Given a female cyclist's comfort break concerns, many women choose the ease of use of waist shorts over bib shorts, despite the increased comfort and performance of the latter. But it is perfectly possible to find high performance waist shorts, as these Rapha Women's Core Shorts prove. They're superbly comfortable, extremely well made and reasonably – for Rapha quality and design – priced.
The Core shorts are part of a new range from the company, aiming to offer the same high performance of the Women's Classic Shorts but with a lower price. A sort of 'Tesco Value' for Rapha – or maybe 'Waitrose Essentials' would be more apt.
The idea is that they have the same quality and even the same female-specific Cytech pad as the other – higher priced – shorts, but a slightly different aesthetic.
The Core shorts are made from a slightly denser fabric than the Classics, with a gentle leg gripper on the laser cut legs and gripper tape at the rear of the waist. The front panel of the waist is both lower than the back and flat, made from stretch double-layer fabric rather than elasticated. I didn't find any problems with the waistband curling over in use, although other users have commented on this in the past. And there was no muffin top or sausage leg going on.
In wear, they stay put without the migration that can happen with some waist shorts. Leg length is similar to the regular Classic shorts (the Classics are also available in a shorter length), making them slightly on the longer side for my own personal preferences, but perhaps perfect for those who have longer legs (I'm 5ft 5) or who prefer more coverage.
As mentioned, the pad is the same Cytech female-specific pad as in Rapha's other women's shorts. I found it superbly comfortable for a variety of ride distances, from commuting to a 100km sportive, but always unobtrusive. It's just a touch on the low profile side at the rear for use with a firm saddle, which may prove to be an issue for racers.
Overall, this is one genuinely comfortable pair of waist shorts. The fabric is a good blend of supportive and stretchy, and will especially appeal to those who prefer a denser weave with no 'show through'. The sizing and stretch is forgiving of seasonal size fluctuations, and the waistband and leg openings sit securely but without impinging on comfort or aesthetics.
Price-wise, this is clearly an expensive pair of shorts, but compared with other premium brands such as Castelli, Gore, Etxeondo and Assos, the Core shorts mostly come up as an equivalent to lower priced products from these brands – as indeed they are positioned within Rapha's range. With Rapha's fit, attention to detail and quality, they are a safe investment for those with the money to look beyond the mid-range.
It really is hard to find fault with the Core Shorts at this price and level of quality. These are premium shorts at a mid-range price.
An outstanding blend of style, comfort and premium performance at a mid-range price
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Core Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Rapha says: "Rapha Core Shorts use collection-specific materials and technology to set the new standard in performance, comfort and value. Designed for every road rider, they are constructed for simple quality.
'The Core collection is about optimising innovative fabrics and processes across the entire collection to reduce production hours and wastage. For example, the leg-gripper trim reappears in the jersey back, the material for the zip guard is used again on the sleeve tips, and bindings use rolled edges. This means we can produce Core garments without compromise, leading to a new standard for everyday cycling apparel.'
Absolutely spot on, and for Rapha quality and design they're very good value for money.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Classic Rapha chamois pad
Black dense-knit fabric for modesty
Colour-matched trims throughout
New seam construction
Laser-cut soft-silicone leg grippers
Subtle tonal branding
Machine washable at 30 degrees
Available in sizes XXS-XL
Superb finish and extremely high quality fabric and pad.
Comfortable, supportive and unobtrusive for any ride distance.
Less fragile than the Classic short and slightly less likely to be randomly savaged by Velcro.
Rapha still says:
"Do not iron
Do not bleach
Do not dry clean
Do not tumble dry"
There aren't enough hours in the day to even consider doing any of those, but in case you were, don't.
Good and stretchy to allow for a variety of shapes and proportions. Slightly longer in the leg than many.
Bang on the money for sizing. A medium is roughly a UK12.
A great balance between weight, support, comfort and coverage.
Extremely comfortable at the waist and legs, and the chamois gives a great level of support and protection without being too bulky, though it's possibly a little thin at the rear for racers.
A mid-range price for premium performance. Very good value for Rapha name and quality, and the same price as Gore's Power Lady 3.0 shorts.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed very well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Low key style (subtle black logo), high density fabric, comfort, performance, value for money...
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Any time.
Use this box to explain your score
There's nothing to dislike about these shorts. They are a great combination of style, performance, comfort and value for money. Even the whingers would be hard pressed to find something to whinge about.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.