Rapha Softshell Trousers feel like riding in your favourite pyjama bottoms - only more weatherproof and well suited to cycling in the UK weather.
Don't quote me on this but I think softshells were invented by the same people who make spaceships. The material seems to posses mystical powers that manage to moderate what the weather gods hurl at us while we try and enjoy cycling in the bi-polar British climate.
It is pretty weather resistant, but you need to keep active to achieve its warmth benefits. The polyester soft shell isn't totally waterproof but the water resistant coating deflects enough water for light rain showers to bead off. In torrential rain the trousers do become saturated but retain their shape and don't stretch out like some other stretchy fabrics do.
Even in their most soggy state the trousers are comfortable and didn't grate my crotch, a sign of a good cut and fit. More importantly, they dry out really fast which means that if you stand by the radiator after getting soaked riding to the pub you should be dry by the time you finish your first pint. Although your undercrackers will still be damp.
Having a luxurious soft brushed lining gives these a warm comforting feeling like wearing your favourite pyjamas, but probably best that you don't go commando in these. With the high level of insulation they provide, I thought these would be too warm, but the material wicks sweat really well and they are so breathable that I didn't feel uncomfortable. Probably not the choice of legwear for temperatures above 20 degrees - but then those days are what shorts were designed for.
Designed for the worst conditions the city throws at you, the Softshell Trousers are cut from a breathable and water-resistant material and constructed to last. The membrane design of the softshell fabric means it insulates and simultaneously allows the skin to breath. The trousers are proofed with a water-resistant coating and have a soft brushed tricot lining for comfort and warmth.
The seat panel, the bit that covers your bottom, is constructed from a tougher material, an abrasion-resistant nylon for protection and durability plus the added panel gives a better fit around the gusset. You get surprisingly little chafing around the inner thigh. The nylon panel has more water resistance from the spray from your back wheel which can be a bonus - although it does make your bum slip around like someone has greased your saddle.
The stretch waistband has a soft gripper and at the rear is a neoprene panel to protect from road spray and keep your backside warm. This gives the trousers quite a high waist, something Simon Cowell would appreciate. This isn't the sort of trouser that you wear hanging off your arse like you are some kind of fashionable yoof, remember, these are weatherproof trousers and the high waist is essential for not catching a chill. Remember what your mother told you. You soon appreciate what benefit that high waistband and a tucked in under layer can do for you when the temperature drops.
The straight cut and flat fronted nature of these trousers and the high waist band give it a kind of chino look. A waterproof lined zip pocket on the rear keeps your wallet from going limp. Another tiny little zip pocket on the front is handy to stash very small things in, possibly. And my favourite pocket is what I will name the 'Houdini' pocket which is like a hidden compartment within your pocket which does a great job of making things disappear then reappear after you think they are lost. Or, for those who don't believe in magic, a pocket sleeve that stops things from falling out when you are sat down. Genius.
Nice finishes and a nod to cycle safety are the reflective beading found on the seam on the butt and down by the ankle; very subtle but work really well when headlights catch them at night. Rapha's signature one white belt loop complements the other 5 to help you keep these strides up with a belt.
When would you wear these I hear you ask. Well, I found that I would choose them for commutes in foul weather instead of a waterproof over trouser. I am not often seen in Lycra in town, I find it a bit too serious/exposing for my 10 mile hack across the capital. I would wear them a lot more if they were skinnier but without being like tights.
After I got used to wearing what could be mistaken for suit trousers, I have only one main criticism and that is that the bottom of the trouser leg is too wide and has a tendency to flap into the chainset.
At about £3 per inch of these trousers, you don't want them to get churned up in your chainring. With a trouser clip they worked fine. My other concern was what footwear to wear with these. Dainty cycling shoes look odd at the end of straight trousers. Don't they?
Lovely comfortable trousers that take on most weather conditions.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Softshell Trousers
Size tested: 32
"Designed for the worst conditions the city throws at you, the Softshell Trousers are cut from a breathable and water resistant material and constructed to last" is what Rapha says. It reality they coped well with most of what the British weather has to offer but they are on the warm side.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The membrane design of the softshell fabric means it insulates and simultaneously allows the skin to breath. The trousers are proofed with a water-resistant coating and have a soft brushed tricot lining for comfort and warmth. They also have a reinforced nylon bum panel.
The general level of construction is adequate, it isn't over-engineered or delicate and intricate. No loose threads or seems coming undone, buttons falling off or zips failing. The material looks like it will keep theses leg covers looking like new for a long long time.
If only the cut of the trousers was a little narrower at the bottom, these would be the best bad weather trousers - instead they are just good.
The reinforced seat panel made from a tougher nylon probably does a better job at resisting water than wear, any pair of trousers I have worn out from cycling is around the inner thigh.
These are super comfy.
In relative Rapha comparison terms, a bargain.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
I really liked these trousers and I much prefer wearing these to a pair of waterproof over trousers - although if the weather is really bad a spare pair of pants and a spare pair of trousers are needed the other end.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I like the fact that they are both technical and smart looking. It can be horrific weather and you can still look like you are dressed for dinner rather than for dingy sailing.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I found the trousers were a touch too wide at the bottom and needed a clip to tether them away from the chainset.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, and I still am. And still will unless I move to the south of France.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Already have.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Can Rapha make a slim pair please? Then this will be an excellent winter trouser.
About the tester
Age: 39 Height: 179 Weight: 79
I usually ride: Bike that I am testing at the time My best bike is: Giant CFR pro, old school carbon converted to fixed. Kinesis Convert 2 geared work horse, Look KG241 skinny whippet
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, fixed/singlespeed, bare back