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.
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.
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.