Well known for its stylish and high-end roadie cycle wear, Rapha has lately branched out into MTB clothing and brought the same top-quality design and construction to its off-road collection, with lots of attention to detail that really makes a difference on the trail, as evident with these trousers which are worthy of a place in our best MTB pants guide.
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Rapha also makes a warmer winter version, called plain Trail Pants. It’s good to see that Rapha uses some recycled fabrics and includes five generous-sized iron-on, color-matched repair patches here; it also offers free repairs if the damage is beyond patching.
If you’re unconvinced by trousers (aka pants), an incidental advantage is no more ‘MTBer’s tan’ – that stretch of calf covered in dust/mud/sheep/cow poo (delete as applicable) – so you can don your post-ride legwear without interruption if heading straight to the pub or café from the trails.
Design and material
These Women's Trail Lightweight Pants are constructed from very lightweight, four-way stretch, abrasion-resistant material and consist of many different panels, each made from one of three nylon/elastane fabrics with varying amounts of stretch. The seamless gusset is super stretchy, as are the back and lower legs. There are tough patches bonded to the inside of the inner ankle, where you might rub the crank. The stretch waistband is cut high at the rear, fastened with a zip fly and double press studs.
Overall fit is slim, flattering and functional, the legs tapering to elasticated ankle cuffs so there’s no excess material to catch on the chainring. Despite their narrow fit, there is ample room to wear knee pads underneath (as long as they’re not too bulky). The design is also ergonomic, so they fit perfectly when you’re in the riding position, with pre-shaped legs to accommodate bent knees. A large zipped thigh pocket has an inner phone sleeve, and the fabric boasts a DWR coating to repel water.
These really are a fantastic pair of riding pants. Their quality is obvious as soon as you take them out the bag, and they feel instantly comfortable when you put them on, thanks to their great fit and silky, barely-there fabric. Rapha has nailed the cut – high waist, tapered legs and articulated knees – to give total freedom of movement, aided by the four-way stretch fabric. The broad, stretch waistband is genius – so simple yet it stays in place even if you’re hanging off the back of the bike. It’s by far the most comfy waist I’ve worn, with no bulky adjusters to dig in or make you sweaty, or catch on your jersey.
Another top feature is the generously sized thigh pocket; its position on the outside left thigh means it is both easy to access and the contents don’t interfere with pedalling. I carried my smartphone in it (using the internal sleeve) and soon forgot it was there when riding.
Back to the premium-feeling fabric: even though it is thin, in comparison to shorts the long legs keep in a welcome amount of warmth. It’s not dipped much below 55 F while I’ve been testing these pants, and they’ve proved amply breathable when grinding up climbs, although I’d happily wear them when there’s a proper nip in the air.
Before their first wash, the DWR finish did an incredible job of beading water, and subsequently it shrugged off splashes adequately, but the beauty of the lightweight material is it is very fast-drying indeed so it doesn’t matter if you do get caught in a downpour. In addition, it’s proven impressively resilient so far. I’ve ridden on paths overgrown with brambles, gorse and bracken and there’s only the odd snagged thread to show for it.
Rapha’s Women's Trail Lightweight Pants are outstandingly comfortable, exceptionally well made and look good to boot. Breathable and fast drying, for such thin trousers they’re pretty durable, and they boast a very useful thigh pocket too. A men’s version is available too, with slightly different features.
Tech specs: Rapha Women's Trail Lightweight Pants
- Price: $150 / £110
- Sizes: XXS -XL
- Colors: Dark red, green, dark grey