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The Rapha Pro Team Shadow Bib shorts offer very good weather resistance to keep you comfortable when riding in wet and changeable conditions, but the lofty price is an issue for most of us.
There are many weather-resistant jerseys out there these days but far fewer weather-resistant shorts. The Pro Team Shadow Bib shorts, like the matching jersey (review to come), are made from a nylon/elastane mix. The yarn is given a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment before being stretch-woven into fabric. Then a steam-pressure treatment shrinks it down to half its initial size and another DWR treatment is applied.
This results in a dense fabric. It feels more substantial than most shorts' fabrics and there's a slight rustle when you flex it.
The material isn't completely windproof but it is highly wind resistant. You'll feel warmer in these than in standard Lycra shorts because very little cold air gets in. You do take a slight hit in terms of breathability but the difference isn't as large as you might think. Things would get tropical inside if you wore these on a hot summer day, but for spring and autumn use and cooler summer conditions, the level of breathability isn't a problem.
Road spray beads up and rolls off the surface of the shorts, as does mist, drizzle, and light rain. Heavier rain will get in, though, especially if you're out in it for a while – water comes in most where your hips bend the fabric and via the untaped seams – but you get a lot more protection than you do from most shorts.
I've found the Shadow bib shorts most beneficial in keeping spray out. When you're riding on wet roads without mudguards, most shorts will allow spray to get in constantly, often making you feel cold. By stopping the spray, the Shadow shorts make a big difference to your warmth and overall level of comfort. This is where they really score.
You'll eventually need to re-proof the fabric with something like Rapha's Apparel Re-proofer once the DWR treatments wash out and water stops beading up on the surface.
The Elastic Interface seatpad is the same one used in all of Rapha's shorts. It offers a good depth of padding even for longer rides, although it's bulky compared to some. I've used others from Elastic Interface that I prefer, personally.
The panelling is good and I didn't find any areas unduly tight nor any of the seams at all uncomfortable. The legs are cut long so they cover your quads almost completely, with silicone rubber on the inside of the ends providing plenty of stickiness against your skin to hold them in place. I've heard comments from people saying the leg openings are too baggy; they were just about tight enough for me, but without anything to spare. Any looser and they could have gaped, so you might want to check that area when you try them on.
The bib section is made from a perforated polyester/elastane fabric that sits well without much pressure over your shoulders. You get two small side-by-side pockets right where the uppers and lowers meet that make a handy stash point for something like an emergency energy gel and/or a spare inner tube.
Very good weather-resistant shorts that make a big difference to your comfort on wet/changeable days, but you have to dig deep
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Shadow 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?
These are designed for keeping wind and rain out when racing or riding hard.
Rapha says, "The Pro Team Shadow Bib Shorts offer the ultimate in race-ready protection against changeable weather conditions. The shorts are made using a pioneering stretch-woven fabric, which is both 'hydrophobic – rainwater rolls off it – and highly breathable. The shorts are designed to be worn when racing during days when it could be rainy, windy and sunny.
"The revolutionary fabric of the Pro Team Shadow range has a DWR (durable water repellent) finish applied twice during the manufacturing process, making it hydrophobic – water simply rolls off – and yet it is stretch-woven, meaning that tiny gaps of air allow body heat out despite it compressing for an aero fit. The inner is brushed too, so the bib shorts can be worn comfortably straight onto skin.
"The Pro Team Shadow range was developed to provide Team Sky's cyclists with a three-season weather protective jersey and bib shorts. The team have been racing in them since the start of the 2015 season to great effect, especially during the Belgian Classics.
"The fit and upper fabric is the same as the Pro Team Thermal Bib Shorts and there is also a reflective tab for visibility."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rapha lists these features:
* Stretch-woven fabric that compresses to fit
* 'Hydrophobic' rain protection
* Inner fabric brushed for on-skin comfort
* Wind resistant
* Same fit as Pro Team Thermal Bib Shorts
* Pro Team gripper on hems
* Reflective tab
£260 is a helluva lot for a pair of shorts, but you are getting something with a tangible benefit here. The weather resistance works!
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You put them in the machine on a 30°C wash with the rest of your cycling kit. The only extra detail is that you'll need to apply a re-proofer from time to time to maintain the water resistance.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The shorts perform really well to keep spray and showers out without it becoming a sweat-fest inside.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The water repellency.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
"260 quid? Cor blimey, you could buy a bike for that. I'd expect them to come around my house and fix the roof for that kind of money."
And so on.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? The chances of me being able to afford £260 shorts are slim at best.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yeah, they're very good if you have the cash.
Use this box to explain your score
The shorts do the job they're intended to do, it really just comes down to whether you're prepared to spend this kind of money. In other words, the performance is very good and the price is the tricky bit. You're certainly getting something extra for your cash and that's why I think they warrant an 8 overall in spite of the price tag.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now over 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.