A Mixed Bag: Rapha’s New Explore Line
Rapha's new Cargo bib shorts and Technical T-shirt offer a big hit and a big miss.
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Rapha is not afraid to buck trends, whether it’s spearheading online sales or championing retro kit. The British company surprised us all by getting technical with Team Sky, and now it’s at it again with a new Rapha Explore line for gravel and adventure riding that features—dare we say it?—baggy shirts! That move didn’t turn out too hot for Giro. We’ll see how it goes for Rapha.
The Cargo Bib Shorts are a new take on traditional bibs. Ever wish you could have the cargo capacity of a baggy mountain bike short without the added bulk and resistance? The Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts have pockets on both legs and the back to improve carrying capacity, while maintaining the sleek lines of traditional bibs. The back pockets sit high for access if you decide to wear a pair of Rapha Randonnée shorts over them. Using a light version of Rapha’s Shadow material, the shorts are water resistant but won’t sweat you dry in warm weather, and the perforated Brevet chamois dries quickly for all-day comfort. We’ve found the new Cargo Bibs to be ideal for a lot more than adventure rides. Any long, self supported ride can benefit from these bibs with their convenient and stable storage. If you use the thigh pockets, great, if you don’t they are almost invisible and don’t take away from the comfortable fit and Brevet chamois, a chamois we have logged more than eight hour days in and loved.
Now, if you’re a purist, here’s where the new line may lose the plot. The new Rapha Technical T-Shirt and Polo are, well, a T-shirt and Polo. They’re made with the same fabric Rapha uses for Flyweight jerseys, which means you’ll stay comfy and cool in the heat. Micromesh fabric promotes airflow to help keep you cool in the heat. To finish the pieces off, Rapha has added internal base-layer fabric, flip-up reflective sleeves, and a reflective logo on the chest. But of all the sins a rider can commit, bibs with a baggy T-shirt falls just behind meeting dodgy doctors on RVs’. We’d recommend getting a set of Randonnée shorts to go with your Rapha tee or polo, but then the cargo pockets on the shorts won’t work, and the T-shirt and polo have no pockets, defeating the purpose. Since it’s not ‘enduro baggy’ or jersey tight, the Technical T-Shirt clings to the back, but without a tight waist or latex grippers. In the cycling position and when paired with a Rapha Brevet base layer, and most others, this results in the T-shirt creeping up your back, resulting a mound of fabric at your shoulder in just a few minutes. It felt as though we were continually pulling it down.
All in all, Rapha’s new Explore line is a mixed bag. We love the concept of the shorts, with added storage. Stuffing gels or trash up a bib leg is unnecessary with the new cargo pockets. But we aren’t ready to start riding in a T-shirt, no matter how technical it might be. There are so many great jerseys out there—and Rapha makes many of them—so wearing a T-shirt instead doesn’t make much sense. Just because we might be riding dirt doesn’t mean we want to forego the performance of the Classic Flyweight or Brevet jersey. And if you think a tight jersey ruins your post-ride barstool game, bib shorts and T-shirt won’t do you any favors either. $270 (Explore cargo bibs), $75 (Explore technical T-shirt), $100 (polo); rapha.cc