Rapha's Core bib shorts are an impressive mix of knowhow from premium ranges – giving good quality, comfort and a great fit.
The new Core range from Rapha is aimed at simplicity: no frills, just good performance and elegant design. A review the Core jersey and the women's non-bib Core shorts are to come, but the men's bibs achieve those aims convincingly.
Let's start with the showpiece of any bib short: the chamois. Rapha has used the same pad you find in its Classic range of bib shorts, and it's a well-regarded design. It's not as comfortable as the Cytech pad seen in Rapha's Pro Team and Pro Team Lightweight bib shorts, but it's certainly adequate for most rides.
During my testing, I wore them on several 100km rides, all of which the pad took in its stride, providing great comfort and as much padding as is needed (but no more, which will suit some).
It's also testament to the thought gone into the fit that the shoulder straps are very comfortable too – especially so when you get down in the drops into a more aero position. They're not meshed, so coolness in hot weather might be limited. They do have a stretchy quality, which means if you have a particularly long or short body, the Core bibs are going to mould somewhat to your body shape – and this goes for the leg fabric, too. That means you can stick to Rapha's sizing charts, and customise the fit to your needs. For example, I usually wear mediums when it comes to Rapha bibs, but can also get away with large quite easily for a slightly more relaxed fit, as demonstrated by my test pair.
The bib is cut low enough for easy comfort breaks, while the leg grippers – a textured variety, rather than ribbed – are generous enough for legs larger than mine (I have quite skinny thighs). Get into the saddle and start pedalling, and they settle into a very comfortable, flush and neutral position up the leg.
The fabric in general is a comfortable blend of 82% polyester and 18% elastane, but in the absence of any Roubaix lining, they're not for cold winter use. Milder conditions are the bibs' forte, and they will be at home in UK spring, summer and autumn weather. The fabric is dense, too, so even when stretched across the skin they don't become at all see-through.
Comfort is also good where the seams are concerned, despite them being more pronounced than you see on Rapha's more expensive bib shorts. While the stitching is flatlocked, from the outside you can easily see the where the seams meet. It's not bad quality and they don't rub or chafe, but they can leave a slight mark in the leg after a long ride.
The bibs wash easily, retaining an as-new feel after several machine cycles. So even though £100 still represents a quite significant investment, you're likely to get a good lifespan out of them.
Overall, these are very well-designed, comfortable and good performing bib shorts at a competitive price point – for Rapha. You can go cheaper – like the Merlin Elite bib shorts I reviewed recently for nearly half the price – but against rivals in the same price range, the Core bibs more than hold their own. They're also available in two options, with black or white straps.
The new 'value' offering from Rapha that doesn't skimp on quality
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Men's Core Bib Shorts
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 says: "[The Core bib shorts are] simple, quality bib shorts to complement any ride, the main panels use a dense-knit fabric for support and modesty and laser-cut leg grippers lined with soft silicone for a close, comfortable fit. The bib section uses high-stretch material, machined efficiently for even distribution of stretch and to accommodate longer torsos. Flatlock seams are positioned carefully throughout to hold the shorts in place without chafing. The shorts are available in an entirely black colourway, or with a white bib section to prevent straps showing under a light-coloured jersey."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- The same Rapha chamois pad used in all our Classic bib shorts
- Black dense-knit fabric for compressive support and modesty
- Colour-matched trims throughout
- Laser-cut, soft-silicone leg grippers to hold shorts comfortably in place
- High-stretch bib accommodates any rider height without compromising fit
- Comfortable flatlock stitching
- Black or white bib section
- Subtle tonal branding
Aside (slightly) from the prominent seams, these bibs are well made, with Rapha clearly using knowhow from previous models.
Very comfortable, with a chamois capable of dealing with all but the very heaviest of riding days.
The Core bibs wash very well, coming out like new (something I find with all Rapha products, to be honest). The fabric is soft but can stand up to snicky surfaces impressively well.
Lovely fit in all areas, and can cater to practically any body shape.
Sizes up very slightly from other Rapha offerings, but not a problem.
A pleasure to wear, with my only criticism being the seams.
For around the £100 mark I've seen bib shorts that fall well short of these.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly - I'll be using them again.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Lovely fit, good quality materials, kudos of the Rapha branding.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The seams, and even that is being picky.
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
For £100, I've found bibs can be hit or miss in terms of performance, longevity and comfort. The Rapha Cores are a big hit.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized Allez Sport My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding