If you are anything like me, once you have experienced bib shorts with cargo pockets there is no going back. These days there are loads of options when it comes to the best gravel bike bib shorts equipped come with storage.
We have previously reviewed Rapha’s Cargo bibs, and they have since become one of our favorites whether we are going for an XC hot lap or a bikepacking adventure. Rapha’s top cargo carriers come at a cost though so we were keen to get hold of the Core Cargo version to see how they stack up against the premium Rapha alternatives at double the price.
Design and specifications
Just like the premium shorts, Rapha has given the Core Cargo a ‘classic fit’ which aims to offer comfort on longer rides. A dense-knit fabric is used for the lower portions of the shorts while the shoulder straps are made up of a lightweight, breathable material. All the seams are flatlock stitched as are most bib shorts on the market. The most obvious difference between Rapha’s two cargo shorts is the extra paneling and less refined stitching around the waist of the shorts on the Core version. There is also more stitching around the front of the chamois and up the rear of the shorts as well. This isn't a bad thing as we didn’t experience any discomfort from the additional seams, merely an observation as to one area where Rapha has cost-saved.
To match the ‘classic fit’ Rapha has fitted the Core Cargos with their classic chamois, a single-density pad that has a good amount of thickness. The chamois is also size-specific with small (XS-S short size), medium (M-L short size), and Large (XL-XXL short size) pads, something you don’t get with the more expensive shorts
The pockets use a lightweight, stretchy mesh with two large pockets on each leg and two smaller ones on the small of the back. Combined, the pockets offer plenty of storage potential and can be used in combination with a jersey with rear pockets or a casual t-shirt.
Aesthetically, the shorts are quite understated with two Rapha logos down the flanks of each leg which are muted by the layer of mesh used for the pockets. Other than that there is a small infographic on the back of the bibs behind the rear pockets. One detail that is missing is any reflective tabs or graphics on the shorts, although if you’re riding off-road this isn’t really a concern.
Rapha has done an excellent job with the Core Cargo tailoring and the ’classic fit’ is snug and supportive without feeling restrictive. The balance between compression and fit is very well measured and I found them to be very comfortable whether it was a quick power hour on the cross-country bike or long-distance gravel rides. The same can be said with the chamois, and while you can feel that it doesn't have the fancy dual-density layers of Rapha’s premium Brevit pad, I never had any discomfort. The straps sit comfortably over the shoulders too and the cut-out back panel keeps sweat buildup to a minimum. There is no added water resistance to the Core shorts although we are never that convinced it does much anyway.
One area where the Core Cargo bibs have an edge over the premium Cargo shorts is with the leg hems. The Core Cargo has a deeper elasticated hem which I found to sit more evenly against the leg. The grippers on the hem work well and I never felt any creeping or the need to readjust mid-ride.
The deep pockets work well giving easy access and ample storage space. Most importantly I haven't lost anything mid-ride either.
I do have some durability concerns though, my review shorts are already starting to show signs of saddle abrasion with two patches where there is fraying to the face material. Whether this is just aesthetic or the start of a more serious issue is hard to tell at the moment and we will update the review if it develops further. It must be noted that I have ridden considerably further through multiple seasons in the more expensive Cargo shorts and they aren’t showing any signs of wear yet
Rapha has done a great job at boiling down all the best features of its premium Cargo bib shorts and offering the Core Cargo bib shorts at half the price. Although the tailoring isn’t as refined, the fit is absolutely spot-on for a wide range of riding. The chamois is excellent as well and the fact it’s size specific is a big bonus. The simple mesh pockets are a good size and work well. Those that prefer an understated pair of shorts will also like the plainer finish too, although some reflective safety detailing would be a nice touch.
Disappointingly my test sample is already showing some bobbling to the material which, based on the amount of riding I have done so far, is concerning. Whether this develops beyond just an aesthetic blemish remains to be seen.
Tech specs: Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts
- Price: $140 / £100
- Materials: 82% Polyester, 18% Elastane
- Colors: Black, Dark Navy
- Size availability: XS to XXL