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Verdict: 
High end performance at a high end price
Weight: 
171g
Contact: 

It's hard to get your head around a pair of bib shorts costing £170. Are they spun from spider's silk and dreams? The Rapha Women's Souplesse Bib Shorts, made from the same fabric as the company's acclaimed Pro Team Bib Shorts (tried and tested by Team Sky), are designed to be the answer to every demanding female rider's needs, to cater to the very highest levels of pro racing. That's why they cost so much. And boy (girl?), are they worth the investment.

The Souplesse Bib Shorts use a different fabric from that of the Classic Bib Shorts. It not only has a more pronounced structure for a greater compression effect, but is also treated with Coldblack, a technical dye that helps reflect the sun's rays, thereby keeping both fabric and skin cooler.

> Buy these online here

The shorts have a sleek cut, and are designed to be most comfortable in an aero position. I found the fit pretty much the same as Rapha's other bib shorts of the same size, with just a slight sense of increased compression in the thighs, without tightness (it's not me in the photos).

Rapha Womens Souplesse Bib Shorts - riding

The legs are finished with broad, flat leg gripper areas, which do their job well without creating too much squeezing, and keep the shorts sitting comfortably even on long rides.

Rapha Womens Souplesse Bib Shorts - gripper

The straps are of the around-the-bust design, intended to accommodate all sizes comfortably, with a narrow strap up the centre of the back to keep everything in place, and mesh panels. I found they were just a little prone to curling up rather than sitting flat and completely comfortable, a facet of around-the-bust straps in my experience; more generously endowed women might well find them irritating.

Rapha Womens Souplesse Bib Shorts - strap

The height of the mesh panel at the front, above the belly, was spot on for comfort, as was the central strap at the rear and the lumbar mesh area.

> Check out our guide to the best bib shorts here

The fabric wicked moisture quickly and effectively, and while it's hard to judge the full effect of the Coldblack treatment, I stayed a comfortable temperature, even working hard on a hot day. The chamois is comfortable in a variety of positions, and for a wide variety of ride distances.

Rapha Womens Souplesse Bib Shorts - pad

The Souplesse Bib Shorts are aimed at those looking for the absolute top of the heap, irrespective of cost, and yes, they are expensive, with only Assos, Castelli and Gore really coming close in price. But if you have the money and you're looking for a reliably comfortable and well-designed pair of bib shorts for racing and demanding rides, these are a safe investment.

Verdict

High end performance at a high end price

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Rapha Women's Souplesse 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?

A premium high performance product aimed at the very highest level of end user.

Rapha says: "Performance bib shorts for intense riding which use the same fabric as the acclaimed men's Pro Team Bib Shorts, tried and tested by Team Sky at the highest levels of pro racing."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Flatlock stitching for comfort

Tried-and-tested Rapha Women's chamois

Reflective logo detail on leg

Low-profile gripper elastic

Breathable mesh straps

Main: 78% polyamide, 22% Elastane

Mesh: 83% polyester, 17% Elastane

Machine wash 30 degrees

Available in sizes XXS-XL

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Very well made and finished, using excellent quality materials.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Performed extremely well.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

Some give to be expected in the bib section eventually but very well made and seem durable.

Rate the product for weight (if applicable)
 
9/10

Good and light yet supportive.

Rate the product for comfort (if applicable)
 
8/10

Very comfortable. Good quality and pleasant next to skin, a good cut and great levels of on-the-bike comfort. Only let down a little by the folding over tendencies of the straps.

Rate the product for value:
 
5/10

It's hard to judge value at this price, but these are well designed and well made, so even if not 'good value', they're a sound investment if you're happy spending those sums.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

Very well.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

Cut of legs, leg grippers, chamois, shape of lower back section, comfort...

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Price, slight tendency for straps to fold over themselves in wear.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Possibly in the sales.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? A wealthy, race-winning one.

Use this box to explain your score

Well made, well designed and very comfortable, a very good buy if you can afford them.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 43  Height: 1.65m  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi  My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking

Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling. 

Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other. 

She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting. 

4 comments

Avatar
mylesrants [510 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

Is the leg gripper not hanging loose around the leg in the second image?!

Avatar
poppa [73 posts] 3 years ago
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It looks loose in a couple of photos, however the model is not the reviewer. Might be useful to know the models height/weight to have a better idea of fit, but it would be extra hassle for the reviewer.

Avatar
Curly [78 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

That leg gripper is not a good look!

Avatar
Awavey [666 posts] 3 years ago
0 likes

well Im assuming as the words in the review contradict the bad fit of the leg grippers in the photos, the reviewer isnt the photo model, but youd think they could have sorted the correct sizing as the photos dont encourage me to spend money, and Ive had some odd sizing issues with Rapha so sizing is a key issue, fortunately with their free returns service you can always order multiple sizes and return, but that just makes it even odder they couldnt have got the right fit.