While Rapha has recently become a pioneer in creating kit for the alternative racing scene, be it gravel or ultra-endurance, it’s a brand that undeniably has its roots in the professional peloton on the road. Perhaps most famously sponsoring Team Sky in their halcyon years, then later the extremely successful Women’s WorldTour team Canyon//SRAM, Rapha is a brand steeped in racing heritage. Today, they continue to hold a strong presence in both the WorldTour and domestic racing scenes, sponsoring the EF Education men’s and women’s WorldTour teams, as well as L39ION of Los Angeles and Roxsolt-Liv-Sram.
It’s for this reason that we had high expectations when it came to Rapha’s pinnacle race bib shorts for women: the Pro Team Powerweave. Made using an entirely new fabric that Rapha claims will “wick sweat quicker, dry out faster and stay lighter” the bib shorts aim to deliver both comfort and performance while racing at the highest level.
Admittedly, we didn’t have any WorldTour races at our disposal to put the manufacturer’s bold claims to the test, but we were able to wear the bib shorts in local criterium races and while racing on an outdoor velodrome. The riding was high-speed and intense, which meant it was imperative that the shorts were able to wick sweat quickly as well as remain comfortable in an aggressive race position. Here’s how they held up throughout the test.
As aerodynamic gains continue to hold importance when it comes to high-performance cycling, it’s understandable that Rapha’s Powerweave bib shorts have a compressive fit. There was virtually no creasing in the material once the bib shorts were on, and they were helped to stay firmly in place by the integrated, elasticated leg gripper which is woven into the fabric to provide a stable fit.
The leg gripper isn’t the only place that Rapha has opted to remove seams in the Powerweave bib shorts. They are made up of just seven different panels, dramatically reducing the risk of irritation from seams and providing an optimised level of compression. Compared to the Pro Team Bib Shorts, this is 50% fewer panels, meaning the Powerweave bibs feel lighter and less bulky. The compressive fit is also said to help performance, aiding rapid recovery in between intense efforts.
Despite the focus on compression, I didn’t find that the bibs hindered my range of movement, as the Powerweave fabric still offered me full flexibility. It’s fair to say that these shorts wouldn’t be my go-to for an all-day adventure due to their tight fit, but for high-tempo efforts or race days, I’ve found myself regularly reaching for them. The laser-cut, ergonomic bib straps had bonded edges which helped to disperse pressure support over my shoulders too, further ensuring range of movement and comfort.
For me, Rapha has long been a front-runner for the most comfortable chamois offering in women’s bib shorts on the market today. The brand’s regular Pro Team bib shorts have served me well on rides exceeding the 5 hour mark, with the chamois striking a perfect balance between enough protection without too much bulk.
I was therefore wary to hear that Rapha had redesigned its chamois in the new Powerweave bib shorts, but I was pleasantly surprised by the result. The narrower construction means there is less bulk around the outside of the chamois, and it gives plenty of support for race efforts when you are likely to remain in one position on the saddle. A seamless construction around the edge of the chamois as it joins the bib shorts also helps eliminate any risk of friction.
The 5mm of quick-drying, high-density foam used in the chamois was enough for the race efforts which I tackled while wearing the shorts, but I think that for longer rides, I’d look for a little more support.
While British weather certainly isn’t tropical, I was able to test these bib shorts in the UK’s recent sunnier spells where temperatures hit around 20 degrees celsius. The jacquard weave construction used by Rapha in the Powerweave bibs was impressively effective – it ensured that any moisture travelled to the surface of the bib shorts and away from the body meaning I felt fresh throughout the session.
The material of the bib shorts is unlike any other I own; they are made from a woven fabric which Rapha describe as “industry-leading technology” whereby the brand can control every thread as the product is manufactured. As a result, the Powerweave bib shorts come in at 20 percent lighter than the knit used in the brand’s Pro Team Bib shorts, and this is certainly seen in the breathability of the shorts.
Perhaps my only gripe with these bib shorts is the current colourway on offer. While technically they performed exceptionally well, I think the aesthetic of the bib shorts is difficult to work with. They currently only come in a Dark Grey/Mauve option and I struggled to find a jersey that worked with the unique colour of the bib shorts. If performance is your main concern, then the Powerweave bib shorts excel in that department, but when paying £295 for the shorts, I’d rather own a colour that I could pair with any jersey in my wardrobe.
Rapha do note that a RCC (Rapha Cycling Club) exclusive colourway in Dark Navy and Carbon Grey will be launching early June, though, so this could be an option for those not keen on the current offering.
If you’re looking for bib shorts which are optimised for racing, Rapha’s Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts are ideal. They perform very well during high-intensity efforts and race conditions by quickly wicking sweat, aiding recovery and providing an aero-dynamic, lightweight fit. For an everyday short that will be comfortable over long training rides, I’d opt for Rapha’s regular Pro Team shorts instead, though, as they provide a little more support around the chamois and the fit is more forgiving.
At £295, the Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts aren’t cheap, but if you’re a serious racer looking to make every gain you can in high-performance activities, then these are worth the investment.
Shop the the Rapha Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts here