Rapha's Women's Cycling Jeans are essentially very stretchy denims with some cycling-friendly details. They're designed to work on the bike and off, for trips around town punctuated by office meetings or coffee stops, that kind of thing. They're well made and very good quality, as you'd expect for the money, but as with any jeans, how well they 'work' depends on how well they fit, and for me that was a bit of an issue.
There's also the price. It's a fair amount of money for a pair of jeans, but plenty of people are prepared to pay this for jeans without any cycling pedigree: MiH, Diesel, other names too hip and trendy for me to know about... (I just did a quick search and saw a pair of Dolce & Gabbana ones for over £3K! Gap and H&M are more my level – Fat Face when there's a sale on). If it makes you hot under the collar that anyone would consider paying £150 for jeans, stop reading now and accept that there are people who do.
The fit is more 'jeggings' than skinny jeans (the sort of skinny jeans I wear, anyway), but the feel is more jeans denim than thin and stretchy jeggings stuff. It feels like it'll last years, the stitching and seams are top notch, and the fabric is 'abrasion and stain-resistant', so getting chain oil on the legs shouldn't be a disaster.
They aren't any more rain-resistant than a normal pair of jeans, so get caught in a shower and you'll end up damp, though they seem to dry a little quicker than my other jeans. (The outwardly similar Levi's Commuter Jeans are water-resistant, for £90.)
Unlike a pair of cycling tights, which tend to be very elastic and stretchy all over, getting jeans that fit well is more of a personal matter. For me, although the Rapha jeans on test are the right size, the fit isn't as good as I'd have liked. They're just that little bit too tight around the calves, and just that bit too loose around the waist. Not hugely so, but just... noticeably so.
The waist issue is solved with a belt. Without a belt, they tend to slide down gradually while I'm walking. On the bike this doesn't happen, because there's a saddle keeping them up – but these are designed for off-the-bike use too. It feels like it's caused by the tightness around the calves – they grab a hold there, and as I walk they get pulled slightly further down the leg, but don't move back up into place again. It's a bit odd because although I don't have overly large calf muscles, I'm not as slim around the waist as I used to be...
If it is the tightness around the calves that's causing the pulling, that's more of an issue than the feeling of tightness. It's not a big problem in terms of comfort – I can wear them all day quite happily. But when I do take them off it's a bit like my lower legs breathe a small sigh of relief (and there's quite a strong seam mark left in my leg). And the slimness of the leg comes in really handy for slipping into a pair of wellies for a quick dog walk.
As for the cycling features – other than the stretchiness of the fabric for easy pedalling, it's basically limited to safety details: bright pink seam piping on the turn-ups to get you noticed, a bigger reflective Rapha logo if you fold the right (chainset side) leg right up, and a thin reflective strip below the label on the waistband at the back.
There's no concession to saddle comfort – the seams are placed as they would be on normal jeans, with no seamless gusset or anything like that – and the pocket layout is as you'd expect on a pair of Levi's (though no little inset pocket within the front right pocket). That's all deliberate: they look like a normal pair of jeans, and they're not designed for long rides.
I tried them with and without a padded liner, and on my six/seven-mile commute they were as comfortable without as with the liner; in fact, wearing the padded liner meant they were more uncomfortable off the bike, rather than more comfortable on it. For shortish journeys anyway. I'd probably go without, and just use the jeans for the short on-off rides they're aimed at.
So basically, if they fit you (or you're happy to wear a belt), and you often find yourself riding short journeys interspersed with 'civvy' time, these are well-made, high-quality jeans that are just that bit more bike-friendly than high street options. Whether that's worth the extra over a pair of stretchy skinny jeans from H&M is up to you. I do rather like the 'yes you can wear denim on your bike' message they give you, too.
Well-made, high-quality, cycling-friendly if not wallet-friendly jeans, but a little tight around the calves
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Jeans
Size tested: 30 Regular
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: "A mid-rise, skinny jean made from a proprietary, pioneering denim and created specifically for city riders. The jeans are cut for comfort and style on and off the bike and are abrasion and stain resistant."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Proprietary high-stretch denim
Higher cut back for great on-bike fit
Classic four-pocket layout
Reinforced pocket for D-lock
Offset seams for comfort
Reflective logo inside right leg
Black leather patch with black reflective piping
Narrow gripper bound into waistband
Dark metal buttons with Rapha logo
Contrast red top stitching
Machine wash cool – 40 degrees
Wash light colours separately
Do not tumble dry
Iron – two dot
Do not bleach
Very well made.
Skinny jeans looks off the bike, stretchiness means minimal restriction when pedalling.
I found them tight around the calves; they're stretchy, so it's not horribly uncomfortable, but there's a definite feeling of relief when I take them off.
This is linked to fit, and is pretty subjective, but I found them a little tight around the calves and a little loose around the waist. All the time I was wearing them they were fine, but it felt like my calves sighed with relief when I took the jeans off. I don't have especially big calves.
Not hugely expensive compared with high-end jeans, but they are £60 more than the similar-looking Levi's Commuter Jeans (which are also water-resistant).
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy. No shrinking, come up clean.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Their stretchiness means they don't really restrict your pedalling - well, maybe just a little - and they look like a pair of skinny jeans when you're off the bike. They even get the thumbs-up from teenagers.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The look, the ease of fitting the skinny leg into boots, and also, the idea of them: knowing they're 'dedicated' cycling jeans - like I'm 'allowed' to wear them on the bike. Silly perhaps, but...
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Tightness around the calves, which, combined with looseness around the waist, meant they'd work their way down if I didn't wear them with a belt.
Did you enjoy using the product? Ish
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Maybe
Use this box to explain your score
If I had skinnier legs/calves then I'd probably like these more, but that's so subjective it's hard to mark them as anything less than good. They are good, and will be more so on the skinnier-of-calf. And wearing them with a belt improves matters.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Venon My best bike is: Paulus Quiros
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding
Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.