By Nick Legan
Making clothing for touring cyclists is no small task. The apparel preferences among long-distance riders are as varied as the body types, road surfaces, and diets of our motley tribe. But if you are of the Lycra-clad or partial spandex crew, then premium brand Rapha has a new line of clothing called “Explore” it would like you to check out.
For now the line is comprised of Rapha’s Cargo Bib Shorts, the Technical T-shirt, Technical Polo, and the Brevet Baselayer. They are designed to work together, complementing one another both in function and form. I’ve ridden in the new Cargo Bibs for the last several weeks and must admit that I’m impressed. Clearly Rapha spent time asking riders what they look for in adventure cycling apparel and testing samples out in the real world.
My go-to touring attire is a pair of comfortable bib shorts and a casual t-shirt made of a wicking material. In some cases I’ll wear a baselayer and because I don’t have jersey pockets, a fanny pack (or bum bag) often sits around my waist. I like quick access to my wallet, camera, and snacks.
Rapha’s new Cargo Bib Short has several integrated pockets that allow me to ditch the fanny pack. As the Rapha site states, they “can carry everything you would keep in a jersey.” Each leg receives a large, elastic mesh pocket that can easily carry a pair of bananas, though I’d recommend keeping lighter items in them. I found the leg pockets great for snacks, wrappers, or a temporary stash for a glove, hat, or arm warmer.
Integrated into the back suspender part of the bibs are two more pockets, great for a phone wallet, food, or a light vest. Granted, if you use these pockets with a t-shirt over the top, you will look a bit lumpy, but that never concerned me.
Beyond the carrying capabilities of the new shorts, Rapha paid close attention to the rest of the details. A quick-dry, perforated chamois taken from its Brevet line makes washing the shorts in camp easier. It also keeps you dryer throughout the day. Reflective accents on the back and each leg help in low-light conditions.
But perhaps the most interesting feature of the Cargo Bib Shorts is the water-resistant nature of the fabric used in them. When caught in a shower, water beads up and rolls off, keeping you drier and more comfortable. Amazingly, there is nothing stuffy or hot about the Cargo Bibs. In fact, I didn’t even know about the water resistant properties until after I had already used the shorts in a gravel race with temperatures nearly 80 degrees.
Sizing runs true. I’m typically a medium and wore a medium sample with no thought of going up or down in size.
The only elephant in the room here has to be the cost. $270 is a small fortune for a pair of bib shorts. But I have to say that if you like wearing t-shirts or button downs that you already own, you’ve already saved a lot of money on cycling jerseys. The ability to comfortably carry extra items on your person certainly delivers some value. The water-resistant fabric treatment is also very clever. And it must be said that Rapha apparel holds up exceptionally well. I have several pieces that are five or more years old that still see regular use.