Rapha Men's Trail Shorts review – top option for trail pedaling

They're not cheap, but these quality Rapha shorts are worth shelling out for if you're after trail all-rounders

A man wearing green Rapha Men's Trail Shorts
(Image: © Donald NG)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Comfortable and durable shorts made with a smooth fabric that feels great and moves easily over the skin as you ride. The look is pretty minimalist but the shorts have all the features you need.

Pros

  • +

    Comfortable, smooth-feeling fabric

  • +

    Quick drying

  • +

    Secure slide-in fastener

  • +

    Knee pad-friendly cut

  • +

    Four pockets – two zipped for valuables

Cons

  • -

    Price is higher end

  • -

    Slightly slimmer cut might not suit everyone

  • -

    Less compatible with heavier-duty knee pads

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With so many brands and products competing for attention, it can be hard to stand out in the MTB clothing world. But after starting life as a road brand, Rapha is now well-established in off-road riding with a solid catalog of MTB gear.

Its Men's Trail Shorts (there's also a women's version) are well made, well thought out, and durable. I've been testing a pair and reckon they're some of the best mountain bike shorts available for trail riding, here's why...

A man wearing green Rapha Men's Trail Shorts seens from the rear

A thicker waistband helps keep the shorts securely in place (Image credit: Donald NG)

Design and specification

Rapha's Trail Shorts are built using a Bluesign and Okeo-Tex certified fabric (rated for minimal damage to the environment and using ethical supply chains) that's 88 percent Nylon and 12 percent Elastane. The resulting cloth feels super smooth and with no seams at the front, it moves easily over your skin. The main panels of the shorts are all double-stitched for strength, with single stitching around the reinforced waistband. The lefthand lower leg has a Rapha logo in a contrasting color.

The waistband fastening slides shut for extra security and is accompanied by a zip fly. An adjustable internal belt system helps to dial in the fit, but there are external belt loops for some reason too – maybe just in case you feel like riding with rocks in your pockets.

Two open front pockets sit on either thigh, with more secure, slim-line, zipped side pockets for valuables such as a phone and wallet.

The cut is baggy without being overly so with more length in the front of the legs to help avoid flashing your thighs when pedaling with knee pads. Included with the shorts is a repair kit with color-matched iron-on patches.

Close up of waist closure on Rapha Men's Trail Shorts

The slide-in closure on the waist fastener stops inadvertent openings (Image credit: Donald NG)

Performance

I've tested the Trail Shorts in conditions ranging from cold and wet to hot and bone dry. They're an excellent all-rounder as they've performed well throughout. There's no specific waterproofing mentioned by Rapha, but the cloth shrugs off splashes, dries quickly and sheds dirt really well. If the shorts have had a DWR (durable water repellent) treatment, it's lasted for several months which would be usually impressive. While there's no venting on the shorts, they've not run particularly hot in temperatures hitting the lower 20s C (68 F) either.

Cut is nicely balanced between being roomy but not overly baggy, so the shorts don't catch on the back of your saddle, while the slide-in waist fastening is really secure and has never come undone while riding. The zipped side pockets do a great job of holding your phone and/or wallet in place without bothering you as you ride. By far the best aspect though, is how the shorts smoothly glide over your thighs which makes pedaling in them super comfortable. The flat cloth feels good against your skin and almost cooling in warmer weather, there's zero chaffing behind the knees on long rides either.

I found the shorts worked well with lower-profile knee pads, but the slightly slimmer cut means they can sit on top of heavier-duty options – they are trail shorts, rather than gravity though, so that's fair enough.

We're now into peak undergrowth season in the UK and there are lots of brambles and other snagging plants raking your lower body on the trails. The shorts are highly snag-resistant though and have not succumbed to any damage so far.

A man wearing green Rapha Men's Trail Shorts

The leg length works well with slimmer knee pads, but it can bunch up if wearing less pedal-friendly models (Image credit: Donald NG)

Verdict

It's genuinely hard to fault Rapha's Men's Trail Shorts for trail riding (the clue is in the name). They work well in most conditions, are extremely pedal-friendly, have a super-secure fit, and stand up to general abuse. The fact that the materials used are less damaging to the environment than most is a good thing too, as is the supplied repair kit. Should you seriously tear the shorts, Rapha will repair them for free. 

The only real drawback is that all the above adds up to a price that's higher than many rivals, but you are getting a quality pair of shorts for your investment. It's also worth noting that the cut is a tad slimmer than most trail shorts.

Close up of belt closure on Rapha Men's Trail Shorts

The internal belt system with fastenings on each hip helps you get a good fit (Image credit: Donald NG)
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The lowdown: Rapha Men's Trail Shorts
AttributesNotesRating
Design and fitNicely cut and well designed throughout★★★★★
PerformanceExcellent for all-round trail use★★★★★
DurabilityThe cloth is resistant to damage★★★★
Value for moneyTop quality but price is at the higher end★★★★

Tech specs: Rapha Men's Trail Shorts

  • Price: $160 / £130
  • Material: 88 percent Nylon and 12 percent
  • Weight: 253g (size small tested)
  • Colors: Navy/Orange, Dark Khaki/Tan (tested), Black/Light Gray
  • Sizes: XS to XL
Rich Owen
Editor, BikePerfect

Rich Owen is the editor of the Bikeperfect.com team. He's worked as a journalist and editor for over 24 years, with 12 years specializing in cycling media. Rich bought his first mountain bike (a rigid Scott Tampico) in 1995 and has been riding MTB for almost 30 years.

Current rides: Merida One-Forty 6000, Banshee Paradox, YT Jeffsy Core 3, Saracen Ariel 30 Pro

Height: 175cm

Weight: 69kg