The Rapha Pro Team Bib Tights II with Pad take the excellent DNA of the Pro Team II Bib Shorts and add warmth, water resistance and a performance-orientated fit to create an exceptional winter garment, though it comes at some cost.
With Rapha's second generation Pro Team bib shorts, Dave was impressed with the performance and quality, and these full-length versions repeat a winning formula for the performance cyclist, while keeping you comfortable and warm.
The features under the skin are a bit of a repetition: a size-specific Cytech chamois provides all-day comfort in the saddle, while the new seam structure is carried over too. That means if you're used to the feel of any of Rapha's Pro Team II bib garments, then you immediately feel the familiarity.
What's not familiar is the thickness of the fabric, which is water resistant on the outside, and somewhat thicker too. There's some fleece backing on the inside for warmth, but to touch on the outside it feels almost softshell-like in texture.
In the real world (for me, anyway) of damp winter riding with plenty of splashback around the lower legs, this is more than enough to provide insulating protection, right down to close-to-zero degree temperatures. There's a half-decent amount of heat transfer too – wind protection is a given, but as long as you're not wearing the tights in 7-8 degrees or higher, you can get away with a tempo ride no problem.
The bib section provides some good central coverage, and the straps are like any other Pro Team bib tights I've worn in the past few years – flexible, comfortable and great at distributing pressure over the shoulders.
The general cut is one steeped in performance – the fabric is very slightly compressive, which certainly gives a 'cocooning' feel while supporting muscles along the way. As long as you don't have legs that are very odd in proportion, it should fit pretty much anyone.
One potential downside is the possibility of restriction or chafing behind the knees – the Pro Team II tights are definitely relatively tight in this area compared with most, maybe halfway between the very tight Castelli Sorpasso 2 bib tights and the more flexible Santini Vega 2 Acquazero tights that I've had my hands on this winter. I didn't have a problem, but it'd definitely be worth trying them on before snipping off the labels to make sure they fit your physique.
Assuming a good fit, long rides are a doddle, with plenty of comfort provided by the chamois, and the svelte fit around the hips and glutes gives good support too.
I was testing the new navy blue and chartreuse colourway, but you can opt for black and a few branding colour options from there. The navy looks classy I reckon – and that's coming from someone who always opts for black – and Rapha offers winter tops of the same colourway you can match to the tights (if you have the budget).
The water resistant nature of the outer is fairly resilient to washing on normal cycles, while every now and then it's good to treat it with a tech wash or reproofer. After all, you're spending a hefty £210, and that's significantly more than either of the tights mentioned above – Castelli (£160) or Santini (£139.99) – both options I would describe as premium. The Santinis certainly win out in a value battle, but for ultimate deep winter performance you're well justified in looking to either these or the Castellis.
Typically high-performing high-spec bib tights with the expected high price tag
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Winter Tights with Pad II
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says: "The Pro Team Winter Tights with Pad II are the evolution of a much-loved item of winter cycling clothing by Rapha. Now with increased protection against the elements, these technical tights are designed for cold weather base rides and training sessions.
"The tights have a wind-blocking DWR (durable water repellent) fabric all the way up the front-facing panels to ward off the weather, while the breathable fabric on the rear allows body heat to be released if you're pushing hard on the pedals. This second edition of the tights features a stiffer windblock fabric and improved compression, allowing for a better fit and feel on the bike, while the seat panel is made with an enforced high-resistance fabric. The inner of the tights has a brushed back fleece fabric for a touch of comfort in the cold, while reflective tabs and bars have been placed all over the tights to keep you seen deep into winter."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- DWR (durable water repellent) treatment on front panels
- Multi-panel construction for improved fit
- Same chamois pad as Pro Team Bibs II
- Brushed inner fabric for comfort
- Elasticated upper has perforated back panel
- Single radio pocket on upper rear
Great in the cold and in showery weather.
Excellent fit that errs on the performance/compression side.
Sizes the same as any Rapha Pro team-spec shorts.
They're very comfortable, though I think the Santini Vega 2 bib tights are the most comfortable I've worn this winter.
Great performance, but a hefty price tag too, especially against very strong rivals.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine - a tech wash will help the DWR treatment.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Water resistance, comfort, warmth, performance cut.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Expensive, as usual.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
You're spending a hefty £210, and that's significantly more than either the Castelli Sorpasso 2 (£160) or Santini Vega 2s (£139.99) - both options I would describe as premium and competent rivals.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes – especially to a Rapha fan.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The performance is exceptional, which justifies a 9 overall – but you are paying for the name, as they're not streets ahead of better-priced rivals.
About the tester
I usually ride: Canyon Ultimate CF SL 9.0 SL (2016) My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding