Second generation Pro Team bib shorts retain the lustre and quality of their predecessors
Rapha’s original Pro Team bib shorts were something of standard-setters in the market. The shorts had distinctive Rapha styling but were still subtle enough to be paired with whatever jersey you wanted, and the choice of fabrics, all-important Cytech chamois and build quality won widespread plaudits. They were one of the best examples of how to justify a price tag (£190, if you remember).
With the second generation Pro Team II shorts, that price tag has increased by a fiver, while the bib shorts have received an update, even if it’s hard to initially tell to look at them. You have to really pay attention to notice the leg gripper (and linked seam structure) has been redesigned to feature a wide, textured gripper to replace the more compressive elastic band of old.
In reality, Rapha has swapped one excellent design for another. While as a rider I approve of the textured print in place of the silicone strip design that would often leave marks on the legs (if not be uncomfortable), it’s a shame some of the compression has been lost through the modified seam structure and lack of elastic band base. The point, however, is that both designs are excellent and provide a secure and comfortable grip over the legs.
The other major change has come in the form of a new chamois from Cytech, which retains the same luxurious comfort levels of the old one, but the new model features a dual-density design that is linked to the size of the bib. In response to occasional criticism that the old pad felt much like an oversized pillow, this new one tapers away at the edges, giving a much more svelte feeling despite actually being much the same in terms of density at the sit bones.
It still features a central fold as part of its design but it’s now, overall, a more streamlined affair – and every bit as effective as the previous generation. A pinch of luxuriousness has been lost in the overall experience, but given that the Pro Team bib shorts are really about performance, rather than luxury, this is no issue if you plan to ride hard.
Given long flat rides of 100km or more, or long periods spent climbing on the nose of the saddle, the chamois performs superbly, while it’s also very good at expelling excess heat through the textured perforations – useful in strong mid-summer Alpine sun, for example.
That also goes for the fabric in the legs, which is effective in its ability to wick away heat and moisture effectively. It’s a lightweight fabric and seems slightly more elasticated and stretchy than the first generation model. Rapha has done a great job to include this new fabric. It makes a perfect marriage with the bonded seams which are incredibly comfortable and well-positioned to avoid tendons and areas that move a lot.
Up top, the bib section is similar in construction to the previous generation shorts, made up of a breathable but dense mesh fabric that’s stretchy and joined at the shoulder joint by a soft panel for extra comfort (complete with Pro Team strip design on one shoulder, too). Suffice to say, you quickly forget about the bib section being there, which is just about the highest praise you can give it. The seams are bonded and flat, with tension distributed evenly across the shoulders.
As before, the Pro Team bib shorts are available in regular or long fits for discrepancies in leg length, although if you’re torn between the two and aren’t near a Rapha store to try them on, I can tell you that you need to be seriously tall (approaching two metres, really) or like your shorts particularly long to justify going for the additional length, given that the regular length isn’t exactly short in the way the likes of Alé’s bibs can be, as an example.
What is different is a bolder range of colours (black, white, yellow, blue and pink). Whereas the first shorts were available in different colours at the Rapha leg branding, these new ones also feature a coloured bib section to match. It gives you the chance to play it safe or colour-match the shorts to your kit. To be honest, unless you get colour matching totally wrong (i.e. matching a lightweight jersey to bibs of a different colour so you can see through the ensemble), you’re not always going to notice while riding, and you can also stick with the traditional white bib section or a new sleek black, which was previously only seen in the winter versions, to pair the shorts with almost any jersey.
Quality can’t be doubted either; clearly the same level of detail and build quality has gone into these bib shorts as the previous ones. I can’t see them failing in the coming years, and throughout testing they have remained absolutely ‘as-new’.
The takeaway message is this: Rapha has comprehensively maintained its reputation for excellence with the new iterations of the Pro Team bib shorts. While that I can’t lie about the fact that I personally prefer the slightly more compressive feel of the older versions, the new Pro Team Bib Short IIs still deserve their place at the top table.
The excellent and comfortable grippers, with a fantastic construction and new, more streamlined chamois are the standout tweaks that Rapha has made in response to feedback from its pro team tie-ups, and in truth, objectively they all make a lot of sense.
Cool, lightweight fabric
Very high quality
Premium performance comes with a premium price
Redesigned features might not be worth upgrade for owners of the superb first-generation shorts
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