There was a time when 'cycle clothing' and 'looking normal' couldn't even bear to be in the same room; they drank in different bars, and hung out with different friends. But in recent times feelings have thawed between these old foes, and with the boom in city cycling, clothing that works equally well on the bike as it does on civvy street is becoming the norm. Rapha's Cotton Trousers are a fine case in point.
These trousers are lightweight, simple looking and designed for everyday use, whether it's on or off the bike. They look as good with a pair of trainers and a T-shirt as they do with a smart pair of shoes and a shirt for more formal occasions.
They're a really good pair of trousers with some neat and very subtle cycling features. The fit is slim, but with enough room for movement when you're on the bike, and they have a slightly tapered leg towards the ankle. They certainly don't have a cycling look to them, in fact they're pretty minimal in terms of appearance and any features are really well hidden.
The Cotton Trousers are, pretty unsurprisingly, made of cotton. In fact they're 98% cotton, with 2% elastane thrown in to give that extra bit of flex and stretch when you're turning the pedals. They're superbly comfortable, lightweight and soft against the skin.
They're pretty hardwearing too – most surface dirt brushes off pretty easily and creases drop out quickly, so you don't need to worry about turning up to the office or pub looking dishevelled. And thought has gone into the longterm lifespan of the trousers, with Rapha choosing a fabric that wears in over time and creates a patina effect on the surface.
The trousers aren't going to be first thing to choose if you're heading out in inclement weather; they stand up well enough in a light bit of drizzle and a cold breeze, but anything heavier than that and you're going to want to pick something else from your wardrobe. They don't purport to have any weather beating properties, but it's something worth a mention.
The attention to detail is impressive: the side pockets and one of the rear pockets have zips so your belongings are safely stowed away without the worry of your phone spilling out onto the tarmac.
The seams and joins feel like they'll take some serious abuse before they even think about deteriorating, and inside they are piped in a contrasting high-vis pink, which you can keep hidden away or reveal by rolling up your trouser leg as you ride.
There's also a high-vis pink tab on the left back pocket, which, again, can be left on show or hidden away depending on your preference. Apart from the flashes of pink there's not much else in the way of visibility, but then again trousers are often pretty far down the pecking order when it comes to such matters.
The waistband has sturdy belt loops and a zip fly featuring a good quality Riri zip, and the waist fastens with a sturdy rubberised button. If we're splitting hairs, it's quite common for cycling trousers to have a double fastening on the waist to spread the load, but here Rapha has just gone for the single button. It seems strong enough, and showed absolutely no signs of weakness during the testing period.
There's a wide range of sizes to fit all types of rider. The trousers are available in three different colours, black, beige or blue, and sizes range from a 28in to a 36in waist, with leg lengths in short, regular or long (at the time of writing, options in size 32 are limited).
Their £95 RRP is, on the face of it, pricey, but this is a top-end product for which you'd expect to pay top end prices. Any fan of Rapha, or similar high-end brands, won't baulk at a price tag like this for a versatile pair of trousers that look good, perform well, and will stand the test of time.
There doesn't seem to be a catch with these trousers. They have a near-perfect balance of performance as a good pair of trousers and performance as a good pair of cycling trousers. They're an item of clothing you'll end up wearing whether or not riding a bike is going to feature in your day – a sure sign of a well-made product.
A superb pair of everyday trousers that combine great fit, construction and styling, whether on the bike or off
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Cotton Trousers
Size tested: W32-L34
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?
The Rapha Cotton Trousers are an everyday, versatile pair of trousers aimed at the city cyclist.
Rapha says: "Cotton trousers with a slim fit and gradual taper at the lower leg, for everyday use on and off the bike."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- Classic slim taper
- Flexible cotton material
- Lightweight and soft
- Hi-vis detailing
- Belt loops
- Riri zip-fly
- 97% cotton / 3% Lycra
They look good and the quality of the seams and stitching seems to be really robust.
Comfortable, great looking, and hard wearing.
During the test period they stood up really well and seem like they will last the test of time... but only time will tell.
A really nice fit, slim in the leg and nicely tapered. There's a wide range of sizing - short, regular and long lengths, and from 28-36in waist, though some of the middle sizes are unavailable.
Sizing seems to be good; I tend to size up in leg length slightly for trousers that I know I'll be riding in, and these came out at a good length.
Really comfortable, soft material and lightweight, the seams are in the right places so there's no discomfort when you're in the saddle.
More expensive than your average pair of slacks, but then again these aren't your avarage pair of slacks. They're versatile, well made and good looking. Any fan of Rapha products would expect to pay this kind of price.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Simple to wash on a standard 30 degree wash, and can be ironed on a cool setting. Rapha claims that the material is designed to create a patina effect over time as it wears, but obviously the test period didn't give us time to witness this.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The minimal styling, good construction and versatility.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of weatherproofing so couldn't wear them on rainy days... and there are quite a lot of those at the moment!
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
I'm giving the Rapha Cotton Trousers a 9. My original thought was a high 8 but to my mind they just tip over into the 'Exceptional' category. Their simplicity and versatility as an everyday piece of clothing just makes them so good, and they stand out as a cracking pair of everyday trousers whether you're going to be riding a bike or not.
About the tester
I usually ride: KHS Flite 100 Singlespeed/Fixed, Genesis Equilibrium 20 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed
Oli has been a road.cc staffer since day one. He's the graphic design and photography force behind the site, and has got a keen eye for good quality, well designed cycling kit. You'll find him on his bike everyday whatever the weather, he's got a penchant for a steel frame and has had 'fit mudguards' on his To Do list for nearly 6 years now. Likes: cold toast, gin, rugby. Dislikes: fitting mudguards.