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The latest Rapha Women's Classic Bib Shorts are comfortable and very well made – using recycled nylon. The matt fabric is stretchy and soft against the skin, and I got on well with the pad, but the updated hems don't quite hit the mark for me.
Rapha's not alone in going greener in its manufacturing, and as with many other eco-friendly garments we've seen – such as Santini's Eco Sleek jersey, Lusso's Sunday Funday Eco baselayer and Velocio's Foundation Women's Jersey – it's come with no detrimental impact on performance.
The fabric – 58% recycled nylon, 42% elastane – isn't quite as silky feeling as that of the Souplesse Detachable bibs I tested in 2019 (now called the Pro Team Detachable Bib Shorts), but the Classics are still very comfortable. You get flatlock stitched seams, and the matt fabric feels pleasant against the skin.
The hems of the neckline and arm holes are elasticated and slightly gathered, at least until you stretch the straps into place. I thought it might mean they'd dig in a bit and be uncomfortable, but they don't. There seems to be just the right amount of stretch.
The whole bib section is mesh and comes up quite high, which makes it perfect for ditching a separate baselayer – especially on very hot days. It seems to work well at letting heat and moisture escape – the only dampness I noticed was the area under my jersey pockets, especially below the middle one that contained a windproof.
It's fully stitched to the shorts section – there's no clever pee-break stuff going on, or extra stretchiness – so when you need to go, you'll need to undress.
I've always got on well with Rapha pads, and it's the same story here. Rapha redesigned its women's pads a couple of years ago, and the Classic used here is meant to deliver 'all-day comfort'. I was certainly comfortable for over three hours of riding.
The pads are size-specific, with softer foam up front and either 8mm or 10mm of higher density foam at the rear, depending on your size. It feels very slightly firmer and denser than the Souplesse pad.
What I didn't get on so well with, and noticed immediately the first time I put these on, was the way the leg gripper/hem doesn't lie flat.
The gripper section is quite deep (about 5.5cm), hefty, and only slightly tapered, and because the lower circumference is bigger than my leg at the point where it should sit, it only grips higher up, leaving the bottom edge proud.
If you have chunkier legs than me you probably won't have the same issue – and I must confess I noticed it more off the bike than on. Those vertical lines of silicone are very grippy, so the legs don't move when you're pedalling. But they definitely don't hold around the leg as gently as the softer cuffs of the Souplesse/Pro Teams.
One thing I do like about these is that you can wash them at 40°C, rather than just the usual 30. I don't really know why I like that... but I do.
Rapha kit generally doesn't come cheap, but it's typically very good quality, nicely designed, looks great, and is worth the money if you can afford it. If it's any indication, I have paid for Rapha kit with money out of my very own pocket...
Although these are pretty pricey compared with many, they're certainly not the most expensive we've tested. In fact they're £25 less than the Pro Team Detachable Bib Shorts (£195), but you do (clue's in the name) get detachability for your extra £25. They're also cheaper than Gore's C7 Women's Bib Shorts (£199.99), which Emma thought were excellent.
They're also cheaper than Le Col's Women's Hors Categorie Bib Shorts II, which Anna found very comfortable, but not the best quality for their £180 rrp.
I think the Classics are good, and potentially very good if you have bigger thighs than me. I much prefer the softer hems of the Pro Team Detachable Bib shorts (plus I'm not sure I'd choose to go back to a non-detachable design), and while I didn't find the hems a problem when riding, I'd like something closer to perfection for this much money.
Good quality, comfortable and eco-friendly shorts, but check the sizing for fit around the legs
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Classic Bib Shorts
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says, 'Developed for all-round riding, the Women's Classic Bib Shorts offer exceptional performance and comfort in a wide range of riding conditions. And now updated to incorporate recycled materials, our most comfortable bibs also have a lower impact. The shorts are cut from a high-stretch, matt fabric that is breathable and wicks sweat efficiently. The shorts use a chamois pad designed specifically for women and have a panelled construction to guarantee a superb fit. Flatlock stitching throughout means they won't chafe, no matter how long or hard you ride. The improved design eliminates zips on the upper section and instead features a scooped neckline that makes taking the shorts on and off a lot easier. The soft hem grippers that secure the shorts in place are now wider to reduce compression. Designed to be worn with the Medium Support Bra or the Light Support Bra, the back of the shorts also has a large cutaway section for maximum breathability.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From the Rapha website:
How this was made
Classic Bib Shorts are now made using recycled nylon. Using recycled nylon allows us to create a product with exceptional performance and durability whilst reducing our environmental impact.
Size-specific and dual-density chamois
Main material made using recycled Nylon
Highly breathable upper section
Updated wider hem grippers
Flatlock stitching for reduced bulk
Printed Rapha logos feature on either leg
Available in a range of colours
58% Recycled Nylon
73% Recycled Nylon
27% Recycled Elastane
Wash at 40°C on gentle cycle
Wash dark colours separately
Cool iron only
Do not bleach
Do not tumble dry
Do not dry clean
Very well made.
They do the job very well.
Leg hem/gripper is slightly loose, though it's not something I noticed while riding – the gripper is super-grippy.
The neckline and arm holes of the bib section are elasticated, and until you put the shorts on and stretch the straps into place to make them lie flat, they're slightly gathered. I thought it might make them uncomfortable, that they'd dig in, but they don't.
They're perfectly comfortable, if not quite as super-comfy as other Rapha bib shorts I've worn. The seams are flatlock stitched and the fabric feels pleasant against the skin, if not quite as silky as that of the Pro Teams I tested in 2019. Maybe that's the (lower) price you pay for being more eco.
The pad is comfortable for at least three hours in the saddle, though again I'd say the Pro Teams' pips it very slightly; the Classic feels very slightly firmer/denser.
The leg grippers are a bit of a strange one. They're quite deep (5.5cm) and the vertical lines of silicone are very grippy, but the whole thing is quite hefty. I must confess I noticed it more off the bike than on – they don't move when you're pedalling – but they don't hold around the leg as gently as the softer cuffs of the Pro Teams.
Pretty pricey compared with many, though certainly not the most expensive.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
You can wash these at 40°C – not the usual 30.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
On the whole, they perform very well. I didn't notice the slightly odd-fitting hems when out on the bike; it's more obvious when just standing around. The recycled nylon fabric seems breathable, and the low scooped neckline no doubt helps with cooling. I always get on well with Rapha's pads, and this one's no exception, though it does feel very slightly firmer than the Pro Team/Souplesse's.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quality and general ride comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The slightly loose leg hems are less than ideal, though they don't seem to affect performance. Maybe those with less weedy legs will achieve a better fit. I also prefer a detachable bib, or 'easy pee' design as our tech writer Anna puts it.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They're at the high end of the market, but cheaper than the Pro Team Detachable Bib Shorts (£195) and Gore's C7 Women's Bib Shorts (£199.99), which Emma thought were excellent. They're also cheaper than Le Col's Women's Hors Categorie Bib Shorts II, which Anna found very comfortable but not the best quality for their £180 rrp.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe – though I'd probably go for the Pro Team Detachable Bib Shorts for another £25
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
They're good, but I prefer the softer hems of the Pro Team Detachable Bib Shorts. I didn't find it a problem when riding, but I'd like closer to perfection for this much money.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Venon My best bike is: Paulus Quiros
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding,
Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She joined road.cc in 2015 but first began working on bike magazines way back in 1991 as production editor on Mountain Biking UK, then deputy editor of MTB Pro, before changing allegiance to road cycling as senior production editor on Cycling Plus. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.