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Rapha's Women's Pro Team Training Bib Shorts have all the markings of premium kit and successfully blend a robust, compressive feel with a soft, stretchy finish. The pad may not suit some as it feels quite forward-focused, but overall they deliver impressive comfort.
With the addition of the Pro Team Training shorts, Rapha's women's range is starting to look impressively broad. At the time of writing, these bibs are one of 14 options, and that's not counting shorts and tights. It's good to see a range of aesthetics too, from black to brights.
These bib shorts are in Rapha's Pro Team range, and like the Pro Team design they're based on, are intended to facilitate speed. Unlike the pure race versions, though, these are made for extra comfort over long training miles – to build a 'race-winning base' – with a high density pad as opposed to the dual density of the racing Pro Team Bib Shorts.
Rapha says they're made for mild to warm conditions, and they do indeed feel to be suited to more than one season because of their robust feel and decent coverage. Handily, they were tested in a British July that fluctuated from chillier winds to sweltering sunshine, 13 to 28 degrees. The mesh upper felt breathable and kept me cooler on hotter days, while the medium-thick leg fabric went some way to taking the edge off nippier weather fronts. The leg isn't cut too short, either, so they work well when combined with leg warmers. So, while these are pricey, don't discount the fact that they could take you from spring to autumn.
I tested a size small (range is from XXS to XL), and taking into account that the fit of these bibs is intended to be on the close side, they feel spot on. In action they moved really well with the body, their polyamide, elastane and nylon make-up delivered a very soft, super-stretchy feel enhanced by a multi-panel construction that hugged my thighs and bum without feeling restrictive.
The bib straps are stretchy enough to accommodate my long torso and 5ft 7in height and left no sign of skin indentation after longer wears, and the cut of the legs doesn't come up short of the mark either. Unlike the race version of these bibs, which come with three leg length options, these come with just the one: short enough to be forgotten but long enough to be comfortable. Leg length is, of course, a matter of taste, but these do seem to hit a sweet spot in the middle.
Just like their namesake jersey, these bib shorts feature Pro Team bar design silicone grippers at their base, and they are really effective – there was no sign of riding up nor bagginess, and they didn't need adjusting after standing climbs or sprints.
Above the base of each leg is a reflective tab which, when combined with that whiter-than-white contrasting logo, provides a little added safety, whichever side of the road you're on.
The only potential leg niggle is the placement of an additional, rather robust, seam a couple of inches above the grippers which adds more thigh bulge than with designs that leave the seam to the base of the leg only – such as with Rapha's Cargo bibs, or the recently reviewed Assos Dyora.
The pad is an interesting one; its high-density construction (as opposed to the dual density of the pure race versions) is certainly very comfortable, with no chafing evident over longer, hot rides. But, despite being of a pretty standard length, I found it favoured protection towards the front. This makes sense given the shorts are engineered for fast training rides – and for this job it feels great – but I think it's also helpful to feel the security of a pad that gives you comfort in an upright seated position too, though this may be personal preference.
Its width, on the other hand, is generous – wider than others I've tested like that in the Cycology Logo bibs. It doesn't feel overly bulky either in or out of the saddle, but could probably be a little slimmer if pushed.
The pad's stitching – which is around the edge only, bar a little section of stitching towards the rear – is sturdy and very neat, undetectable in action, and shows no sign of deterioration after a month of repeated wearing and washing.
The lightweight mesh upper features super-soft straps plus a smart-looking logo. They're also white which means – like much of Rapha's bibs range – they deliver a black/white combo. This looks great out of the bag, but poses a washing conundrum; invariably I end up with grey straps which happened here very quickly, despite my best efforts. Of course, the bib section will be hidden under a jersey anyway, but you know it's there.
The bib section provides good coverage without being too bulky: the rear's full back was welcome for a cosy yet breathable feel, while the strap-only front feels like it'd work well across different chest sizes, since they are mega soft and stretchy. When tested together with the Pro Team Jersey, which is a decent length, they gave a secure feel around the middle section too.
Overall, these bib shorts have all the markings of premium performance kit. There's no crinkle nor bag, they just feel great in action and look smart, especially with the addition of contrasting logos at the base of each leg which create a pared-back, yet unmistakably Rapha, aesthetic.
Of course, you'd expect all this from a pair of training bibs that'll set you back £140, and you can certainly pick up decent ones for less: the Altura Firestorms, for example, at £79.99, perform well for all-day riding, and the Liv Signature bibs offer similar features for £20 less.
Nevertheless, these are far from the priciest bibs on the market. They're a whopping £55 quid shy of Rapha's pure race versions, and £35 less than the Assos Dyora bibs I mentioned earlier.
This price gap would have you believe that in order to race efficiently, you'd need to fork out for another pair. So here's the good bit – these bibs feel comfy enough for extended miles, versatile enough for the changing seasons and aero enough – especially given that forward-focused pad – for racing too, though admittedly that is with my 4th Cat-dabbler hat on. These bibs even give you the pro vibe with a team laundry label. They're missing a radio pocket, but I can definitely live with that.
Durability-wise there's no sign of deterioration, aside from that greying top, after a good few washes. That said, there are a few instances of extra bits of stitching inside, which look to be fraying but really they're just excess cotton. I couldn't detect these when riding, but for premium kit you'd expect a super-neat finish – this is by no means a deal breaker though.
Well-fitting, very comfy bib shorts with classic appeal and the potential to transition through seasons
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Pro Team Training Bib Shorts
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says: 'A pair of performance bib shorts for fast training rides.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
- High density pad
- Compressive fabric
- Lightweight mesh upper
- Multiple panel construction
- 74% polyamide
- 26% elastane
Overall high quality, the finish to some inner seams could be tidier.
Washing well, but a greying upper.
Snug but not restrictive – that seam on the leg might bother some.
Spot on for size.
Generally very good but I'd have liked a pad that gave more coverage to the rear.
Thanks to the fabric and performance, they may be versatile across seasons and cycling disciplines so some good usage options for your £140. That said, they are on the pricey side for training bibs.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Mine turned grey very fast. I did not want to put them in a white wash because of the shorts, and I didn't want to waste water by washing them on their own. Other than this, they washed up fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
They worked as intended for speedier training rides: even though I'd have liked a longer pad, I found them to be really comfortable. They also moved well with the body and needed no adjustment mid-ride.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The soft, stretchy upper was very comfy, and I liked the leg length.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I would have preferred a longer pad and the extra leg seam caused a little bit of a bulge.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
They compare well to other brands' bibs made for racing, like the Liv Signature, but for training – which is their intended purpose – they're a bit on the pricey side. The Altura Firestorm bib shorts we tested are £79.99 and work well for all-day riding.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No, even though I found them comfortable, the pad and the greying top irked me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes I would, with the info/caveat of the above.
Use this box to explain your overall score
Overall, these seem every bit the premium bib shorts you'd expect for £140. Supreme comfort, great fit, smart looks. But there are some elements that may disappoint, so – when considering that these are on the pricier end of the scale for bib shorts intended for training, I think they're 'good' rather than 'very good'.
About the tester
I usually ride: My Scott Foil My best bike is: Oldie but the goldie, CAAD 8
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Triathlon, Audax