Rouleur’s guide to the best Rapha shorts

From Powerweave to Cargo, Rapha’s range of cycling shorts have you covered for every riding style, but the choice can be a little overwhelming. We’ve broken down the collection to help you pick right

Bib shorts form the most crucial part of any cyclists’ outfit. An ill-fitting pair can leave you taking the shortcut home before the ride has even begun with gritted teeth, moral shot. A good pair should complement a rider’s anatomy, doing their job to protect the most delicate of regions but so comfortable and lightweight that you barely notice they’re there. 

London-based brand Rapha has been mastering the art of making bib shorts since it was founded in 2004. Born out of a desire to fill a gap in the market for high performance cycling clothing that also looks stylish, Rapha has rapidly grown into one of the leading brands for sports apparel in the cycling sphere. Its roots were put down in the road cycling scene as the brand originally created kit for the Tour de France winning Team Sky, developing the best apparel in conjunction with athletes who spend hours in their bib shorts, day in, day out.

Related: New Rapha Foundation grantees

But as cycling has evolved, and off-piste disciplines like gravel racing have skyrocketed in popularity, Rapha has embarked on another mission: creating kit for every type of rider, in every type of discipline. With this, the brand’s range of bib shorts has widely expanded, with offerings for trail riding, long-distance riding, casual riding and, keeping true to their history in the pro scene, high-performance shorts too. We’ve analysed the extensive range to help you pick the best bibs for you.

Men's Brevet Bib Shorts

£215 - Shop here

There’s no denying that ultra-endurance rides are growing in popularity. With many inspired by the escapades of riders like Lachlan Morton who rode 5,510km in his “Alt Tour” last year, more and more cyclists are looking to push their limits when it comes to riding. But embarking on such challenges requires extensive preparation, and kit that stands up when put through hours of hard work on the saddle.

It’s for this reason that Rapha created the Brevet bib shorts. These are designed to go the distance, with the chamois made up of multiple layers of fast-drying foam and topped with an antibacterial fabric. On long days on the bike, especially when the weather is hotting up, keeping fresh is crucial not only for comfort, but also for health and hygiene reasons.

While Rapha has kept the aesthetics of the Brevet bibs characteristically stylish, with a range of muted colours and minimal branding, it’s clear that practicality has been at the heart of the product’s development. Reflective strips adorn the side and rear of the bib shorts for when the light starts to fade, while subtle mesh side pockets provide handy storage for valuable items. Add in UPF 50+ sun protection, sweat wicking fabric and a relaxed fit, and these shorts are ideal for the long haul.

Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts 

£295 - Shop women's, shop men's

Far down at the other end of the spectrum to the Brevet collection sits Rapha’s Pro Team range. Developed with feedback from Rapha’s sponsored teams such as L39ION of LA – known to storm round fast and technical crits in the States – and the men’s and women’s EF Education WorldTour teams, these are made in collaboration with those who, quite simply, know best.

Composed of a unique weave fabric, the Powerweave bib shorts sit at the forefront of Rapha’s Pro Team offering: the pinnacle of high-performance bib shorts. With a compressive fit, these bibs are made for those the watt-saving aero-freaks who are looking for every marginal gain. Thanks to an engineered 7-panel construction, the Powerweave bib shorts are said to be 20% lighter than Rapha’s regular Pro Team bib shorts, helping to ensure reliable temperature control in the most intense of efforts.

Not only does the compressive fit of the Powerweave bib shorts offer aerodynamic gains, it also can act as an aid to performance, improving muscle recovery while on the move. Made with no leg gripper and laser cut, ergonomic straps, there is not an extra ounce of material used on these bib shorts where it isn’t needed. Rapha has even sacrificed printing its trademark logos onto the Powerweave shorts, instead engraving the brand name into the side of the bibs within the fabric. 

Read our full review on the Rapha Pro Team Powerweave women's bib shorts

Women's Detachable Bib Shorts

£215 - Shop here

It goes without saying that the requirements of women’s cycling kit, bib shorts especially, are very different from those of the men’s equivalent. Rapha has long understood this, consistently creating innovative products that are optimised with both a women’s specific fit and chamois. For years the brand has supported women’s cycling teams, memorably creating stylish kit for Canyon//SRAM racing, before moving on to sponsor EF Education Tibco-SVB for 2022, designing an eye-catching pink jersey for the women’s WorldTour squad.

Related: Rapha Pro Team Winter Kit Review

It’s thanks to Rapha’s closeness to female athletes that its women’s kit offering has always stood out, and the women’s detachable bib shorts are a shining example of this. Nature breaks for women have for too long been made difficult by bib shorts that force riders to remove every top layer in order to go to the toilet while on a ride – especially uncomfortable on those colder days. With the detachable bib shorts, Rapha offers a solution.

With an innovative clasp system on the rear of the shorts, pee stops mid ride have been made immeasurably easier. Instead of squatting and shivering in a cold field, the detachable bibs can simply be undone at the bottom via a magnetic clasp, all with your jersey or jacket still on top. Able to be done with one hand, it's hassle and faff-free, and we’re all for it.

Aside from the clasp system, the detachable bibs feature Rapha’s well-loved classic chamois pad which is made for all-day comfort, as well as breathable mesh bib straps. The detachable bibs are a good investment if you’re looking for an all-rounder bib short that will do the job for all-day adventures, intense shorter sessions, or simply a cafe ride. Coming in three fetching colour options – we’re especially partial to the wine and peach combination – these bibs look as good as they feel.

Trail Fast + Light Shorts

£90 - Shop men's, shop women's

Rapha’s foray into bib shorts doesn’t stop at lycra. The Trail Fast + Light bib shorts are made for hot days off-road, designed with a shorter cut on the leg and a breathable nylon fabric for a lightweight feel. 

Despite the thinner layer, the shorts don’t compromise on durability, with an abrasion-resistant material ensuring that the trail shorts are tough and will survive any snags that may occur from bushes or trees while shredding. Should an unfortunately severe fall occur, though, Rapha includes a repair kit for at home first-aid for the trial shorts, making them an even more reliable investment. Secure side pockets offer important storage for valuables on the move, zipped shut to ensure that bumps or vibrations from the trials won’t result in a cracked phone screen or lost house keys. The addition of DWR treatment (durable water repellent) is a nice touch which means the shorts are ready for anything the weather throws at them.

While the trial shorts do have a slim fit, they remain flexible due to a 4-way stretch woven fabric and an adjustable waistband means they can be sized to each individual for optimum comfort. The duraflex snap button on the top of the shorts also means they’ll stay in place despite the inevitable movement on the saddle that off-road riding brings. They can be paired with Rapha’s trail liner shorts and knee pads can be added for extra protection while pushing the limits on technical sections. 

Classic Bib Shorts

£170 - Shop women's, Shop men's

If you’ve read this far into our guide, then we’d hope you are a little clearer on which Rapha shorts are right for you. But, if you’re still spoilt for choice, Rapha’s Classic bib shorts may just give you the answer. These are the versatile all-rounder, suitable for any terrain and comfortable enough for everyday use. Wide leg grippers, a quick-drying chamois and a high-stretch material all contribute a bib short that looks incredibly premium but doesn’t compromise on wearability.

While the men’s iteration of the Classic bib shorts feature straps which scoop low at the front of the body, the women’s version sits higher up, providing a compressive fit without the bulk of zippers which makes them easier to put on and take off. The women’s Classic bib shorts also feature a specifically designed women’s chamois. Made from dual-density fabric, the shorts’ panelled construction ensures extra comfort.

Both versions of the shorts use a high stretch, matt fabric which wicks sweat well on those warmer days. Flat-lock stitching on the Classic bibs and a wider leg gripper also reduces the risk of any friction when riding, while a more relaxed fit also aids wearability. Coming in a couple of well-considered, muted colours and featuring subtle but classy Rapha branding, the Classic bib shorts are the best option for an all-rounder that will serve you well on a range of riders in varying conditions.

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