Review: Rapha Classic bib shorts.

Rapha. A classic Classic bib.

The story begins with the name because the Rapha Classic bib ($210) makes that statement again and again. Whether it’s the understated style, an emphasis on fit versus flash or the willful insistence on durability, these bibs are classic.

The first thing you notice is the absence of screaming. No loud logos, crazy patchwork arrangement of techno-fabrics or visual noise. These bibs are matte black, six panel, Eddy Merckx, let’s hammer out a six hour ride.

The Rapha name is done black on black, there’s no color except white pipping on the straps and the mesh is high quality but visually restrained. All that harkens back to a time when the ride was more important than showing off your conceptual lifestyle package.

Understated style.

Our view is that bib shorts live or die based on the integration of pad into short, the design, positioning and choice of chamois. All the rest is secondary. The Rapha Classic uses the Cytech EIT pad. You might recognize that name if you own a Capo or Assos bib.

We’ve tested ten pair of bib shorts in the last year — we might have a PhD in bib-ology. The Rapha is tops, if not the best, in terms of pure ride comfort. We’d like to say we know exactly why. Most likely its the pad shaping — we won’t be the first to note the two piece construction and the definite anatomical curve from front to back. What we do know is feel on the saddle. That design puts us right in the comfort zone, it never slides out of position or seem to compress even on longer rides. It’s plush, it supports, it encourages adding the extra 15 miles to the loop back home.

In terms for fabric, the Rapha Classic is particularly durable and yet soft to the touch. It feels like luxury lycra. The fabric itself has an excellent stretch but doesn’t appear thin or prone to wear out. This is another expression of the classic idea — the look is timeless and the inspiration is well-made clothing, not the more ephemeral technical gear that changes every season, improvements or not.

In particular, there are two nice touches — a small pocket integrated into the bottom back of the bib that is cell-phone ready. There’s also the generous cut out in the center of the back, allowing you an extra measure of cool on oven-hot Summer rides.

There has to be a drawback somewhere and that is dry time. Be prepared to hang your Rapha Classic bib overnight and still find it not quite dry in the morning. Anecdotal evidence suggests it does just fine on low heat in the dryer.

Anatomical pad.

Finally, we’re going to suggest one final advantage of the Rapha Classic bib — the Rapha brand itself. Humans like to think they’re rational creatures that make choices based on logic, not emotion. With 25 years of advertising experience I can tell you that’s crap.

We use the rational to cover up the fact that we buy things that make us feel intelligent or successful, powerful or caring or whatever the emotional requirement. Great brands like Apple or Mercedes or Rapha don’t tell product stories, they reach for the higher emotional benefits.

Rapha has created a brand that speaks to the ride, not the gear. It tells the stories of our deeper emotional connection to cycling — the rides in the rain, finding the strength for the last climb, accepting whatever gifts or discoveries appear around the next corner. That is part image-making but also part brilliance and insight, too.

In our humble opinion, the Rapha Classic bib is true to its word and name.

Rapha website

Rapha Classic bib

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22 Responses to “Review: Rapha Classic bib shorts.”

  1. Great review, I may actually consider Rapha for my next set of (non-team) bibs…I just can't believe they're $200. I say this with no sarcasm that, for Rapha, that's a helluva price. I expect somewhere around twice that for even a pair of Rapha socks, maybe they're starting to actually sell their products to the masses who can afford them.

  2. As my wife ( a non-rider) commented and I quote "It's the ""PRADA"" of the cycling world. ". I can't think of anything worse than hitting the pavement……..oh yeah, destroying a $200 dollar set of bibs when I do hit the pavement…pain compounded. I do agree you get what you pay for to a certain extent (i.e. that $69 pair of bibs will ride like a pair of Depends) but $200 think you're payin for the name.

    • Keith, you're right in saying you're paying for the name in part. That is true for any company with a great product and in addition, a great brand. You pay extra because it's an Apple or Mercedes or Sidi. Not only because of the product itself, but because of the positive associations built up around the brand and therefore what it says about you. Just human nature to want the things we care about — wife, kids, bib shorts — to reflect well on us. When all that aligns, it's actually worth the extra cost IMHO. Best, Matt

  3. I recently bought a pair of Rapha winter tights. I felt like I might be an idiot for doing so, but I did get them for 20% off, so it was only slightly ridiculous. My first impression was that the fabric was like nothing else I have ever felt before. It does feel like luxury lycra, with a woven texture. The tights have no pad, but they fit great and kept me warm. So then I bought the 3/4 bibs (with pad). Again, you can really feel the quality of the garment, and the pad was fairly flexible and supportive (only a two hour ride, but enjoyable none-the-less). These two were on sale (end of season). So I may actually consider paying full price for my next pair, but I will still keep an eye on the sale rack….

  4. Hey Matt, I’m a new reader to your site and just wanted to say thanks for the review.  I’m in the market for a new pair of bibs and your comments are much appreciated! 

  5. Hey Matt, I’m a new reader to your site and just wanted to say thanks for the review.  I’m in the market for a new pair of bibs and your comments are much appreciated! 

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