Rapha Women's Trail Gore-Tex Pants review – properly waterproof trousers built for abuse

Rapha's wet-weather pants are spendy but super-breathable as well as waterproof and versatile

Rapha Women's Trail Gore-Tex Pants being worn near daffodils
(Image: © Jon Slade)

Bike Perfect Verdict

Superb performance, very well made and ideal for three-season use, but with some small design niggles.


  • +

    Top-notch fabric and construction

  • +

    Excellent waterproof performance

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    Great breathability so work in all seasons

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    Comfortable and knee pad compatible

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    Reinforced at ankles


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    Can't pull on over shoes

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    Need to wear with high boots or overshoes or water can get inside shoes

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There seems to have been an explosion in the number of brands offering waterproof MTB pants over the past couple of years, possibly because Northern hemisphere winters are generally getting wetter (as this one certainly was in the UK) and it’s really not much fun riding with cold, soggy and muddy legs. Premium clothing brand Rapha, better known for its luxurious road cycling wear, threw its hat in the ring just this winter with these high-end Gore-Tex MTB trousers, which have a correspondingly lofty price tag.

Happily, they stand out from the crowd for their superb performance as well as their cost, although they’re not the most expensive waterproof MTB pants on the market – Patagonia’s Dirt Roamer Storm Pants cost $299 / £270, while 7Mesh’s Thunder Pants boast a stratospheric $350 / £350 RRP. 

Bike Perfect has also tested the men’s version of Rapha’s Trail Gore-Tex Pants which are nearly identical to the women's, apart from the fit. I mostly agree with tester Mick Kirkman’s observations, although I had a couple of niggles that weren’t an issue for him – which just goes to show that what bothers one rider doesn’t even register with another – and is why I scored them half a star lower.

Inside out Rapha Women's Trail Gore-Tex Pants

Both legs feature reinforced ankle patches and fabric knee panels inside (Image credit: Shim Slade)

Design and specifications

These pants are made from top-notch fabric: three-layer Gore-Tex in a 70-denier abrasion-resistant variant, with the inside face having a pleasantly soft feel against bare skin. The multiple panels that give these pants their fit have beautifully taped seams, and the legs are articulated (shaped to accommodate bent knees) with ample room for knee pads underneath. They’re designed to be worn with Rapha’s own Trail Knee Pads, which we awarded a rare 5 stars. Tough, hardwearing patches are bonded to the inside of both ankles to resist wear from rubbing, and similarly the knees are lined with an extra layer of fabric to increase durability. Rapha says they're designed to withstand the "filthiest trails".

These pants are very easy to fasten using Rapha’s clever ‘slide’ press stud design, which can’t pop undone accidentally, and a concealed waterproof zip fly that wasn’t at all stiff. The waist adjusts via twin fabric straps with cam locks that never budged, so everything stays secure. There’s a sturdy hanging loop at the rear waist, an essential that is surprisingly often overlooked. The design is rounded off with two open hand pockets and ankles that are elasticated at the back, to prevent puddles splashing up inside the trouser legs.

These trousers are available in six sizes from XXS to XL, although the sizing errs on the small side. I’m 5ft 6in, weigh between 62-66kg and usually wear a medium, but I opted for a large so I could fit MTB trousers or thick tights underneath in winter, plus knee pads. Wearing all this the thighs felt slightly too tight and restricted pedaling movement a little. However, the size large was noticeably baggy elsewhere and I had a fair bit of excess material bunching at my hips when the waist was cinched in. 

So, they’re not the most flattering fit on me – in contrast to Rapha’s excellent Trail Pants and Trail Lightweight Pants – but then that is a tall order for properly waterproof trousers. Women with proportionately slimmer thighs should fare better as they wouldn’t need to go up a size. The legs are a generous length too.

waist view of Rapha Women's Trail Gore-Tex Pants

The waist adjusters and closure are very well designed, and the pockets generously sized (Image credit: Jon Slade)


Getting straight to the most important point, these pants are very waterproof – as you’d hope from three-layer Gore-Tex. Initially, they beaded rain really well and then remained waterproof after the outer fabric wetted out. No waterproof can withstand prolonged torrential conditions, but you can generally trust Gore-Tex to give some of the best protection available. As a bonus, the material has an attractive matt finish and doesn’t rustle as you ride. In fact, they don’t overtly look like waterproof pants – or bike-specific – so I’d happily wear them on rainy walks or hikes as well as for cycle commuting.

Keeping water out is no use though if the fabric makes you sweat so much you get wet from the inside – and these pants boast excellent breathability. To test this I rode them on a mild, sunny day where the temperature reached 57F / 14C, wearing just liner shorts underneath. Despite some stiff climbs that made sweat trickle down my back, they stayed dry inside. Of course, I felt warm but not uncomfortably so.

inside out Rapha Women's Trail Gore-Tex Pants showing waistband

Rapha's 'sliding' press stud design is ingenious (Image credit: Shim Slade)

Likewise, fantastic fabric is no use if they’re not comfy to pedal in or keep pulling down, but again Rapha has come up trumps with the fit (my size issue aside). They stayed in place well, the seat doesn’t slide around on the saddle, and the rear waist didn’t pull despite not being overly high cut.

The fabric has proved very durable so far with no snags despite riding through prickly gorse bushes, and the pants still look almost new after a few months’ of use, getting covered in mud, several hosings and a spin in the washing machine. Gore-Tex actually advises washing to maintain the fabric’s breathability and water resistance, as long as you follow the care instructions, use a specialist tech wash and reproofer then tumble dry to reactivate the DWR finish. Post-washing and drying, my trousers duly beaded water a treat again. 

Unlike many brands' MTB pants, there's no reinforced seat panel, so cleaning mud off this high-wear area is important to prevent it grinding into the fabric.

side view of legs on Rapha Women's Trail Gore-Tex Pants

I went up a size to give me ample room around the thighs for pedalling, but subsequently the fit was rather baggy (Image credit: Jon Slade)

Now for the niggles. Living in the UK where you can have four seasons in one day, I like being able to add/remove layers easily so, unlike Mick, I am a fan of zipped calves to enable you to pull the trousers on without removing your shoes, which isn’t an option here. This has the added benefit of making the ankles wide enough to fit over the top of flat-pedal boots, like mine, which don’t tend to be as narrow as clipless boots – Endura’s MT500 Freezing Point Trousers are a brilliant example of this design. 

With these Trail Pants’ fairly tight elasticated ankles, puddles splashed up inside my boots and rain dripped down too – although granted this wouldn’t be an issue if you had boots with a tall ankle cuff, or wore overshoes on top of your shoes. Lastly, open pockets seems a strange choice – I wouldn’t keep anything in them on the bike for fear of it falling out. Rapha’s Trail Pants feature superb zipped thigh pockets that carry a smartphone with no pedaling interference.

a rider sitting on bike in rain

The elasticated ankles are fairly narrow so wouldn't fit over my Vaude Moab flat pedal boots (Image credit: Paul Bonwick)


Rapha has come up with a great pair of trousers here, boasting very dependable performance, well thought-out features and a good fit. The test is that you're not really aware you're wearing waterproof pants, and they pass with flying colours, small detractions like the open pockets aside.

Swipe to scroll horizontally
The lowdown: Rapha Trail Gore-Tex Pants
WaterproofingGore-Tex is probably the best you'll get★★★★★
BreathabilityFantastic, the most breathable I've tried★★★★★
DurabilityThey've held up very well in their first season★★★★
Value for moneyYou're paying for the quality here★★★★

Tech specs: Rapha Women's Trail Gore-Tex Pants

  • Price:  $325 / £250
  • Sizes: XXS-XL
  • Weight: 375g (L tested)
  • Colors: Black
  • Materials:  Main: 92% Nylon, 8% Elastane / Contrast: 88% Nylon, 12% Elastane
Shim Slade
Freelance writer

Shim first discovered MTBs when she moved to Bath in the mid-nineties and has been making up for lost time ever since. She started working on Mountain Biking UK nearly 20 years ago and also counts What Mountain BikeCycling PlusOff-road.cc and Bikeradar among the bike-related magazines and websites she's written for. She loves exploring technical singletrack, has ridden England, Wales and Scotland C2Cs and gets out in the Quantocks and the Black Mountains as often as possible. Other regular riding destinations are the Lake and the Peak Districts, and an MTB holiday in India is her most memorable, partly for its uber-steep tech. The odd trip to the Forest of Dean and Bike Park Wales inspires her to get wheels off the ground, but that’s a work in progress, helped by coaching with Rach at Pro Ride and formerly Pedal Progression