Rapha's updated Pro Team II Bib Shorts, with new size-specific chamois and enhanced fit, provide stellar comfort and performance for the most demanding cyclist. But do they justify the premium price tag?
Rapha first launched the Pro Team Bib Shorts as part of its growing race and performance focused Pro Team line way back in 2011, which in the cycling world is an eternity. Six years since that launch, Rapha has given them a major update for 2017, and the result is a raft of refinements that subtly improve on the originals.
There's a familiarity with the Pro Team shorts: the same snug fit of the original Pro Team shorts awaits you when you pull these on. They're much more figure-hugging than Rapha's more relaxed Classic II bib shorts, simply because they're designed for racing and high performance riding where a close fit is desirable.
But they're comfortable once you've slipped into them and lined the shorts up with your tan line and settled the bib straps across your shoulders... They feel good from the outset, a conforming fit free of restriction or tightness, whether you're stood up or crouched over the bike battling a headwind.
That great fit is because they use multiple panels, carefully shaped to ensure that the shorts hug the body very closely. All those various panels work well together to prevent any drag-inducing flaps or ripples of fabric, while hugging the legs with a reasonable level of compression.
The leg openings have a wide elastic hem lined with small silicone stripes, printed directly onto the fabric, to ensure the shorts don't shift about and spoil your tan line... Even worn over knee warmers, the shorts stay in place. As before, the bibs come in two lengths, regular and long, providing a 3cm leg length difference.
The bib straps have been reshaped and there's a bit more stretch in them, which means a little less pressure on the shoulders than the previous Pro Team shorts. To reduce bulk, the bib straps now use folded bonded edges so the straps sit very flat against the body and underneath your jersey. They feel very comfortable and streamlined.
The real key to any bib short comfort is the padded insert. This is an area that, in my opinion, Rapha has always excelled at, and to raise the benchmark it has developed a size-specific chamois for the new shorts. Each chamois is constructed using dual-density padding, with more padding where the sit bones contact the saddle, and it's smoothly stitched into the fabric of the shorts to avoid irritation.
I obviously can't comment on the difference of the padded insert across the different sizes, but I found it extremely comfortable right from the first outing, with no period of adjustment necessary. Longer rides backed up this initial impression, and a few five and six-hour rides found the shorts not wanting in the comfort department at all.
They only come in black, but as before you can choose from a small range of colours for the large Rapha logo on the left leg, to which the bib straps and mesh back panel are now colour matched too. They're also colour matched to jerseys, so you can co-ordinate your shorts and top if you're that way inclined.
I tested a pair of the previous generation Pro Team shorts in 2013, and they're still part of my regular cycling wardrobe, and showing no sign of falling apart. I've been riding with these new Pro Team II shorts as much as possible over the past couple of months, wearing them as soon as they've dried from a wash, and thus far durability has been similarly impressive.
Rapha has managed to retain the key performance and comfort of the original Pro Team shorts but found a few ways to improve them. The difference isn't so staggering that you need to rush out and buy them if you own the previous Pro Team shorts, but if you're looking for a pair of premium high-end shorts for the summer, these have to be on your shortlist.
For a premium priced product, the new Rapha Pro Team II shorts deliver premium comfort and performance. The fit is excellent and the cushioning provided by the size-specific chamois produces a high level of comfort for the longest and most demanding rides.
Yes, they are expensive. If you're not after the close fit of the Pro Team II shorts then the Classic Bib Shorts II are an excellent alternative with a similar level of comfort, and save you a few quid.
Updated with improved fit and comfort and a size-specific pad
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Bib Shorts II
Size tested: Small
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's elite performance bib shorts, completely overhauled for 2017 with a new dual-density chamois pad for optimised comfort and fit, an improved bib section and a unique new gripper to comfortably secure the legs.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Available in two leg lengths - regular and long
New dual-density chamois pad for supreme comfort and support
Unique wide leg gripper with direct applied silicone for low profile finish
Lightweight, high-wicking Lycra fabric
Shoulder straps bonded for smooth, low profile
Multiple colour options for bib section
Rapha rubber logo print on legs
Multiple panel construction for optimum fit
Bonded seams for comfort
Name label for team laundry use
Race radio pockets either side of spine
Top quality construction, as you'd hope and expect at this price.
Performance is right up there with the best from top-end rivals like Assos and Castelli.
I've been racking up the miles and they've been through plenty of washes; I've done short hard rides and long slow rides, and they still look brand new.
They're a close race-fit and tighter feeling than Rapha's Classic bib shorts, but they're not uncomfortable.
Sizing is good, and Rapha offers a good size guide and a 30-day return policy if you get the wrong size.
They're very light; you notice that when riding in the mountains and high temperatures.
Value on products costing this sort of money is a tricky one to talk about. There are obviously cheaper bib shorts that offer good comfort, but if you want a premium product with top level design and features, with great durability and the backup you get from Rapha...
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to look after with regular washing.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good fit and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd like a few more reflective details if I'm being really fussy, but this is a product designed for racing.
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
A premium price tag but the new Pro Team II shorts offer premium performance.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.