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Rapha Women's Pro Team winter bibtights and Pro Team winter jacket review

11 Feb 2021
Verdict:

A sleek, snug, smart winter ensemble, designed to cope with the worst of the weather. Photos supplied by Rapha

Cyclist Rating: 
Price: 
Tights £210; Jacket £180
For 
The drop seat design on the tights is a game-changer • Zip, pockets and magnetic clasp can be operated with gloves on
Against 
Beyond some people’s budgets • Could do with more reflective panels

I ask a lot more of my kit in winter than I do in summer. Not only does it have to look good, perform well and protect me from the elements – it also has to help me overcome my perpetual reluctance to leave the house when the skies are grey, the roads are covered in mud and the temperature’s hovering in the low single figures.

The Rapha Women's Pro Team winter bibtights and Pro Team winter jacket tick all of these boxes most emphatically.

Rapha Women's Pro Team winter bibtights

They’ve even managed to solve the biggest headache of all – that moment where you finally acknowledge your full bladder, and have to strip to your baselayer in the driving sleet, hang your jersey, gilet and jacket on a barbed wire fence, and squat down in the corner of a muddy field.

 

Like Rapha’s Women’s Pro Team bibshorts (formerly Souplesse), these tights include a drop seat with an injection-moulded plastic clasp that sits at the small of the back, and contains magnets to ensure that it closes easily and reliably.

Buy the Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Tights here

It even works when your hands are so cold they’ve lost all grip and dexterity – and I speak as someone who once had to ask a fellow rider to unzip and refasten her jersey for a toilet break. With this clasp you don’t even need to take your gloves off.

It’s hard to emphasise what a game-changer this is – being able to answer the call of nature without taking off almost all of my clothes means that I’d favour these tights even if there were little else going for them.

More than just convenient

But they have plenty more going for them. The thermal fabric is snug, compressive and comfy, with a soft brushed lining close to the skin, and reinforced panels at the front, to offer additional protection against the elements.

Compared to my other tights, it felt like getting into a wetsuit, and I don’t think Rapha could have made them any thicker without compromising movement. As far as deep winter legwear goes, this is probably as warm as you’re going to get.

The triple-layered fabric around the front and at the seat does mean that the bibtights are less stretchy than some, and I found I had to make more effort to get them in the right position before riding, and adjust them during breaks. But whilst in the saddle I didn’t notice any migration at all, suggesting that this could just be one of those moments where clothing cut for cycling doesn’t work as well when you’re standing up straight.

The slightly shinier fabric meant that I initially found myself sliding around on the saddle as I started to pedal, but I quickly stopped noticing this, suggesting that I’d either got used to it, that moisture had increased their grippiness (and I have almost always worn these in wet conditions), or that friction with the saddle has increased as the fabric has worn.

Buy the Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Tights now

Signs of wear

After a couple of months of riding (mostly full- or half-day rides a couple of times a week) the seat of the tights is showing signs of wear – mainly just a slight whitening of the fabric around the sit bones. The construction is robust enough to keep the pad in place (and avoid transparency) for a long while yet, but I do wonder how this less flexible fabric will stand up to long-term use.

In terms of design, the tights suited me well. They have a high waist, but the top half is fairly minimalist – straps, rather than a front panel or a zip up to the neck. I much prefer this style, but I can see how other cyclists might prefer to add an extra layer of fabric, especially in winter.

 

The ankle cuffs are fairly plain – just a small hem, with nothing added for grip or access, and a fairly loose fit, which I appreciated at the end of muddy rides, as I have large feet and usually struggle to get tights off without hopping around in an undignified fashion and transferring all the road grime from the road onto my bathroom floor in the process.

They also seem more accommodating for whatever combination of thick socks, boots and overshoes a rider might choose to wear, though I can imagine some people might worry about draughts, particularly if they have very slim ankles.

Buy the Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Tights now

Once the Rapha Women's Pro Team winter bibtights were out in the cold and the wet, they performed extremely well. They don’t keep the rain out entirely – the mud that leached through and collected behind my knee joints on longer rides confirms this.

But most crucially, they kept me warm and happy. The thick fabric seems to function like a wetsuit, and paired with the Rapha Pro Team Winter Jacket and a decent waterproof, it saw me through some of the most horrendously rainy rides.

 

 

Rapha Women's Pro Team winter jacket

The Rapha Women's Pro Team winter jacket is made from a similarly cosy fabric – so thick that it’s almost spongey, and whilst it kept me nice and warm on rides, it also soothed me through the difficult process of leaving the house and stepping out into the cold air.

Dressed this warmly, I felt ready to go, and less afraid of the state I might be in when I returned. Anyone who’s dragged themselves out of a warm bed when it’s dark and sleeting outside will understand how important this is.

Buy the Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Jacket here

Despite being designed to be worn as a third layer when required (i.e. with a baselayer and a lighter jersey underneath), the jacket fits quite tightly – I only ever wore it with a base layer and a waterproof or softshell, and suspect that trying to incorporate an extra jersey would end up affecting both my movement and my circulation.

If you think you’d want to wear extra layers under it, you might consider sizing up. I’m happy enough with the jersey as it is – it’s far thicker than anything else I own, and so far I haven’t felt the need to supplement it any further.

 

Rapha’s designers have put a decent amount of thought into the practicalities of winter cycling. The jersey has a thinner panel at the back, to allow sweat to wick out, and prevent moisture collecting – which on very cold days can mean your temperature suddenly dips when you stop riding.

The zip is chunkier than usual (helpful for numb fingers), and the jersey is stabilised by a thick elasticated band that runs around the back from hip to hip, with a non-stretchy area at the front, which prevents it from digging into your tummy.

Buy the Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Jacket now

I appreciated the solidity of this band, and how it held the ensemble together and prevented draughts, though (since we’re all differently built), I suspect there might be one or two people who find that the precise height and curvature of their hips means this is less comfortable.

There are three rear pockets – larger and looser than Rapha’s usual style, which again means they’re sympathetic to cold hands and bulky gloves. I was caught out the first few times I used the drop seat – ruching the jersey up to get to the fastening tipped my phone out of my pocket and onto the ground – but this is something I eventually got used to, and the trade-off (accessible pockets; not needing to remove gloves) is worth it.

Pricing

The cost might raise some eyebrows, but I’d argue that the bibtights, which retail at £220, are well within the normal price bracket for such a garment, and make such a difference to your comfort that they’re worth spending the extra money on.

The jersey is perhaps a little harder to justify, at £180, and I can see how many people might decide to go for the next best thing, and just add an extra baselayer to last winter’s outfit.

Buy the Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Tights from Rapha  
Buy the Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Jacket from Rapha

Visibility

My main reservation about the Pro Team Winter outfit would be visibility – the kit is almost entirely black, aside from a white stripe on the sleeve, and a couple of token reflective panels on the backs of the legs. While I appreciate the flattering silhouette, I do feel that more could have been done to help keep riders safer in the dark and gloomy days of midwinter.

Other bibtights in Rapha’s range have coloured panels and reflective strips on the backs of the calves, and I see no reason why these could not be introduced here as well.

But it’s difficult to find fault with an ensemble that is ultimately such a success – whatever flaws I might be able to pick out, it fulfilled its overall purpose of getting me out of the house on the coldest days, and keeping me warm and happy till I got home.

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews

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