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The Rapha Men's 3/4 Bib Shorts are supremely warm and comfortable – they have been one of the first items out of my kit drawer throughout autumn and winter, and I'm sure spring will be exactly the same. The quality is top notch, but that comes at a price, and some water resistance would make them more versatile.
Ordinarily I've steered clear of 3/4s for the simple reason that I usually wear bibs with knee warmers or go full leggings. However, after a few months with these Rapha bibs my opinions on 3/4s has changed – I'm now a massive fan!
As someone who has never removed knee warmers mid-ride, the 3/4s are far more comfortable than even the most comfortable knee warmer/short combos that I've tried. The bibs have Rapha's 'classic' fit which is advertised as 'close but relaxed' and this sums it up well: 100-milers have proved no trouble for them, and the flatlock stitching also helps in the comfort department.
Speaking of fit, I've got a medium on test and the bibs come up true to size. They are longer in the leg than some – for example, the Castelli Omloop thermal bib shorts stop just below the knee, and Hollis thought the Endura FS-260 Pros he tested could have been longer. The Raphas leave little shin showing when paired with 6in socks, so there's less skin exposed to the elements.
The shaped panels and articulated legs mean the fabric sits very nicely over the knee. There's no restriction or bunching of material when pedalling, and it's easy to forget they're even there. As I've said, I found it a lot more comfortable than wearing knee warmers with shorts, or the added weight of full-length tights.
The torso section of the bibs offers good coverage too, ensuring there's no draught or gap when paired with a jacket or jersey, although it does make comfort breaks a little tricky.
The shorts themselves are made from a fleece-backed Thermoroubaix material which is 77% nylon and 23% elastane. This offers a good amount of stretch so I'm sure those of you with larger legs than me will still find them comfortable, and it's also soft to the touch. I found it a little slippery on the saddle initially, but that improved after a few weeks of riding. The material does a good job of keeping the wind out and your legs warm, although it is vulnerable to water. It can keep a small amount of road spray at bay, but any meaningful rain or water will soon work its way through, compromising the warmth of the bibs.
Although the bibs are warm enough to be worn during winter conditions down to about 5°C, I've also been wearing them comfortably in temperatures up to the low teens, making them quite versatile.
It would be nice to see some more reflective accents – the outgoing design that these replace had large reflective sections down the back of the calves.
Out on the road you'll soon notice the plushness of the pad, which is borrowed from the Rapha Classic II bibs. It is quite large, but at the end of long rides on poor road surfaces I was thankful for it. It wouldn't be my first choice for racing – for that I'd prefer a thinner and narrower pad that allows a more aggressive position without bunching – but for training miles or when comfort is required, it's hard to beat.
At £180, the Raphas don't come cheap, so it's a good job they're so good at what they do. They're £25 more than the Assos Mille GTs, another high-quality option at £155, but there are more expensive ones out there: the Ashmei Winter Merinos will set you back £218, though they will keep you drier in the wet.
If your budget doesn't stretch that far there are others worth considering: Stu loved the £75 Primal Dawn bibs, Endura's FS-260 Pro Thermos mentioned earlier perform really well for £89.99, and the Pearl Izumi Attack 3/4 bibs are very comfortable too, and £114.99, though not as warm as the Raphas.
Overall, the Rapha 3/4s are undoubtedly expensive but they're also extremely comfortable, the fit is excellent and they're really warm. If you wear them anywhere near as much as I have over the last few months then you'll get your money's worth and make three-season riding a lot more enjoyable.
Warm, comfortable and high quality 3/4 bibs for three-season use
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Mens 3/4 Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha puts it quite simply as: "A pair of three-quarter length bibs to keep your knees warm in cooler conditions."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Seams positioned away from front and back of the knee
Gripper on hem
Flat lock stitching
Same pad as Classic Bib Shorts II
Strong and durable Thermoroubaix with great stretch
Thermolite fleece lining
Warm and comfortable, great on dry days, good on wet ones, suitable for conditions about 4-14°C.
Fine so far, no logo peeling or stitching issues.
Really nice; 'classic' fit is not as race cut as other Rapha ranges but they're tight yet comfortable enough for 100-milers and beyond.
Accurate sizing, quite long in the leg for extra coverage.
You do get what you pay for but cheaper options can offer 90 per cent of the quality for a lot less. I've been wearing them loads so would definitely get my money's worth out of them.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine, washed at 30 and don't tumble dry.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well; thoroughly enjoyable to wear even on long rides – they've converted me from shorts and knee warmers.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Warm and comfortable on long rides.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slippery on the saddle for the first few rides.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
As mentioned in the review, they're at the premium end of the market, though there are more expensive ones out there.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Definitely
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're amazingly comfortable, the fit is excellent and they have the performance to back up that big price tag. I've absolutely loved wearing them. A small niggle is that they were slippery on the saddle to begin with, but that improved after a few weeks of riding. Some reflective accents would be nice, as would some weatherproofing, but for comfortable riding on cool days they're exceptional. Taking the high price into account, though, I'd say overall these are very good and an 8.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized venge pro 2019 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 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, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Jamie has been riding bikes since a tender age but really caught the bug for racing and reviewing whilst studying towards a master's in Mechanical engineering at Swansea University. Having graduated, he decided he really quite liked working with bikes and is now a full-time addition to the road.cc team. When not writing about tech news or working on the Youtube channel, you can still find him racing local crits trying to cling on to his cat 2 licence...and missing every break going...