Rapha 3/4 bib shorts £130

Cool-weather protection for the knees

BikeRadar score 3.5/5

Rapha is expanding its clothing line exponentially each season, and the US$220 3/4 bib shorts are a practical addition for a brand bent on recalling the classic rouleurs of the cobbles whenever possible.

Coming off a dry, warm summer and autumn, I was spoiled wearing standard bib shorts with no knee or leg warmers. Then winter hit (although in northern California that means temps in the 50s and 60s), so the Rapha 3/4 bib shorts have come to my knees' rescue several times already.

Initially I wasn't too keen on the brushed ThermoRoubaix fabric, but found its wind-deflecting properties came in quite handy when descending and whipping the wind chill into a frenzy at day's end. The Italian CyTech chamois, like most new chamoises, began as more of a distraction than protection, but a few hours in the saddle took care of it.

What was instantly agreeable was the light mesh upper. Luckily for me, the shoulder straps have enough stretch for a comfortable fit, even with Craft windproof briefs beneath. The double-stiched white piping adds a classic touch, and should keep the garment better protected in the long run. A simple rear pocket works well for carrying a sealed coin purse or mobile phone.

Verdict

Depending on where you ride, 3/4 bib shorts may be just the ticket. I found the 8.6oz/244g Raphas were cut to a comfortable length, steering clear of chafing the back sides of my knees, crucial with constant motion on the bike. The rubber grippers inside the legs both helped and hindered my riding experience, but most of all kept the fabric in place. This seems like a lot of money to spend on shorts when a decent pair of knee warmers cost US$25 - $60. Some folks may benefit from wearing standard bibs and using knee warmers, but a good pair of 3/4 bibs are hard to find. Not, however, if you look at Rapha.

© BikeRadar 2007

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