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With extra pockets for food and essentials, supreme fit and comfort, at a price that doesn't break the bank quite as badly as the original Cargo Bib Shorts I tested last year, the new Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts are much easier to recommend.
Let's deal with the pockets first because that's what you're here to find out: are they practical or pointless? The answer does depend on your requirements and the sort of riding you're doing, but I found them extremely useful and a bonus in many situations over regular shorts. Here's why.
Wearing the Core Cargo shorts gives you four extra pockets, to use either in conjunction with a regular three-pocket jersey or allowing you to wear a looser fitting top without pockets.
For really long rides, whether it's an audax or a long gravel quest where you need to carry lots more food and kit so as to ride unsupported, the extra pockets are immensely useful. As well as food, the mesh pockets legs pockets are useful for stashing warmers as you peel them off when the temperature (hopefully) rises.
Then, for off-road rides, whether on a gravel, cyclo-cross or mountain bike, I like being able to wear a looser fitting top, so the Core Cargo shorts provide the pocket space you normally get from a jersey for essentials like food, phone, keys, tools and other bits and bobs. You're also better off putting valuables in the rear Cargo pockets where they are less likely to eject on rough-and-tumble terrain compared to normal jersey pockets.
So they give you more options for carrying stuff on a ride. And I like that. Whether it's a banana, notepad, food or extra clothing. The rear two mesh pockets proved to be most useful in my experience, with the contents going unnoticed during a ride. I'm less sold on the mesh leg pockets, but for having food easily to hand they are brilliant. You can stash heavier items in there with no massive impact on comfort – it doesn't negatively affect your pedalling – but I tended to reserve them for food, money or small clothing items like arm warmers or a neck collar.
Moving on from the pockets, and the shorts are very well made with great attention to detail. There's no sense that these are an inferior product to the more expensive Cargo shorts I tested last year. The fit is nigh-on perfect thanks to well-shaped panels and just enough stretch in the Lycra fabric.
The wide laser-cut band hem design, popular across the industry, works a treat providing a seamless irritation-free fit around the legs.
The bib straps are generously wide and stretchy and sit on the shoulders nicely, and there's a big opening in the back panel to let your baselayer do its job of wicking sweat and keeping you dry.
Inside is the same padded insert used on the regular Core shorts and throughout Rapha's Classic range.
Some say it's not as comfortable as the posher padded insert on the more expensive Pro Team shorts but I've been swapping between these shorts and Rapha's high-end shorts and to be honest, when I'm on the bike I can't detect any sense that they're lacking in comfort.
Rapha has played a blinder with the Core range. Yes, it's still not exactly cheap, but just like Shimano's 105 groupset is every bit as good as Dura-Ace, so too the Core range is as good as Pro Team, and it's hard to really justify spending more.
At £110 they're an extra tenner over the plain regular Core shorts, but the four additional pockets might just sway it for you. I can certainly see a lot of people saying 'why do I need pockets?' and for them the regular Core shorts will suffice, but if you're doing very long rides on and/or off-road, then the extra storage might just come in handy. I know it does for me.
There aren't many road-specific rivals if you're looking for bib shorts with extra pockets. Sportful's new Super Giara bib shorts are £115 and provide three mesh pockets; we haven't tested those yet but we've just been sent some so we'll see how they compare in due course.
Specialized's RBX Pro Bib Shorts are another untested option (which you can currently find discounted from £130 to £78). They have a total of five extra pockets, three on the back and two on the legs.
In summary then, just as I concluded with the original Cargo shorts last year, the addition of pockets might seem like a gimmick but once you start using them you quickly realise they're actually really useful. I can certainly see a lot of clothing brands looking to add a couple of rear pockets instead of those pointless radio pockets you get on some pro-inspired bib shorts.
Very comfortable, great fitting bib shorts with useful extra pockets
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says, "Our bib shorts with pockets have changed the way many of us dress to ride. With two mesh pockets on the legs and two more on the back, the Core Cargo Bib Shorts carry all you normally would in the pockets of a traditional cycling jersey, allowing you to wear whatever you please up top. These workhorse bib shorts excel on every ride, from short spins to work to longer adventures.
"Made of a supportive, dense-knit fabric with fewer seams around the waist, the Core Cargo Bibs are durable and comfortable. The mesh pockets on the legs hold a phone or other small items securely while a curved top seam makes for easy access. Two additional pockets on the back sit out of sight under a t-shirt. The bib section uses a lightweight, breathable fabric that stretches to accommodate riders of all heights while laser-cut leg grippers hold the shorts in place. Flat locked seams, together with our tried and tested Classic chamois pad, minimise irritation and chafing for comfort every time you ride."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rapha lists these details:
The same Rapha chamois pad used in all our Classic range
Black dense-knit fabric for compressive support and modesty
Laser-cut, soft-silicone leg grippers to hold shorts comfortably in place
High-stretch bib accommodates any rider height without compromising fit
Comfortable flatlock stitching
Subtle tonal branding
Hard-wearing mesh ensures leg pockets are secure even on rough roads.
Eliminate the need for a traditional cycling jersey
Usual high standard you'd expect from Rapha.
Great comfort and fit for leisure cycling or riding and racing hard and fast.
Thus far the durability has been very good.
The fit is nigh-on perfect for me.
The size medium I tested sized up as expected.
They really are extremely comfortable bib shorts with no shortcomings.
They're a lot cheaper than the regular Cargo bib shorts but they don't fall short in any department.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
They've been through many 30-degree washes just fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Provided great comfort for short and long rides, good on the road bike and great when mixing it up off-road on a gravel bike.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Extra pockets for more food!
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'm struggling here. Maybe some reflective details for late evening rides when you're chasing the sunset.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They compare well on price against the few rival bib shorts with extra pockets, of which there aren't many.
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 overall score
Based on their performance, comfort, usefulness of the pockets and the price, these fully deserve a generous score.
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 worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. 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, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.