also provide maximum comfort and flexibility, and have high-wicking properties for the hotter months. With this in mind, Rapha have taken feedback from elite athletes such as Olympic medallist Jill Kintner, EWS racer Ella Conolly and XC legend Adam Craig to ensure it ticks all the boxes when it comes to performance trailwear. These riders spend an extensive amount of time in the saddle, and Rapha explains that this made them ideal candidates to check if the new collection would stand the test of time, even when used to shred on the world’s toughest trails.

An environmental focus

Mountain biking means being even closer to the environment than when training on the road, and Rapha has recognised that, with this, comes responsibility. In an attempt to reduce its excess and improve its green credentials, Rapha provides fabric cut offs – which otherwise would have gone to landfill – with each of its garments as part of a repair kit. 

Related: Rapha recycled: sustainability and the new Classic

Not only does this lead to less waste, but it also extends the lifespan of the product, making it a quality investment in a sport where a couple of crashes are almost a guarantee. For more serious kit damage which supersedes the average rider’s skill with a needle and thread, Rapha also offers its own free repairs programme across all its garments. In a further attempt to reduce its impact on its surroundings, the British brand boasts using 43% environmentally preferred materials, with a pledge to reach 90% by 2021.

A closer look

The cornerstone of the Performance Trailwear range is the Trail shorts, coming in both male and female iterations. Made of a weave-stretch nylon, the shorts are tough enough to withstand the abuse of all-mountain riding, whilst panels have been strategically placed to ensure full range of movement. Practicality is at the forefront of the garment, with a variable width belt system keeping the shorts in place and pockets both with and without zips, allowing for ease of access when required but also providing the security for any valuables.

Created to be paired with the Cargo bib liner, the Trail shorts have been designed with enough space to comfortably fit liner shorts underneath. With many of the elements being carried over from Rapha’s road bib short range, the Cargo liners are fast-wicking with mesh panels on the side to ensure temperature regulation. Rear pockets also give some extra storage space for long days in the saddle, and the chamois has been designed for endurance riding, making the shorts a great option for big MTB rides.

Sold as an ideal accompaniment to the shorts is the Trail ¾ sleeve jersey. Fully aware of the likelihood of damage to the jersey during mountain biking, Rapha’s jersey is double weaved on the arms and made from a high strength knit to limit the possibilities of any snagging on trees or branches. Rapha claim that the textured fabric spreads out moisture over the whole shirt, ensuring it remains comfortable and maintains freshness for long days on the bike.

The Trail technical t-shirt is a lighter layer for hotter days, as is the women’s Trail tank. Rapha’s honeycomb weave is a unique innovation that it claims has excellent wicking properties, leading to a fast-drying material, ideal for mountain biking over the summer months. 

Should the weather take a turn, the packable, windproof lightweight jacket is a good option for your back pocket. Rapha’s Trial jacket is treated with DWR (durable water repellent) and has a helmet compatible hood, ready for the heavens to open. Credit should be given for the attention to detail in the design of this garment: an oversized zip puller allows for easy ventilation and an added strap allows the jacket to be attached to the frame for a clean, off-body storage solution.

Helmets, glasses, hats and a hip pack round out the collection, with Rapha covering almost everything you’d need for a day out on the trails. Despite this being a new direction for the brand, each product looks to be well optimised for off-road adventures. Both material and design have been specifically selected for the unique requirements of mountain biking and Rapha has kept its iconic look to make the Trailwear perfectly in keeping with its other collections. Durability and practicality are central pillars of the collection, but a high-performance focus is also well maintained.

Shop the Performance Trailwear collection here

Shop now