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Rapha's Pro Team Powerweave bib shorts are the most comfortable, high-performance Pro Team-spec bib shorts I've worn to date – but they do cost a pretty penny.
There was a time, not all that long ago, when I would look at Rapha's range of Pro Team bib shorts, see the £190-odd price tag, and whimper when I then went to check my bank balance to see if I could justify spending so much on a pair. How times change.
The Powerweave bib shorts are an evolution of everything that's come before, incorporating all the latest technical innovations and developed alongside and used by the EF Education First pro team in the so-far truncated 2020 season. With an eye-watering £275 price tag.
The Powerweave fabric (as the name might suggest) incorporates a woven fabric in its construction, which has a number of claimed benefits: greater sweat wicking for less water weight retention, around 20 per cent less weight in a dry state in the first place, and more compressive construction thanks to the more flexible stretch that the fabric enables, in tandem with a slightly smaller cut compared to previous Rapha Pro Team models that I've come across before.
Holding them in your hands, that low weight is noticeable at 180g in a medium – just 2g heavier than the small Pro Team Training bibs tested recently – and the fabric really does excel in warmer, sweatier conditions. They stay much dryer than either my own relatively new PT Training bibs, or ageing Pro Team II bibs, and that really lends some next-level comfort.
Where you might get damp, salty patches on your shorts that can begin to rub, especially around seams, here that risk is largely removed. It helps that the construction incorporates far fewer seams than before too, which in turn leads to a more compressive feel. The result is fewer fold lines or creases as you pedal along, which, alongside the soft feel of the Powerweave fabric, is probably the single biggest positive influencer on comfort.
Compression can help blood flow and reduce fatigue – and the application of it in these bib shorts is among the best I've ever come across. The slightly longer cut in the leg (1-2cm longer than I find in the Pro Team Training shorts – something fellow reviewer Dave commented on in that review) aids a fuller enclosure of the quads and hamstrings in tandem with the slim fit, while the compression continues further up around the glutes, with a slightly higher waistline that reaches up to the navel area.
The bib section keeps things 'enclosed' too. Laser cut and directly bonded to the shorts, the straps keep a strong (almost tight) hold on the legs, slightly pulling them up. I personally found the front a bit high and tight if I wanted to pull it down to quickly relieve myself before heading out – understandably, café stops haven't been much of an option in recent times – but when riding the straps are superb, distributing pressure across the shoulders incredibly well while being almost unnoticeable.
At the other end, as I've mentioned, the legs are slightly longer than standard. My personal preference is for something mid-length, as seen in the Pro Team Training shorts, but I've found myself making an exception to that rule here because there are no distinct grippers to cause any pinching or rubbing discomfort at all around the tendons near the back of the knee.
Instead, you get a slightly textured fabric that gently holds the shorts in place. The graded compression is nigh-on perfect, while the shorts are left to settle naturally in the optimum place on your leg after the first kilometre or two of riding.
Finally, the chamois is a play on Rapha's Pro Team style. Anatomically fitted, it's a more svelte version than the model used in the Training shorts (more akin to the Pro Team II style, with textured, recessed dimples in the construction), which helps to reduce weight and unnecessary bulk. Interestingly, while a little cooler than the Training models – and therefore likely great for the EF pros who ride in the height of European summers – in my opinion the simpler Training chamois is actually the slightly more comfortable of the two if you're needing to cover long distances, or don't have a more leathered undercarriage.
The reality is that the Pro Team Powerweaves are an outstanding set of performance bib shorts, especially for those with road racing (or at least fast club riding) aspirations. They even wash well, returning as new through the dozens of cycles I've put them through so far this summer.
However, as I said from the outset, you really pay for them. Although I generally count myself in the 'fast club riding' category, if I were forced to spend my own money on a new set of (Rapha) bib shorts tomorrow, I'd truly struggle to justify spending the extra £135 on the Powerweave versions. Yes, they're 'better', but close to twice as good? I'm not so sure.
That said, if you want the best of the best that Rapha can offer when it comes to fair weather performance bib shorts, with that outstanding comfort, then the Powerweaves are the new standard bearer.
Incredibly expensive – but otherwise truly excellent top-tier bib shorts
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Powerweave Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
They're aimed at racing and high performance road cycling.
Rapha says, 'A pair of elite-level race bib shorts engineered with groundbreaking woven fabric technology.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Powerweave fabric provides excellent moisture-management
Seven panel construction saves weight and minimises bulk
New chamois pad – more breathable, quicker drying, slimmer and lighter
Integrated leg grippers for optimal compression on the thigh
Highly breathable, compressive and ultralight
Open structured central back panel for temperature control
Dual-density chamois pad dries rapidly
Rapha logos integrated into material
Laser-cut, ergonomic bib straps for support with pressure points
The construction seems almost surprisingly hardwearing for a woven pair of bib shorts, while the bib section is very well put together too.
Even in the warmest weather, they're superb at helping to regulate body temperature. The chamois is excellent, as is the feel of the compression.
Although a woven fabric, I've seen zero degradation in the tens of times that I've put them through the wash. They're not given to catching on wooden garden furniture either.
The fit is very anatomical, and when in the saddle they fit 'like a glove'. The slightly longer leg isn't for everyone, but that's a small (and subjective) niggle.
Almost perfect, a medium fitting me as it should. You could argue that the cut makes it feel slightly on the small side, but it's minimal.
Their 180g is light enough for almost anyone.
The performance is truly excellent, but it's a hefty price tag.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Fantastic comfort, great compression, top-spec chamois.
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?
Of the bib shorts tested on road.cc this year, only the Velocio Men's Concept bib shorts come close to the cost of the Poweweaves, and are still almost £50 cheaper. Those took a 9/10 rating too, also impressing in the comfort and performance stakes. There's no doubt that you pay a premium for the Rapha name still.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes, but I'd probably opt for the Pro Team Training bib shorts and the better value they represent.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, if they were into their racing or money was no object.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Just shy of perfect because they cost as much as they do! Otherwise, I'd be struggling to not give them a 10.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: I ride: I would class myself as:
I regularly do the following types of riding: