Until now Rapha have never offered a padded bib tight, but that has all changed with the release this winter of the Pro Team Winter Tights with Pad, developed at the request of Team Sky and perfect for those who prefer the simplicity of padded bibs over separate bib shorts and over tights.
Unpadded bib tights offer a lot of useful flexibility; you can get more use out of them between washes and wear them over your favourite bib shorts. But the high price of Rapha's previous unpadded bib tights was hard to stomach. These are a much better proposition, providing fantastic thermal insulation, protection from the rain and road spray, and a comfortable Cytech insert.
The tights use a heavyweight windproof fabric with a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment for the front of the legs, and a thinner, more breathable fabric on the back. Splashing through puddles or riding in the rain showed the front of the tights to provide extremely impressive protection, with no water ingress at all. I've used tights with so-called water protection but they all have their limits, I haven't found the limit of these tights yet. They're very impressive.
They're also lovely and warm. Heading out on a couple of early morning rides with a temperature of about 2°C, my legs were toasty warm. And thanks to the breathable fabric at the back of the legs, I never experienced any overheating, even as the temperature moved up into double figures after a five-hour ride. For riding in really bad weather these tights are about the best I've ever tested.
Fit is an area Rapha generally do extremely well, and these are extremely comfortable bib tights. The DWR treated material does not have a great deal of stretch, but thanks to the smart cut of the various panels there is no restriction on your freedom of movement when pedalling. The fit is good around the hips, bum and crotch area too, and the flat wide bib straps exert no undue pressure on your shoulders.
The big news with these tights is the addition of the padded insert. Rapha have used the same Cytech pad as used in their Pro Team Bib Shorts, and while it's a very basic looking insert, it does provide very good comfort for rides in excess of five hours, so no complaints there.
Above the waist is a generous overlap with the kidney area, and there's enough stretch in the front panel that no zipper is needed for comfort breaks. The bib straps are very wide and very flat and they sit comfortably over the shoulders, with a large panel of mesh in the back.
As you can see in the photos, there are quite a few Rapha logos compared to the more discreet aesthetic we're used to with Rapha clothing. The Rapha logos and the horizontal stripes on the lower legs provide a good contrast to help boost visibility though, it's just a shame they're not made from a reflective material. Fair enough the tights have been developed for Team Sky who do all their training in daylight, but for us non-professionals who have no choice but to train after work hours in the dark, a bit more reflectivity than the two tiny rear tabs would have been nice.
Despite the niggle about the lack of reflectivity - a complaint that can be levelled at most bib tight manufacturers - these are very good bib tights and they do work hard to justify the very high price tag, much more so now they have an integrated padded insert. The fit is perfect and the comfort second to none, but it's the thermal insulation and protection from the rain and road spray that really moves these tights into a category of their own. £200 is a lot of money to spend on bib tights, but if you rack up the miles and want properly warm and hard-wearing bibs, then these must be on your shortlist.
The Rapha Pro Team Winter Tights with Pad are available in six sizes from XS to XXL.
Stunning thermal insulation and rain protection with long ride comfort, but they're a pricey investment
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Winter Tights with Pad
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?
Like the Rapha Pro Team Jacket, these tights use a wind-blocking, DWR fabric for the front panels and a breathable fabric for the rear - perfect for high-tempo training sessions. This construction allows sweat to be released from the back of the tights, while the front panels give necessary protection from the elements.
The chamois is in the same position as in the Pro Team Bib Shorts, staying stable and comfortable during even high-intensity efforts in the drops. The bib straps are constructed from a lightweight mesh, and the tights' waist is raised to offer insulation across the torso. Finished with bright details for visibility in low light.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Breathable rear panels
Same chamois as Pro Team Bib Shorts
High waist for insulation
Yes they're expensive, but they really do work hard to justify the outlay with impressive performance that is easily better in the cold and rain than cheaper bib tights.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For cycling in the winter tights don't get more comfortable or insulated than these.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fantastic warmth and protection from the rain, ideal for the worst cycling conditions. You won't get cold in these.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of reflective details.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
Considering the level of performance, comfort, fit, insulation and weather protection, nothing else really comes close but there is no getting away from the fact that £200 is a serious expenditure on a pair of tights. If you rack up a lot of miles these would undoubtedly pay for themselves through the course of a tough winter.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
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, mtb,
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.