Renowned for its extensive road cycling kit collection, Rapha has made the somewhat surprising move into the MTB world in 2021 with a range of jerseys, shorts and accessories for riders who prefer their tires knobbly and their terrain technical.
The new range takes the brand's technical know-how and applies it to a discipline that requires plenty of dynamic on-bike movement and clothes that allow riders to do that in comfort.
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Ralpha Women’s MTB range overview
Garment-for-garment, the women’s range is as extensive as the men’s - more so, in fact. Women get one extra piece of kit - the Women’s Trail Tank sleeveless vest - in addition to other products.
The range includes:
- Women’s Trail Liner - a padded liner designed to be worn under the trail shorts.
- Women’s Trail Technical T-shirt - loose-fitting casual t-shirt style riding top.
- Women’s Trail Tank - loose-fitting sleeveless riding top.
- Women’s Trail Lightweight Jacket - packable windproof shell jacket with helmet-compatible hood.
- Women’s Trail 3/4 Sleeve Jersey - technical jersey with abrasion-resistant sleeves.
- Women’s Trail Short - all-round riding short designed to work with a padded liner and knee pads.
In addition, there are unisex items such as the socks, glasses, Rapha X Smith Forefront 2 helmet, hip pack and the all-important 6-panel cap - after all, no self-respecting mountain biker is without one, right?
One negative point here however is that while the liner shorts in the men’s range are cargo bib shorts, with mesh sides and a cargo pocket on each thigh which is exceedingly helpful for carrying extra bits when you prefer to go rucksack-less or ride light, the women’s range has instead shorts, with the mesh side panels but without cargo pockets. Now personally for summer riding, I prefer to ride with liner shorts rather than liner bibs, so I would be fine with liner shorts, but it seems odd to offer different things to men and women.
There are two complementary colorways for the women’s range; light grey/dark grey and purple/dark grey. The light grey looks, in all honesty, a little like a whites wash that’s gone wrong in a kind of off-white color, but that does mean that when it inevitably gets spattered by UK mud it might not have as much of an impact. The purple is more towards the berry end of the spectrum, and might even be considered raspberry by some.
Women’s Trail 3/4 Sleeve Jersey
The Women’s Trail 3/4 Sleeve jersey has a nice combination of features and so far has been a comfortable garment for riding in hot weather and cooler evenings.
The sleeves are constructed from a firm, matt lycra while the torso, collar and cuffs from a lightweight, breathable and slightly textured stretch fabric that feels soft against the skin.
Despite the sleeve material not having a lot of stretch around the arm, it’s surprisingly accommodating for chunkier upper arms. The fabric on the body is lovely and stretchy, soft against the skin and effective at wicking away sweat.
The sleeves are cut in a raglan style which means no seams over the shoulder which can sometimes chafe if wearing a rucksack, but there are pleats front and back at the shoulder to give it a natural curve to fit. The breathable body material stretches under the armpits to allow a bit more airflow, which is a nice touch. The neckline is quite high, which personally I like as firstly it helps keep the elements off and secondly prevents insects from making a dive down my top when riding downhill, which is an experience no one wants. Cut slightly longer at the back, the fit is suitably loose-yet-fitted.
Another neat feature is the inclusion of a little packet of spare material that Rapha invites you to use to repair your top in case of tears or rips which are, let's face it, not uncommon with MTB kit. Each little square or rectangle is already pre-glued, so all you need to do is remove the backing sheet and pop it on. If that doesn’t solve the issue, the kit can also be sent back to Rapha for a proper repair. We’re certainly supportive of anything that improves the longevity of kit.
The XL jersey equates best to a UK14/16 high street size if you want it to fit loosely, though it will fit a size 18/20 if you don’t mind it sitting close to the skin like a fitted jersey.
Women’s Trail Shorts
The first impression of these is that they are a decent set of good women’s trail riding shorts, which seems to be a harder goal to hit than you might imagine, based on my experience of bike shorts.
Available in black or purple, it’s good to see that they also have two long zipped pockets, one on each side, big enough to fit a large phone, keys, cards, cash or those all-important trail snacks. The shorts do up with a zip fly and a popper closure.
However, be aware that the popper closure isn’t quite what you might be expecting! It’s not a straight popper, which to be honest doesn’t work all that well for MTB shorts as there’s too much risk that they’ll spontaneously open mid-ride. Instead, this popper has a sliding action to it, so once it’s closed, it should stay closed until you want to open it.
The back of the waistband is a wide and deep soft elastic panel, which helps keep the shorts close to the back when riding and avoids that annoying gape that can happen. There is quite a surprising amount of stretch in it too.
The body of the shorts is made from a mid-weight material with a very slight amount of stretch. It looks like it’ll be tough and durable enough to handle long rides but a longer test will tell us for sure.
One immediately pleasing thing is the length; women’s MTB shorts are often too short, in my opinion, especially as a rider who wears knee pads and who often ends up with an annoying gap between the bottom of the shorts and the top of the pad. The Rapha Women’s Trail Shorts actually reach over the knee, with a slightly longer cut at the front which is similar to the cut 7Mesh uses for its longer Revo waterproof shorts.
And, like the jersey, the Trail Shorts have that little repair pack included too.
That said, I do have an issue with the variation in the design between the men’s and women’s shorts. The men’s version has belt loops, adjustable straps that allow you to adjust waist fit, and open-top hip pockets in addition to the zipped thigh pockets that both the men’s and women’s shorts have. While I’m glad these shorts have decent pockets which is a feature that’s often sadly missing in women’s technical kit, it’d be nice to have the same amount as the men...after all, women are likely to be carrying a similar amount of stuff, aren’t we?
The XL size would fit a UK size 16 though be aware that there’s not a lot of giving for curvier hips or bum; if you’re well endowed in either of these departments, you may need to size up.
The cut gives a loosely tailored fit; room to move, not skin tight, and space for padded shorts underneath.
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Price, value for money and sizing
In terms of pricing and value for money, both these garments are actually fairly comparable in price to other market-leading brands in the MTB kit world. The jersey, at £75, is comparable in price to the 3/4 merino jersey from 7Mesh which comes in at £70 or the 3/4 colorful offering from Troy Lee which is £65.
Likewise, the shorts at £110 price up similarly to the shell-only Troy Lee Lilium shorts at £100 and the 7Mesh Slab shorts also at £100 which have a similar elastic-back design and zipped pockets.
Of course, further testing is required to see how the Rapha kit stands up with repeated wear, long rides in a range of conditions, and of course plenty of washing.
Like other Rapha kit, the MTB range is available in sizes XXS to XL. As ever, it would be nice for Rapha to offer more options in bigger sizes since it really only suits up to a size UK16, which is the average women’s size in the UK.
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So far, I’ve ridden the jersey on a few hot sunny days and cooler evenings around my local forest trails, and been impressed. The fit is comfortable, the fabric wicks sweat away effectively to help regulate temperature, and I like the extra coverage the 3/4 length sleeves offer as it provides sun protection for my fair skin.
I’m looking forward to taking the jersey and shorts out for some longer rides over more varied terrain to see how they do on long climbs, technical descents and several hours of riding.
Tech Specs: Rapha Women’s Trail 3/4 Sleeve Jersey and Shorts
- Sizes: XXS to XL, size XL tested
- Women’s Trail 3/4 Sleeve Jersey price: £75 / $100 / AU$130 / €90
- Women’s Trail Shorts price: £110 / $150 / AU$195 / €9135