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Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts review

Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts do everything well, look great and have the added bonus of extra carrying capacity thanks to built-in mesh pockets

Front and rear angles of Writer wearing Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts, with image overlaid with 'recommends' badge
(Image: © Nick Odantzis)

Our Verdict

Featuring Rapha’s classic chamois — from its Classic range, naturally — the Core Cargo Bib Shorts are very comfortable for all kinds of riding, whether on or off-road. They might not be the quiver-killer bib shorts you’re after, due to a lack of reflectivity, but in all other aspects they are A-grade, especially at the price.

For

  • Comfortable pad
  • Great fit — tight but not restrictive
  • Feels very premium given the 'entry level' moniker
  • Pockets give plenty of easy-access extra storage
  • Subtle but classy looks
  • Feel like normal bib shorts when pockets aren't in use
  • Decent length for longer legs

Against

  • Pad feels large — slightly restrictive at front for those with a racy on the nose seating position
  • No reflective elements

If you’ve never owned a pair of gravel-inspired cycling bib shorts before, then you’re in for a bit of a treat with Rapha’s Core Cargo Bib Shorts. Even if you don’t do much, if any gravel riding, these are the perfect bib shorts for all-day adventures thanks to the addition of pockets on the legs and rear, which give you extra carrying capacity. 

Though I’ll admit that the feeling of having a phone or other solid object pressed against the side of your leg is an unusual one to begin with, you soon get used to it. You can always reserve those pockets for when you’re at the café stop, to temporarily stow your phone or computer.

Despite being Rapha’s ‘entry-level’ Core range, the Cargo bib shorts are every bit as premium as you could wish for. Indeed, you might wonder what you really get if you were, for example, to opt for the more expensive (an extra £85) Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts; the addition of reflective elements (the Core has none) makes them a better alternative for low-light road rides or commutes.

The Core Cargo Bib Shorts are, then, perhaps not the best option if that’s to be your intended type of riding, but for everything else, they are easily among the best cargo bib shorts around. Even if you don’t go off the beaten track, they’re great on the road too, meaning they also compete against the best cycling shorts for those who put versatility high on the priority list.

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Front-on image of Writer wearing Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts

Rapha's Core cargo bib shorts look just like 'normal' road cycling bib shorts from the front (Image credit: Nick Odantzis)
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Rear image of Writer wearing Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts, showing the rear pockets

But two 'cargo' pockets adorn the lumbar area of the back (Image credit: Nick Odantzis)
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Writer wearing Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts facing to the left, showing the left leg pocket

There are also close-fitting pockets on the outside of each leg (Image credit: Nick Odantzis)
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Writer wearing Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts facing to the right, showing the right leg pocket

Half-hidden by the mesh from each pocket is the only Rapha branding on show (Image credit: Nick Odantzis)
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Close up of the bib strap on Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts

The bib straps are folded and stitched, which offers plenty of structure for simple one-handed adjustment when putting them on (Image credit: Nick Odantzis)

Design and aesthetics

They offer a really snug, comfortable fit with plenty of stretch, and the legs stay in place on your lower quads thanks to effective laser-cut silicone leg grippers. 

Rapha says the “high-stretch bib accommodates any rider height without compromising fit” and I can confirm that this is certainly the case. I usually wear between a size Large and Extra Large, depending on the brand, but the Core Cargo Bib Shorts were pretty much spot-on in a Large. Though I initially felt the body could have been slightly longer, the stretchy bib section means it’s comfortable on the shoulders, even for this taller rider, at 6'4" (193 cm) with a 35.5in inseam.

Rapha says these bib shorts are a 'classic' fit, which is close but relaxed. I’d say that depending on the size you choose, this is erring more on the side of close, but for me, that’s a good thing. It’s not tight, just to be clear.

The seams are flatlock stitching, which isn’t anything unusual at this price point. It’s not so much a criticism, more of an observation, but I did notice that the seams along the top of the legs left a bit of a deep imprint on my quads after long rides - not uncomfortable, just a bit surprising.

Unlike the more expensive Rapha Cargo Bib Shorts, which seem a little fussy in the design department, the Core version is much more subtle. There’s a discreet Rapha logo running longitudinally on each leg, partially obscured by the mesh pockets laid over the top. 

Speaking of which, let’s talk about those pockets, which is what really sets these bib shorts apart from the regular Core Bib Shorts (and indeed, other regular road-orientated bib shorts).  

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Close up of right leg pocket on Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts, filled with iphone 12 to show capacity

The left leg pockets are plenty big enough for an iPhone 12 and accompanying snacks if needed (Image credit: Nick Odantzis)
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close up of the rear pockets on the Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts. Pockets filled with phone and energy bars to show storage capacity

The two rear pockets are a little smaller, but still offer copious space (Image credit: Nick Odantzis)

You get two generous pockets on the outer side of each leg and two smaller pockets on the lower back. The capacity in each pocket is pretty generous: I was able to get an iPhone 12 in the leg pockets with room to spare either side, and it comfortably fit in the rear pockets too. You could, if you so wish, happily carry your phone, wallet, keys, food, and even a small tool kit for the day, without having to stow anything in your jersey or on the bike. Each pocket is nice and snug and topped with a double-stitched hem, so there’s little chance of fraying, no chance of anything coming out, and their angled entry means they’re all easy to access on the move. 

Thanks to the mesh construction of each pocket, the extra material doesn’t detract on hotter days, and it prevents the build-up of sweat, which is not something you really want when you’re carrying electronic devices like phones.

Ride experience

There’s something satisfying about being on a ride, spotting some nice scenery, and easily being able to whip out your phone to take a photo. Sure, this isn’t exactly tricky with a jersey, but it does avoid the doubt when you’re putting it back.

One thing I discovered about these bib shorts is something you’d only notice when it’s warmer. With your stuff safely contained in the cargo pockets, you can open your jersey for improved cooling without the discomfort of your phone flapping around at your back. You don’t worry so much about it falling out, either.

The other advantage to having pockets on your bib shorts is that you don’t have to wear a cycling jersey. There might be a situation where you want to dress a bit more casually — an off-road gravel ride, for instance. Of course, the same applies to any cargo bib shorts, but Rapha's pocket consideration is among the best for sure, and when you’re not using them, they sit snug to the body, so you don’t even notice they’re there — which is why these bib shorts are great for road riding.

Close up image of the chamois pad from Rapha's Core Cargo bib shorts

The chamois pad is from the 'Classic' range, it's highly padded and dense which might put some users off, but even though that isn't my usual preference, I found it immensely comfortable (Image credit: Nick Odantzis)

Rapha’s Core Cargo Bib Shorts are seriously good for long rides, too, thanks to an excellent chamois. It’s the same as used in its Classic range, and if you’re familiar with the kind, you’ll know it’s a pretty dense, well-cushioned pad. 

Comfort is plenty adequate, in my opinion, for multi-hour rides, but this will depend on your own built-in cushioning, of course. My only gripe with the pad is that the extra cushioning is somewhat noticeable, more so if your saddle is flat and your riding positioning is low down.

It’s not problematic when you want to shift position, but I did find that it pushes on your bits at the front of the pad more than is ideal. My other go-to bib shorts — Albion’s ABR1 endurance bib shorts — have a similar level of comfort over a specific distance, but the multi-density pad is thinner, more so at the front, which just feels that much more comfortable overall for me. 

Verdict

At a reasonably affordable £110.00 / $150.00 / AU$195.00 / €135.00, I think Rapha has hit a home-run with these bib shorts. Ignoring the gravel riding connotation, the Core Cargo Bib Shorts are brilliant bib shorts for all-round use, whether it’s pure road riding, gravel riding, or a bit of both. The extra pockets really are useful, and they’ve been implemented in this case very neatly, without sacrificing the performance of the garment.

The fit, feel, and finish of these bib shorts is really premium, and I do think unless you need the reflectivity elements found in Rapha’s more costly Cargo Bib Shorts, then you’d be better off saving your money. 

The comfort is excellent, though as I mentioned, the density of the pad does mean the chamois is quite noticeable, unlike other thinner pads which tend to be more discreet. 

Tech specs: Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts

  • Price: £110.00 / $150.00 / AU$195.00 / €135.00
  • Materials: 82% polyester, 18% elastane
  • Weight: TBC
  • Colours: Dark Navy/White, Black/Black
  • Size availability: XS — XXL