Rapha has been making some of the best road bib shorts for a long time now so it must have been a no-brainer that when Rapha turned their hand to making mountain bike kit, there was a set of bib liners in the range. The Trail Cargo bib liners are strictly an under-short or -pant garment aimed at trail riding and bikepacking.
For information on Bike Perfect's testing procedures and how our scoring system works, see our how we test page.
With Rapha’s wealth of knowledge, it's unsurprising that the Trail Cargo bib liners are some of the best MTB liner shorts we have tried, making the Trail Cargo bib liners a go-to piece of clothing when we are getting kitted up for a big day on the trail.
Design and specifications
One of the most important parts of a bib liner is the chamois or pad which is designed to improve saddle comfort. Rapha has specced the Trail Cargo shorts with Rapha’s Classic pad. This might not be as advanced as the Brevet chamois featured in Rapha’s Cargo bib shorts, but it's still the same as Rapha’s Core and Classic road bib shorts, which Rapha says have been designed for ‘all-day, everyday comfort’. The pad doesn't feature any fancy contouring or zonal foam densities but the pads are short size specific which is great if you are at the extremities of sizing.
There are two large sections of mesh up the outside of each leg with more mesh used up the back and for the shoulder straps to help ventilation. The rest of the shorts use a lightweight lycra material around the inside of the legs, abdomen, and the seat of the shorts and back to support the chamois and pockets. Rapha says that the main materials used in the shorts are fully recycled with GRS certified yarns too which is an environmental bonus. The bottom of the legs features an elastic hem and a light silicone dot pattern holds the legs in place.
The Trail Cargo bib liners feature two rear pockets on the back for storing trail essentials. These are both angled for easier access and have a section of mesh in between them to add extra lower back ventilation. Unlike many other bib liners, the Trail Cargo shorts forego leg pockets. For knee-out short-wearing riders who can easily access thigh pockets this might be an omission, though if you prefer to ride in the best MTB pants leg pockets will not be missed.
We have used a number of different Rapha chamois and got on well with them. The Classic chamois is not different. It's noticeably thicker than many other bib liners we have used, which opt to go for thinner more minimal padding, so if you are used to other bib liners rather than bib shorts they are going to feel a bit weird.
The added thickness makes them feel a little more diaper-like under your baggies but it also offers significantly more support and dampening from trail vibrations. That means if you are looking for a bib liner for casual-attire, big-mileage cross-country rides, sunrise to sunset enduro laps, or bikepacking adventures, the Trail Cargo bib liners are some of the most comfortable options available.
If we are being picky we would like the rear pockets to be a touch deeper so we could store a pump in there but for the majority of other items like multi-tools, snacks, phone, and keys the rear pockets were great. The shorts held these items securely without any of them jumping put or yard-selling in a crash. While we have found leg pockets to be really useful when wearing shorts, when we are wearing pants they aren't missed. On the flip side, by sacrificing the leg pockets Rapha has been able to maximize the mesh paneling on the legs which helps on hot days.
Some of the bib shorts we have used have significantly more mesh material, yet the Trail Cargo bib liners still deal with heat very well. Especially if you wear shorts or have vents up the side of your pants to maximize the mesh leg panels.
We found the fit to be as expected based on our measurements and although the leg length isn’t particularly short, it's not so long that it interferes too much with knee pads. The shoulder straps are nicely elasticated and sit flat across the shoulders without any bunching, even if the rear pockets are loaded up.
Having cut its teeth in the road apparel scene, it’s unsurprising that the Rapha Trail Cargo bib liner is so comfortable. While chamois comfort doesn't seem to be a priority for many other bib liners, the Trail Cargo bib liner's thicker pad is significantly better suited to high mileage riders over the alternative bib liners. The fit is spot on too and after many miles they are still in great condition, Rapha offers a 30-day return guarantee and a free crash repair as well if you change your mind or have a tumble.
There are bib liner options that are cheaper, offer more storage options, or have more mesh for ventilation but no other bib liner we have used is able to match the Rapha Trail Cargo shorts for comfort. If you're looking to cover big miles in baggies, the Trail Cargo bib liners are the best we have used.
Tech specs: Rapha Trail Cargo bib liner
- Price: $135 / £100
- Materials: Tricot: 78% nylon, 22% elastane / Mesh: 73% nylon, 27% elastane
- Colors: Black
- Size availability: XS to XXL