Many VeloVoices readers are avid cyclists themselves and I often get asked about various types of bikes, accessories and apparel so I thought I would write a semi-regular column called Riding with Panache. In it, I will share tips on how to look and feel good when riding and will, from time to time, review cycling products that I have purchased or that have been sent me. (I will always let you know which is which.) These are my opinions and you may disagree. Just know that no matter what you think, I am always right. Today I’m reviewing some kit from Rapha. (All photographs ©Panache.)
I’m going to the Tour de France this year and I wanted to take some ‘non-team’ clothing that would look great and make me feel like a million bucks as I ride up and down the Alps. I’ve always been intrigued by the clean lines and classic look of Rapha’s clothing. I’m a designer and love the brand’s black-and-white photography, emotive cinematography, elegant typography and hipster models – they suck me in like a black hole of Colnago Clover Leaves! It’s only Rapha’s high prices, my financial responsibility and the good sense of Mrs Panache that keeps me from buying everything in their catalogue.
However, because I’m making this special trip to the 100th Tour, Mrs Panache gave me the green light to purchase an entire Rapha kit – Bib Shorts, Jersey and Socks! I chose the Pro Team Bib Shorts, the light blue Trade Team Jersey, and the 3-pack bundle of long Pro Team Socks. My total bill was $495. (Gulp!) I will be in the dog-house for a while. So now the moment of truth – is it worth the money and the marriage capital?
Pro Team Bib Shorts $260| £170.00 | €190.00
The Pro Team Bib Shorts are the most expensive single piece of cycling apparel I have ever purchased, so my expectations were through the roof. If you don’t like tight-fitting bibs, these are NOT the ones for you. They are designed to be like a second skin and they don’t disappoint. The chamois is the thickest I have ever worn and it feels great when I sit on the saddle. The stitching is high quality and unnoticeable, which means no hot spots or discomfort, even after long hours. The leg grippers feel luxurious and the Rapha branding is gorgeous in white on one leg and glossy black on the other. Nice little details like these are everywhere, from the striping on the shoulder straps to the race radio pocket.
My only issue with the bibs is the length of the shoulder straps. I’m 6′ 5″ tall and a lot of my height is in my torso. The bib straps are very tight so I’m hoping they’ll stretch and become more comfortable. Rapha does offer a tall version but that only allows for an extra 30mm in length in the legs, which I don’t need. Most people won’t have this problem but Rapha should consider adding length or additional flexibility to the straps for those riders with longer torsos. If I didn’t have the strap length issue, I would have rated these 5 out of 5. These bibs are exceptional quality.
Pros: The bottoms fit like they were custom-made. The stitching is luxurious and seamless. These bibs should last many years.
Cons: The shoulder straps are short for tall riders with longer torsos.
Trade Team Jersey $175 | £110.00 | €130.00
The Trade Team Jersey comes in several different colours but I fell in love with the light blue, honouring Jacques Anquetil. The merino/polyester blend feels luxurious and works well in both warmer and cooler weather. This jersey is a bit heavy for really hot days but it has felt perfect in the lower to mid-80s °F (about 30°C).
This jersey’s more casual fit has me covered nicely without being too baggy anywhere. The short sleeves are the perfect length and width. My buddy WTF Kits did a thorough review of this jersey and its nine-panel design. He gives an obsessive level of information, which you can read for yourself here.
It’s the little details that set Rapha clothing apart and this is no exception – the embroidery on the sleeve and back pocket, the hidden pockets, the Drawcord hem, and zipper chin guard. Perfection.
Pros: Breathable, comfortable, stylish and full of luxurious details. Really well made.
Pro Team Socks 3-pack $60 | £35.00 | €45.00
I bought the sock bundle because I couldn’t see myself spending $25 dollars for a single pair of socks – in a bundle of three, they’re only $20 a pair (slightly better). The white pair have a reinforced heel and toe area, a nice little black stripe on the back and a mix of fabrics which provides support and breathability. These are really comfortable socks and the white long socks are the perfect length. I ordered one black pair in my bundle and they seem to be longer than the white ones.
Rapha Team socks are among the nicest I’ve worn but they are also the most expensive. Time will tell if the fabric quality and continued ride experience translate into good value.
Pros: Simple, comfortable, breathable, stylish and the perfect (white sock) length.
Cons: Inconsistent size between the white and black versions.
One question I hear often is: “Is Rapha worth the money?” Rapha is about luxury and quality, about details, about image. All of those things have a place with me. I can’t afford a complete Rapha cycling wardrobe but I can afford a few classic pieces. I look at my investment in a Rapha kit the same way I look at purchasing a good business suit. They cost about the same and I feel great when I wear them. (Now if only riding a bike and looking good could be my business!) So for me, the answer is YES, Rapha is worth the money if I purchase in moderation. I’m going to look good in France. 😉
Link: Rapha website