These well-made Deep Winter bib tights from Rapha come with windproof panels down the front to keep you pedalling comfortably when the weather turns arctic, as it has recently.
The stretchy windproof panels extend from the tops of the legs right down to the ankles, although they don’t cover the crotch. That area is protected by two layers of a fleecy fabric though and, coming without a seatpad, these tights are designed to be worn over a pair of shorts, so that makes three layers in all.
When we say ‘windproof’, the fleece-lined material Rapha use here doesn’t stop the cold air as completely as Gore’s Windstopper, but it’s a close run thing. You certainly don’t feel the breeze whipping through on frosty mornings like you can with standard Roubaix fabrics, so you stay much warmer than usual.
The seat is made from a similarly stretchy material that’s hard wearing enough to resist abrasion as you pedal and water repellent enough to keep road spray out, while the less exposed rear of the legs are a thinner fabric. They’re still fleece-backed and warm, but more breathable.
The legs are anatomically shaped with a slight bend at the knee that reduces rucking as you pedal and we had no problems with any chafing from the seams. They’re well positioned and mostly flatlock stitched. We’re big fans of foot loops to stop the legs riding up and these are broad enough to give a little extra coverage over your ankles – it all helps when the temperature plummets.
The bib section provides more warmth, the fleecy fabric providing a generous amount of coverage to your torso. It’s just the very top of the back and the shoulder straps that are mesh while the comfort zip comes with a backing flap that stops any draughts slipping through where you really don't want them.
These feel great in use. We’ve been wearing them on top of shorts for training in -2 and -3°C lately and we’ve stayed warm enough to get in a couple of hours on the bike. We’re giving it some stick on those rides – we wouldn’t fancy pootling about in temperatures like that – but cold legs haven’t been an issue. We’ve not suffered any problems with breathability either – no tacky legs at the top of big hills, no damp coldness on the descents.
These aren’t as water resistant as Gore Windstopper tights we’ve tried, though. The windproof panels at the front keep out spray and drizzle but anything more significant can get through, especially where the fabric rubs against itself as you bend your knees. That might or might not be important to you.
One thing that will definitely be valuable is the durability. We’ve given these tons of use over the past few weeks and even slid off on an icy corner, yet they look like they’ve hardly been worn. The fabrics look good, the stitching is strong, the zip is high quality… Top class all round in terms of workmanship.
You get a few little Rapha design touches like the word ‘Wheelsucker’ subtly printed on the backside to antagonize anyone hitching a free ride, and a white panel on one calf. It often gets splattered with grime from damp winter roads and the reflective piping that accompanies it would be more visible on the other leg for British riders, but it’s still a neat addition – we like a little twist, us.
The only thing we struggle with is the pricing. £220 is 60 quid more than Gore’s most expensive tights, and you have to factor in the cost of the shorts you'll need to wear with these too. To be fair, Assos do unpadded bib tights at a similar price but, even considering the durability we mentioned earlier, you’ve got to say that this is a big old wedge of cash. They’re very good longs that do the job well – but we still balk at the price.
Comfortable and durable wind-blocking tights suitable for sub-zero riding – but the price tag might make you flinch
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Deep Winter Tights
Size tested: Large
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 say, "Constructed using three types of fabric that are windproof, insulating, water-repellent and durable, the Deep Winter Tights have been created to keep you cycling through the worst winter conditions. Designed to be worn over padded cycling shorts."
Yep, that's reasonable, as long as you realise that each of the three fabrics doesn't have all of those characteristics. Is that obvious? Probably
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, definitely
Would you consider buying the product? No, because of the price
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if money wasn't a huge issue
About the tester
Age: 40 Height: 190cm Weight: 74kg
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.