Despite historically being a road brand, Rapha has been getting praise for its MTB clothing, and deservedly so, as the kit tested so far has been both well designed and well made. These winter pants are a thicker version of the Rapha Women’s Trail Lightweight Pants and are much the same apart from the heavier weight of the fabric and having a pocket on each leg, not just one. They also come with five generous-sized iron-on, color-matched repair patches, and Rapha offers free repairs if the damage is beyond patching. Yes, they’re pricey (prices have recently gone up, like everything), but you pay for quality, and the blue color is currently half price on Rapha’s UK site at just £65 as it’s £10 cheaper than the black color. There’s a men’s version too, of course, with similar design and features.
Design and Specifications
Like the Women's Trail Lightweight Pants, these winter pants are constructed from a 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, back and lower legs are all super stretchy, for complete freedom of movement. The inside face of the fabric has a soft feel against the skin, while the outer is smooth and durable and has a DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
Again, there are tough patches bonded to the inside of the inner ankle, where you might rub the crank. The low-profile stretch waistband is cut high at the rear, fastened with a zip fly and an innovative slide stud, which is very easy to use and a marked improvement on press studs. The knees are articulated and reinforced for durability, and allow plenty of room for knee pads. The legs taper towards the elasticated ankle, and aren’t overly tight around the calves and ankles yet narrow enough not to interfere with the cranks. Despite being the same size as the Lightweight Pants, the legs here are longer, which I appreciate. However, the ankle cuff is too tight to fit over my chunky winter boots, unlike Ion’s Shelter Softshell Pants. The two large zipped pockets, both with phone sleeves, are perfectly placed on the outside of the thigh so the contents don’t interfere when you’re riding.
Put these on and you’re struck by how well they fit and how totally unrestrictive they feel. The soft elasticated waistband is exceptionally comfortable – it stays securely in place without digging in, and the high cut back keeps you covered at all times. It’s also a lot more flattering than bulky waist adjusters. The legs are pre-shaped for the riding position so there’s no tugging against your knees while pedaling. (If you have particularly broad feet or are wearing very thick socks, you might find the elasticated ankle a little tight to pull off when the pants are wet and muddy, but this is a tiny niggle.)
These pants are adequately warm for milder winter days, and if it’s really cold then there’s ample room to wear tights underneath. The fabric is sufficiently wind resistant while remaining decently breathable. When new, the DWR finish worked a treat at beading puddle splashes and rain, although in persistent rain the fabric did eventually wet through, but that’s to be expected. Of course, with washing and time the DWR treatment will wear off. Durability is good and a friend’s pair are still going strong after two long winters of riding in filthy UK conditions where mud grinds into the fabric.
Supremely comfortable, well designed and flattering trousers that promise to last well, thanks to Rapha’s excellent construction and free repair policy, making them good value despite the initially high price. A reinforced seat panel might prolong their life further, though, if you ride in muddy conditions a lot.
Tech specs: Rapha Women’s Trail Pants
- Price: $180 / £140 / €160
- Sizes: XXS-XL
- Colors: Black, Blue