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The Rapha Women's Core Cargo shorts are a new addition to the Core range. Equipped with mesh side pockets and a new Classic chamois, these are great for any type of ride, very comfortable on long outings and eminently suitable for touring or a bit of adventure cycling.
I wore a medium for the test and they were a really good fit. The black 'dense-knit' fabric gives a nice amount of compressive support around the legs, and with minimal flatlock stitched seams there were no rubbing issues.
The leg length is on the longer side than I'm used to, leaving about 2in above the knee, which is about an inch longer than some of my other shorts.
The leg grippers are 1-inch laser-cut soft silicone which grip the legs very nicely, holding the shorts comfortably in place.
As there is no bib section, there is soft silicone gripper at the rear, where the fit is high waisted. This worked well and held the shorts up nicely with a close fit. The front is lower cut for comfort while on the bike.
The chamois/pad is an all-new women-specific design, with different thicknesses across it. The sit bone area is the most dense, with the front having slightly less padding, and it all flows as one seamless pad. There are tiny channels running down the pad, too, presumably helping with ventilation and/or wicking.
On the bike it felt great. In my wisdom I thought it would be a good idea to ride three hours with new shorts and a new saddle (the Ergon SR Pro Carbon, review to come). Luckily it was fine as the shorts performed brilliantly and really suited the saddle, making it a very comfortable ride. Whether the design of the chamois will suit all women is impossible to say, but it really works for me, plus the material is wicking and quick drying.
A detail you can't really miss in the Cargo Core Shorts is the mesh pocket on the side of each leg. Dave wrote about these in his review of the Core Cargo Bib Shorts – the idea is that you can eliminate the need to wear a traditional cycling jersey with rear pockets and just use these side ones instead.
The pockets are a good size – as some pictures suggest, you can get an orange in them. I'm not likely to ride with an orange but some arm warmers, a cycling sun cap or a tasty snack bar are easily stowed for easy access. The pockets are plenty big enough for a large phone, too.
Inside the shorts there's a neat diagram of the adventure way of drying them: roll them up in a towel, squish to get as much water out as you can, and then hang them up. I tried this and the shorts dry really quickly, which means they'd be great for backpacking adventures – quick-drying fabric and side pockets for stowing stuff.
In terms of value, there aren't many adventure shorts with pockets to compare them with (unless you go... baggy). Simple Lycra shorts can be found for a lot less – Liv's Mossa Shorts are £39.99, for example – and some bib shorts are less too: Sportful's Fiandre Norain bib shorts, which have a pad designed for riding long distances as well as water-repellent fabric, are £80. Others cost the same: 2XU's Women's Sub Cycle bib shorts are also £95, and with a good pad.
To my mind, the Core Cargo shorts' quality and comfort, and the convenience of the side pockets, justify the price. I really like the classic look, and that the side pockets mean you can easily jump on the bike with just a loose T-shirt on top, and the new Classic chamois performed really well. They're comfortable to wear, and although £95 isn't cheap, they are a quality pair of shorts and well worth the money.
Excellent shorts offering great comfort and fit for long rides, with pockets ideal for adventure, touring and commuting
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Womens Core Cargo Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says, 'A comfortable, dependable pair of cycling shorts for every day, with pockets to support any type of riding'.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
All-new women's-specific chamois pad
Black dense-knit fabric for compressive support and modesty
Laser-cut, soft-silicone leg grippers to hold shorts comfortably in place
Comfortable flatlock stitching
Low-cut at the front for comfort in an on-bike position
Subtle tonal branding
Hard-wearing mesh ensures leg pockets are secure even on rough roads
Eliminate the need for a traditional cycling jersey
As a pair of shorts for long rides they perform very well. Comfortable all day.
So far for a month they have held up very well.
Described by Rapha as a comfortable fit, they are figure-hugging but not too tight.
A medium sized up as expected.
Lightweight breathable fabric.
I found them really comfortable on all rides.
At £95 they are at the higher end for shorts, but the comfort and quality back it up; they're a lot cheaper than some bib shorts.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Washed fine as per instructions.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
As shorts for all-day riding and adventures I thought they performed really well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The classic look with the added bonus of side pockets.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There aren't many rivals for adventure shorts with pockets. You can get bib shorts for less – the Sportful Fiandre Norain bib shorts are £80, with a pad that's good for long distances and with some water repellency – and for the same: the 2XU women's sub cycle bib shorts are £95.
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
I've scored the Rapha Core Cargo shorts a 9 as they performed really well for short or long rides, and the quality is excellent. They fit well, are comfortable and have the added bonus of side pockets.
About the tester
I usually ride: Genesis Croix de Fer Ti My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking