Rapha is known for its premium stretch road kit and stylish colors, and 2021 has seen them launches a whole range of clothing for mountain bikers. I took a closer look at their Trail shorts, Cargo bibs and Tech t-shirt Back in the summer heat, but I’m wearing the new Trail pants and just got out of the $110 USD knee pads since our fall field test series (full disclosure: they sponsored it) in October. Ideally, we only had wet, miserable weather during this time, and absolutely no chance of wearing shorts.
• 89% nylon, 11% spandex
• Reinforced and articulated knees
• Adjust. belt with cam locks, belt loops
• Deep hand pockets
• Zipped vertical pockets, phone pockets
• Keyhole metal snap case
• MSRP: $180
• Lightweight, suitable for pedals
• RHEON Labs density changing padding
• SuperFabric outer layer
• No adj. handcuffs
• MSRP: $110
Trail pant details
At the waistband you will find two adjustable straps, each with a locking cam to keep them in place once adjusted to fit properly. While some brands use a large plastic ratchet strap or straps to do the job, I prefer those plastic cams that are barely there and they never loosen their grip. There are also belt loops for some odd reason – does anyone wear a belt while riding? – and the metal snap at the waist closes, no matter how much eggnog and Christmas cookies you managed to consume over the holidays.
If you need pockets but don’t want to break out your cargo pants (we don’t want you to either), you’ll like what Rapha has done with these Trail pants. There are two regular non-zippered pockets on either side so you have somewhere to put your hands while standing at the trailhead like a goober, but it’s also worth mentioning that they’re deep enough to actually be useful , unlike other options out there. . There are also two zipped cargo pockets on the side of each thigh, both with an internal sleeve to keep your phone from falling out, and this is where you’ll want to keep everything important during a ride.
At the bottom of the legs is where you’ll find non-adjustable cuffs – some other brands use Velcro or zippers here to catch any loose fabric – but they’re both reinforced and elasticated for durability. And speaking of which, Rapha also added reinforcements at the knees and the cut is articulated to prevent the wrists from being pulled up while you pedal or lean on the trail.
And because it’s almost always better to repair something than replace it, Rapha also offers an interesting repair program where they’ll fix your pants (or other Rapha gear) that you’ve damaged: “Rapha offers a free repair service for the lifetime of the product with valid proof of purchase. This service also applies to garments outside of the 90-day return policy.”
Knee pad details
On a scale from “These would be ideal for a green railing” to “Do I even wear these?” Rapha’s new knee pads are definitely more aimed at the latter. To that end, you’ll find that they sport a very slim shape that doesn’t protrude as far past the knee as pads that use some kind of hard-shell protection. They’re thin enough to slip under even the tightest white slopestyle jeans, though they don’t offer the kind of protection those who know they’ll hit the ground multiple times on a ride would want; rather, they are aimed at trail riders who want protection but also want to pedal for hours while wearing them.
Rapha have used a variable density material that stays a little soft until hit, at which point it hardens almost instantly to provide more protection. There’s not a ton of coverage – it doesn’t wrap around the sides of your knees and only extends a few inches below – but these weren’t meant to be a full coverage option . The outer material is made of awesome-sounding SuperFabric, and Rapha says it’s a “Incredibly durable ceramic polymer that reduces friction and adds tear resistance so riders won’t snag on anything.“
They are also slip-on pads with a closed back, and stretchy cuffs with silicone grip strips are used instead of the adjustable hook-and-loop straps.
Fit and performance
My 5′ 10″ frame is mostly legs and that means the pants can sometimes feel a bit short to me, but that’s not the case with these. They’re long enough not to be pulled over. above my ankles as I pedal, and while I thought I needed an adjustable cuff to deal with the loose fabric, that’s not a problem as there isn’t a lot of extra gear to start with. As a relatively thin guy, the POC and Race Face pants I also have in my drawer can feel a bit baggy in comparison to the Rapha pants, and for this reason I almost always pick the Rapha pants first. factor that pushes me to prefer them is their silence; who remembers the Seinfeld episode with the swooshing pants? That’s a real thing with some jodhpurs, but not these.
Just like on their Trail shorts, the pockets in their pants are the right size and at the perfect angle to slip a phone or multi-tool in and make it disappear. The internal sleeve does a good job of not falling off while you’re spinning circles, and there’s enough room to add snacks or other things you might need. Another often-missed detail is how easy (or difficult) it is to open and close the zippers while you’re on the go, but that’s easy to do with the large zipper pulls on the Trail Pants, meaning you won’t need to stop to pull out more gummy bears.
At the waistband, the two adjustable straps and plastic cams never once loosened and were much more discreet than the big plastic ratchets some pants use. I had both huddled during our fall field test when there was a little less of me, and let them out a little more recently as the winter donuts piled up.
I honestly hate knee pads because I like to pedal and well every type of pad I’ve ever worn felt great for about an hour at which point they start to leave raw spots behind my knees , slide down every few minutes, or I feel so uncomfortable I’d almost rather have more stitches on my kneecap than keep wearing them.
That’s why I was surprised to not be annoyed by Rapha’s knee protection. They do a great job of articulating freely as your legs spin in circles, and there was hardly any material bunching or quirkiness from the padding, even accounting for the enclosed design. In fact, I’d say these are by far the most comfortable knee pads I’ve ever worn, so much so that I end up using them quite regularly. That’s half the battle when it comes to knee pads; you need to want to wear them or what is it for?
As for protection, they’re meant to be a somewhat slim, pedal-friendly option, so while there’s more than enough padding for everything I do, I can see more aggressive riders wanting more coverage, especially on the sides of the knee.
Can they say put? Well, no, but if we’re honest about it, I’ve never worn a set of pads that manage to stay put for more than an hour of pedaling. And while these weren’t terrible and seemed to move less than the other options I tried, I still found myself having to wind them up every ten or fifteen minutes. Not ideal, but at least they are very comfortable. The cuffs on the pair of full-size pads I was wearing were also quite tight, so I don’t think going down to midrange would have been the answer. Why hasn’t anyone made knee pads that attach to your shorts or pants to keep them from moving?
+ The pants are perfect for pedaling, high quality
+ Pants have useful pockets and adjustments
+ The pads are very comfortable
– There are cheaper options
– Pads are better than some but still slide down