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While bib shorts are comfortable to wear when riding, the tight look isn’t to everyone's taste. Rapha’s Explore Overshorts looks to cater to bikepacker and gravel riders who want more casual shorts to add a little durability to their attire.
While a lot of the best mountain bike shorts offer loads of off-road baggy riding short options, most of them aren’t that practical for gravel and bikepacking demands. Often they are too baggy, flapping and causing drag, and are overly robust adding weight or restricting movement. Rapha’s Explore Overshorts are a slimmed-down pair of shorts that are comfortable to ride in all day, without looking or feeling out of place even if all your friends are Lycra’d up.
Design and performance
The biggest difference between the Explore Overshorts and a pair of mountain bike shorts is leg length. MTB shorts are usually designed to cover the knee so that they hide any awkward-looking gaps between the short leg and kneepad. Obviously, most bikepackers and gravel riders don’t wear kneepads, so Rapha has positioned the Explore Overshorts leg so it sits a little higher on the thigh to reduce flapping. The legs are also narrowed and a little tighter than you would find on a pair of MTB shorts.
The material is a lot lighter than most mountain bike baggies as well, Rapha has used a 120gsm lightweight technical fabric which has a little stretch to it. The material has also been treated with a DWR water repellent to fend off light showers or puddle splashes.
Two poppers and a zipped fly secure the shorts and there are two snaps buckles on each side for fine-tuning waist adjustment. The shorts feature two regular front pockets as well as two small zipped pockets on the side of the leg.
The slightly shorter cut might feel a little weird to those who have only worn mountain bike shorts before, but it all makes sense once you start riding. The legs have a slightly more rigid strip of material bonded across the front of the leg hem which eliminates annoying flapping, whether you are pedaling or descending at speed. The narrow leg also feels well considered, leaving enough room for movement but not inflating like a parachute when on the move.
That does mean you don’t get as much of a cooling breeze on hot days, but the lightweight material did a pretty good job of stopping heat from building up. In really hot conditions I would also open the zipped side pockets which would help aid airflow.
The lightweight material also means they fold up decently small and can be easily crammed into your bikepacking bags – if you are just looking for an around-camp pair of shorts or decide not to ride in them. There is an elasticated loop inside to help with storage, but I'm a stuffer rather than folding sort of guy so didn't use it. There's also an external loop on the rear of the waistband for hanging them up to dry.
Sizing is a little different, I am usually between 31cm and 32cm but with the Small measuring 30.5cm and the Medium measuring 33cm, I was pushed to size up a little as I suspect my hips aren’t quite svelte enough to get into Small. This is just my experience but worth noting as you may not be the size you expect. Ultimately the waist adjusters gave me enough to bring the Mediums in a touch for a good fit. They are nicely integrated into the waistband as well. The fit isn’t particularly bike orientated either and will easily pass as casual wear shorts too.
The biggest annoyance with gravel-orientated baggie shorts is flapping when pedaling and Rapha has done a great job with its Explore Overshorts, eliminating any movement or billowing without restricting movement. The result is a lightweight, unobtrusive, and versatile pair of shorts for gravel and bikepacking that you can comfortably pedal all day in.
Tech specs: Rapha Explore Overshorts
- Price: $150 / £110
- Material: 91 percent Nylon 9 percent Elastane
- Sizes: XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL
- Colors: Dark Beige/Dark Navy, Dark Grey/Dark Navy, Teal