Truly comfortable in all conditions, indoors and out, and still going strong after 18 months of frequent use. Consider the high cost of the Pro Team II bib shorts an investment
- Brilliantly hardwearing after 18 months of use
- Thick yet breathable chamois pad is super comfortable
- 'Regular' legs have become 'short' legs over time
- Chamois thickness won't be for everyone
The Rapha Pro Team II bib shorts aren't a new product. In fact, they've been around for over four years now, but despite the fast pace at which the cycling industry moves, Rapha included, the Pro Team II bib shorts have remained a stalwart in the Rapha lineup. Given their continued performance since I started using this particular pair in November of 2019, I'm not surprised.
In that time, they've accompanied me through four months of commuting 20 miles to the Cyclingnews office, then a pandemic-induced summer of Zwift racing and a subsequent winter of indoor training sessions. Now we're in the height of their second summer, riding outdoors has become the norm once again, and they're still standing strong.
Despite their £195.00 / $270.00 price, they don't actually sit at the top of the Rapha bib shorts lineup, and as a result, they do miss out on some of the top-tier tech that the eye-wateringly spendy Pro Team Powerweave bibs get. But nonetheless, they're still a pro-level bib short with a pro-level price, but does that also mean pro-level performance? And do they deserve a spot in our guide to the best cycling shorts?
Design and aesthetics
The Pro Team II bibs are available in a choice of four standard colourways, but Rapha is no stranger to customisation, and limited edition colourways are launched regularly. The pair we have here is the black on black design, although they are more commonly given a white upper.
On most of the colourways, the Rapha wordmark boldly announces its presence on the outside of the quadriceps, however, on our black pair, the black logo is almost unnoticeable, making for a subtle, classy design. Likewise, the brand's five stripes adorning the left shoulder strap are unnoticeable from afar. The only interruption to the batman-esque design is the white label, printed outward-facing, providing the real estate for your name and number. A random inclusion I agree, but useful for pro riders I guess, or for amateurs if you leave them behind at race HQ.
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Also at the rear, two small reflective tabs live on the back of the hamstrings, and a rubber tab is included at the front with the word 'forçats'. And contrary to my initial hopes, it doesn't mean the bib shorts are designed for our feline friends, it's actually a reference to the 'forçats de la route' printed on much of Rapha's wears - a nod to the historical 'convicts of the road' scandal of the 1920s.
They are also available in two leg lengths; regular and long, which differ by 3cm. The pair I've been using is the regular, although at 187cm tall, I probably should have opted for the long. Especially since over the 18 months of use, the leg length has shrunk a little thanks to my hamfisted approach to clothes washing etiquette. I don't have a new for old comparison, but I'd say they've lost at least an inch in leg length.
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Made from a blend of 78 per cent nylon and 22 per cent elastane, the leg portion of the Pro Team II bib shorts maintains a compressive yet comfortable fit. So compressive, in fact, that I regularly wear these bibs on the indoor trainer with the straps hanging loose. Up top, the elastane is joined by polyester to create a lightweight, breathable finish.
The most important part of any cycling short is going to be the chamois pad, and in this regard, I personally get on very well with these shorts, despite contrasting initial impressions, which I'll explain in more detail shortly.
The leg grippers get a deep, elastic raw-edge hem, with silicon dots blended directly into the fabric. The result is that with or without leg warmers, the legs stay put in all conditions, and there's no unwanted restriction, or 'sausage leg' as many like to call it.
At the rear, there are two (I'm not sure why two) radio pockets built into the back panel and Rapha has kindly designed them in such a way that they sit on either side of the spine for comfort. Of course, if like me you're not a pro cyclist, these will get absolutely no use whatsoever. But it's cool anyway, right?
Up top, the straps see a folded over bonded edge, which helps them retain their shape (rather than getting twisted when you put them on), and also sit nice and flat against the skin for comfort.
When first putting on the Pro Team II bib shorts, my first impression was that the chamois pad felt bulky. The dual-density chamois pad is said to offer comfort and support with minimal bulk, but the overall thickness and density of the pad is definitely greater than the competition.
However, once on the bike, the clever dual density construction offers genuinely supportive, unrestrictive and completely chafe-free cushioning. What's more, the pad is given small breathing perforations throughout - something that sets them apart from the lower priced Pro Team Training bib shorts - so even when riding indoors while it was 30C outside, there was no saddle sore-inducing sweat build-up downstairs.
And that impressiveness continues throughout the rest of the performance of these bib shorts, but perhaps the standout performer here is the durability of the shorts. Of course, save for the slightly shortening leg length - likely a result of my inability to follow care instructions - the construction of the shorts has stood up to the test of time very well.
The small silicone gripper dots on the leg are still entirely present and functional. The fold over bonded edges of the straps are still just as folded and bonded as they were when they left the factory some two years ago. The printed-on Rapha logos haven't peeled away, nor have they cracked through stretching, and all stitching remains completely in place, unthreaded, unpulled and ultimately, unproblematic.
And that leads me on nicely to why these bib shorts are worth the initial high price.
No matter what you're buying, the length of time it will serve you is one of the most important metrics when determining value for money. Over the years, I have ridden in bib shorts from a whole host of cycling clothing brands, and few have remained this intact after 18 months.
So while the £195.00 / $270.00 price is a bit of a sizeable sum to swallow upfront, if you look at it as an investment for the long haul, the value starts to become apparent and the initial outlay poses less of a risk. For that reason, I would happily recommend Rapha's Pro Team II bib shorts to anyone looking for pro level performance with pro level endurance to boot.
Tech spec: Rapha Pro Team II bib shorts
- Price: £195.00 / $270.00
- Available sizes: XS, S, M (tested), L, XL, XXL
- Available colours: Black/White, Dark Navy/White, Dark Green/Off-White, Black/Black
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