The Women's Brevet Bib Shorts are another high quality, well designed garment from Rapha that will have some up in arms about cost and others accepting that you have to pay for the good looks and performance.
Whether or not you like the way they look, they really do put in an excellent performance, providing comfort and support for at least eight hours in the saddle.
The longest I've ridden in them is 86 miles, on the second day of the Dulux Trade London Revolution – after riding 101 miles the day before. A pretty good test for comfort, I'd say. And not all the roads were especially smooth... I felt cosseted right from the off, and had no discomfort at all, at any time on the ride.
Finding the right pad for your posterior might be as subjective as finding a comfortable saddle, but I have never had a problem with a Rapha chamois. Quite the opposite. The shape, depth and firmness all work perfectly for me. Rapha doesn't list that it's a Cytech pad in the Brevets – as used in, I think, the few Rapha shorts and tights I've worn over the years – but it's every bit as comfortable.
Moving on from the pad, the shorts section it's sewn into is formed with unobtrusive, non-irritating flatlock seams. The Lycra – 74% nylon, 26% elastane – is quite stiff feeling; elastic but at the same time quite dense compared with lighter fabrics. It feels compressive, in a good way, although – oddly – the leg opening hangs slightly loose when off the bike. On the bike it sits comfortably and doesn't move while pedalling, but it's a lightly-holding, silicone-tape-lined hem not a tightly-squeezing, sausage-shape-causing elasticated one.
It feels to me like Rapha's clothing collections have changed size slightly in the last few years, fitting more tightly than those I still have from longer ago (so no, it's not just me changing size/middle age spread). These are the same; they're slightly less stretchy in the bib than, for example, the no-longer-made Classic 3/4 bibs (a real favourite of mine), but they are pretty similar to the Classic Bib Shorts of three or four years ago. (As a note, my husband has a pair of the men's Brevets and had to size up to the XXLs to get the bib section to fit comfortably, and had exactly the same experience as me with the hems.)
Although the mesh bib section is attached to the shorts with an oversewn but not flatlock stitched seam, it's perfectly comfortable. The bib is substantial enough that you can dispense with a baselayer on warmer days, Rapha advises; I've tried it with and without and got on fine both ways. The only slight discomfort came from the large 'Made in Italy' label – before I cut it off. Rapha kit normally has the label sewn in or printed on, and I hate having to cut off labels: snip too close and you risk cutting into the seam; don't cut close enough and you're left with an annoying sticky-out bit.
I digress. What else would you like to know? I haven't overheated in these – the mesh bib section deals with any heat build-up. It's really soft-feeling too, and your skin is protected from the zip by a baffle behind it and a garage up top (which also protects your jersey).
The reflective logo and block pattern on the legs is, to my mind, a stylish way to add an element of safety (if it's too discreet for you, the blue version of these shorts has the Rapha logo on a bright pink block). Having it on both legs means it's useful home and abroad.
Is £180 too much to spend on a pair of bib shorts? You can certainly pay less – only the thermal Souplesse bibs in Rapha's women's collection are more expensive, by a tenner, and its Core bib shorts are £100 and share the same pad (you can read a review of the £80 non-bib ones here). There are choices other than Rapha, of course, like the rather more in-yer-face Alé Graphics PRR Arcobalenos, if the pad suits, which are almost half the price. Closer to the Brevets, at £150, the Assos T.laalalaiShorts_s7 are also worth a look – though you'd have to fork out extra for your baselayer...
But if you want the fab feeling fabric, the baselayer-replacing bib section, the quality, and the looks, £180 gets you a very good pair of shorts that your bottom will thank you for.
Extremely comfortable bib shorts, beautifully made, just a little on the pricey side
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Brevet Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
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: "Supportive and comfortable cycling bib shorts with reflective features designed for the rigours of all-day riding."
And continues: "The Women's Brevet Bib Shorts are designed with durability in mind.
"Cut from a dense and supportive yarn that is both soft and breathable, the leg panels are cut for a perfect on-bike fit. Carefully positioned flatlocked seams ensure all-day comfort and a silicone leg gripper holds the shorts in place.
"A full, open-mesh, striped zipped upper is both light and soft, and in milder weather does away with the need for a base layer. Structured to keep you cool and supported, the upper has bonded seams to prevent hot spots and rubbing, along with a small valuables pocket on the rear.
"The chamois pad, also found in our Women's Classic Bib Shorts, is lightweight, breathable and designed specifically for women riders.
"Reflective logos on the leg offers much needed visibility, and also ensures the Brevet Bib Shorts pair beautifully with other garments from the Brevet collection."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rapha lists these features/details:
Breathable, open-mesh upper for comfort in a wide range of temperatures
Quick-drying chamois pad
Silicon leg gripper
Reflective logos on each leg
Valuables pocket on rear of upper
Machine wash cool 30C
Wash with like colours
Do not bleach or dry clean
Do not tumble dry
Do not iron
Other Rapha kit I've used over the years has lasted really well – and of course if anything goes wrong: 'Rapha offers a free repair service where a crash or accident has damaged a garment or a failure has occurred even after significant usage.'
The leg openings struck me as a little loose when off the bike; on the bike they're fine and don't move, despite not being the tightest.
The latest Rapha kit seems to come up a bit smaller on me than it used to; not change-sizes different, just a little tighter.
Rapha kit doesn't come cheap, and £180 for some bib shorts is a lot – but they are excellent quality and extremely comfortable.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy, in the wash at 30, and they come out just fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Superbly. Comfortable pad, bibs, legs... and they look great.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Pad comfort, leg length, looks.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Apart from the price, very little; the leg opening seems a little loose when off the bike, but is fine on, and a bit more stretch to the bib would add to the comfort, I think.
Did you enjoy using the product? Absolutely
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes – I have.
Use this box to explain your score
I'd hesitate to call these exceptional in this world of excellent cycling kit. They're getting on for it, and in terms of comfort and quality I'm not sure I could fault them. What holds me back from giving them a higher score is the slightly restrictive sizing – just a little more stretch/length in the bib would be good, and maybe a very slightly closer-fitting leg opening.
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.