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Verdict: 
Some of the best bib shorts out there just got better...
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206g
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Rapha Classic Bib Shorts II
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There's no more important a product for cycling happiness than a comfortable pair of padded bib shorts. Rapha has updated its best-selling Classic bib shorts with some refinements that ensure they're still one of the best and most comfortable pairs on the market.

Rapha has redesigned its popular Classic bib shorts for the summer and improved on every aspect – no mean feat given that the original shorts were next to perfect and have gone many years unchanged. I'm still using a pair I got when I rode the Cent Cols Challenge back in 2009 and they're still going strong despite hundreds of hours of use on and off-road.

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Updating such a classic was a risky decision, then, but critically Rapha hasn't messed around with the magic formula too much but instead has made small changes in key areas. It's less a radical redesign and more a refinement. The biggest change is found in the chamois/padded insert, which is the most important component of the bib shorts for obvious reason.

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - rear.jpg

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - rear.jpg

Rapha has developed a brand new chamois, with contoured padding in three sizes across the six size range (XS to XXL). The only other companies that I know of to offer different sized padded inserts are Endura and Ekoi; Ekoi's approach is based on weight, Endura's on sit bone width. Rapha's vary with the size of shorts.

Rapha Classic shorts - chamois - 1.jpg

Rapha Classic shorts - chamois - 1.jpg

It's a bit difficult to assess the impact of the different sizes for obvious reasons, but judging by comfort alone, this is one of the most comfortable padded inserts I've ever used. Your bum sinks into the pad and is well cosseted on rides of any duration with the most lovely floaty feeling ever. The pad is held firmly in the right place and doesn't move about, and is shaped perfectly.

The previous Classic bib shorts were hardly uncomfortable, but after hours of testing and going back and forth between the two versions, there's a noticeable difference. Small, but it's there. It's not so much that you need to rush out and replace your old Classic shorts, but if you're in the market for a new pair, these are just that little bit better.

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II.jpg

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II.jpg

Aside from the pad, the construction and comfort of the bib shorts themselves were always a highlight of the Classics, and the new shorts use a familiar soft Lycra material with a high stretch factor. Some shorts have multiple panels to try to provide the best fit – not always with the best results and usually pushing the price up. The simple construction here relies on the stretch of the Lycra, with everything pulling in the right direction, and no discomfort or tightness in any area.

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - side.jpg

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - side.jpg

They're not tight or compressive like racier shorts, and probably not aero either, but they are more flattering if you're not mirroring Chris Froome's wafer-thin figure. They're also supremely comfortable for any sort of riding, more so than many more complex designs.

> Buyer's Guide: The best cycling bib shorts

Soft mesh-lined bib straps spread the pressure over the shoulders and there's enough length that you don't feel awkward off the bike. A large mesh cutaway rear panel aids breathability when riding in the heat and does help manage sweat.

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - full front.jpg
Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - full back.jpg

The leg openings have simple elasticated hems lined with gripper tape, and while not as seamless as the new trend for raw cut finishes, obviously, is it comfortable and the shorts don't shift about when riding. Flatlock stitching is used throughout the shorts to eliminate the potential for discomfort, and there's no chafing around the padded insert.

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - gripper.jpg

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - gripper.jpg

You get a small rear pocket that Rapha says you can use for storing keys, but I didn't find it all that useful. It's there if you think you might need it. The front of the shorts is cut low and when you factor in the high stretch of the material, nature breaks aren't a mission they can sometimes be with bib shorts.

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - pocket.jpg

Rapha Classic Bib shorts II - pocket.jpg

Luxurious is a word often used to describe Rapha products, and these shorts really deserve that description. There's no getting away from the high price, of course, and only you can decide if they're worth it. Based on the impressive durability and longevity of the originals, and the comfort improvements of the new version, there's no doubt they're a solid investment if you take your comfort seriously and want the best – and are prepared to pay for it.

Verdict

Some of the best bib shorts out there just got better...

road.cc test report

Make and model: Rapha Classic Bib Shorts II

Size tested: Small

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:

A comfortable pair of cycling shorts is the most important clothing purchase any rider can make. Get them right and you can spend hours in the saddle without even noticing them. Get them wrong and every kilometre will feel like a hundred.

The Classic Bib Shorts II feature a new pad with body-contoured padding and a soft, chamois finish to provide all day comfort. Three pad sizes split across the Classic Bib range ensure the perfect fit from XS to XXL.

The shorts are made from a soft, matt-black Lycra with great stretch, while the bibs are made from a luxury mesh material, with a large cutaway section in the back to prevent overheating. For extra comfort in the saddle, Rapha's bib shorts have flatlock stitching throughout to prevent chafing, and a new, more efficient leg gripper that provides better grip at a reduced weight. The shorts also have a small key pocket, Rapha logos on the legs, and are cut low at the front for calls of nature.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Updated chamois pad

Matt black with Rapha logos

Highly breathable back

Soft gripper and flat lock stitching

Rear key pocket

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

First class construction.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Superb comfort and fit.

Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10

They're hardwearing shorts.

Rate the product for fit:
 
9/10

Fit is excellent with the high stretch of the Lycra providing a comfortable shape.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
8/10
Rate the product for comfort:
 
10/10

Rapha has nailed it with these Classic II shorts, they're one of the most comfortable pairs of bib shorts I've worn.

Rate the product for value:
 
7/10

Yes they're expensive, but judging by the eight-year-old pair of Classics I'm still regularly using, I'd say they're a good investment, especially if you want the ultimate comfort.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Very easy to wash.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Provide superb comfort and fit and contribute to cycling happiness.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Padded insert and Lycra construction provide luxury not often found in bib shorts.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

The price.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your score

Yes they're expensive, but they're just so lovely to wear.

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 31  Height: 180cm  Weight: 67kg

I usually ride:   My best bike is:

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Every day  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking

David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.

12 comments

Avatar
othello [392 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

My Rapha classic bib shorts are amazing, and THE best shorts I've ever had. People can say all they want about the brand, price etc. But the classic shorts are bloody brill no matter who made them. 

One (funny) thing to say about the inner pocket though. I put my credit card in there when I did the very first Ride100. When I arrived at the Olympic Park I was desperate for the toilet. Really desperate. I made it to one of the green portaloos just in time, stripped off  and did what I needed. What I didn't realise until after was when removing or putting the bib shorts back on (not sure which) the pocket turned upside down, depositing my credit card into the portlaoo bowl, which was open at the time...

I haven't used the inner pocket again  1

Avatar
Rich_cb [251 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

I have the previous version, absolutely fantastic bibs but I actually prefer their Brevet shorts.

Avatar
nicdoye [33 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Rich_cb wrote:

I have the previous version, absolutely fantastic bibs but I actually prefer their Brevet shorts.

I was in their Spitalfields branch yesterday, and despite owning a pair of Classics, I can't quite with out what the difference would be when in the saddle. Can you tell me? 

 

Cheers,

Nic

Avatar
Rich_cb [251 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
nicdoye wrote:

I was in their Spitalfields branch yesterday, and despite owning a pair of Classics, I can't quite with out what the difference would be when in the saddle. Can you tell me? 

 

Cheers,

Nic

The pad on the Brevets feel denser, it feels like it compresses less over the course of a ride and spreads pressure a bit more evenly.

I really notice the difference on rides over 2 hours in length.

The leg grippers are also a bit wider and generally feel a bit more comfortable than those on the classics.

I'm about 85kg and do most of my climbing/riding in the saddle so it might be that a denser pad just suits me better.

Avatar
nicdoye [33 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes
Rich_cb wrote:
nicdoye wrote:

I was in their Spitalfields branch yesterday, and despite owning a pair of Classics, I can't quite with out what the difference would be when in the saddle. Can you tell me? 

 

Cheers,

Nic

The pad on the Brevets feel denser, it feels like it compresses less over the course of a ride and spreads pressure a bit more evenly. I really notice the difference on rides over 2 hours in length. The leg grippers are also a bit wider and generally feel a bit more comfortable than those on the classics. I'm about 85kg and do most of my climbing/riding in the saddle so it might be that a denser pad just suits me better.

 

Thanks! Just wondered how the Classics could be bettered.  1

Avatar
sammutd88 [39 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

Don't want to start a debate or anything of the sort, this is a serious question to those who have tried Rapha bib shorts as I haven't. I've tried and currently use both Assos and Q36.5 bib shorts and tights. I find them comfortable and appreciate the in house custom textiles that are used. I have looked at Rapha bib shorts but to be honest, could not justify spending the same amount of money on seemingly generic fabric bib shorts (albeit with a top quality pad as well). I'm not attacking Rapha, just interested to know opinions on this. 

Avatar
liquigaz [18 posts] 2 months ago
1 like
sammutd88 wrote:

Don't want to start a debate or anything of the sort, this is a serious question to those who have tried Rapha bib shorts as I haven't. I've tried and currently use both Assos and Q36.5 bib shorts and tights. I find them comfortable and appreciate the in house custom textiles that are used. I have looked at Rapha bib shorts but to be honest, could not justify spending the same amount of money on seemingly generic fabric bib shorts (albeit with a top quality pad as well). I'm not attacking Rapha, just interested to know opinions on this. 

 Having jumped back in the saddle 7 or 8 years ago, my quest for ultimate comfort has been grail-esque! I've tried 5 different saddles and a similar number of bib short manufacturers, based on assorted reviews and recommendations. I'm 6' 4" and (down to) 18st, so my needs are probably different to yours. The bottom line is that the combination of bib shorts and saddles is very individualistic; what works for one may not for someone else. So I agree, it's not something to debate or argue about; just personal opinion. 

 So, in MY opinion.... without a shadow of a doubt, my comfiest saddles are Specialized and my go-to shorts are the Rapha Classics, now 5 years old and as good as they were on Day 1. I can happily get away with dhb or Altura for shorter rides; Sportful and Kalas (team kit) perform better still, and my Assos are easily good enough for all day rides - surpassed only by the Raphas. The Classics are the only pair I use for 100 mile sportives. I confess to being something of a reluctant Rapha fan:- I've got top-to-toe items of theirs for all weather; but despite the exceptional quality and longevity, their products are undeniably expensive. I therefore only buy their stuff in a sale, or when I have a discount code to hand.    

Avatar
srchar [451 posts] 2 months ago
1 like

I've tried Rapha Classic, Pro Team, Lightweight and Core shorts.

To my surprise, I prefer the Cores over the rest. And they're the cheapest!

Avatar
WolfieSmith [1380 posts] 2 months ago
0 likes

To also answer sammutd88's  polite question ( laugh  )I've also been using the Classic shorts for a few years now. I wear other brands in winter so I really look forward to the transition at this time of year. There is a real difference in both the quality of the fit and feel all over. The matt black material seems thicker and smoother without being hotter and the leg length sits perfectly at an inch longer in the leg than my club kit.

 The new classics use a different gripper - the overall broad but thin depth banding you see in aero jersey sleeves - rather than the shiny double gripper hem. It makes the bottom of the short legs look slightly leaner but the grip quality is no different.

The straps are super comfortable so even after a long ride and plenty of sweat there is no soreness in the shoulders. I bought a new pair last year and compared the pad with the 4 year old pair and felt very difference in terms of wear.

I struggle to find a fault with the classic shorts but if pressed it would be that the decal tends to crack with repeated wear. If Rapha produced the leg decals on a separate patch that didn't stretch with the legs that would cure that problem but it would add others.

Sure they aint cheap but it's the most important piece of kit you wear and it's a false and potentially painful economy to think otherwise on longer rides.  My justification has always been this: Conti Pro tyres cost £60 a pair and last 2 years. Rapha shorts cost £160 and last 5 years or more. 

Avatar
jumbo469 [8 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

I've got the core bib shorts and wouldn't use anything else now 

Avatar
nadsta [172 posts] 1 month ago
2 likes
othello wrote:

What I didn't realise until after was when removing or putting the bib shorts back on (not sure which) the pocket turned upside down, depositing my credit card into the portlaoo bowl, which was open at the time...

I haven't used the inner pocket again  1

 

typical Rapha buyer, throwing money down the toilet. 

 

Come on haters what's taking so long? 

Avatar
ken skuse [16 posts] 1 month ago
0 likes

Thank God for Decathlon B twin and others.