Rated: Rapha Pro Team Winter Tights
One day last week we had settled weather. Only floaty little white clouds could be spotted against a backdrop of blue. Daffodils tilted their heads to worship the sun, and there was real warmth in the mid-afternoon air. For the first time in many, many months, I rode out with bare skin on display. It was joyous.
It, of course, hasn’t lasted. Bib tights are the winter staple that for those of us who live in inclement climates are not just for Christmas, but for much of the year. So, Rapha’s “winter” tights will used by many for a much longer working window. Which is a good job, as at £200 they need all the use they can get to justify the premium price tag.
Deriving directly from their work with Team Sky, Rapha’s Pro Team is their range-topping, performance driven collection. In keeping with that, these bib tights feature a windproof fabric, DWR (durable water repellant) coating to keep moisture on the not-skin-side of said fabric, and the same chamois pad used in the Pro Team shorts.
I was worried that what fitted one way wouldn’t work t’other.
Using the size guide, I selected a ‘small’ with some trepidation. At 6ft, and with a 30inch waist, I was worried that what fitted one way wouldn’t work t’other. Fortunately for me, the leg length was ample, though someone shorter may find some bunching. The fit, was actually exemplary. The tights conformed to every lump and bump of my legs; knobbly knees included. The ankle cuffs are tight, and require a bit of wrangling over socks, but once in place create a nice (yet not circulation restricting) seal against the elements. The lack of a zip at the ankle, and indeed, the inclusion of a pad mean that these are not tights for wearing over a skin suit prior to your cross race. Once on, they will be staying on for the entire ride.
Fortunately, they are comfortable enough that you’ll have no desire to ‘de-tight’ mid ride. The pad is one of the best I’ve ever had the fortune to use. Watching water bead against the DWR fabric brought a little smile to my face on those cold days, where the temperature hovered around freezing. The water repellency has remained as good as first wear, despite innumerable washes with no regard to special care.
When temperatures are below double figures, they function superbly.
The windproofed front is again a boon on cold days, and helps keep muscles warm and functioning more effectively. The downside is fabric that is less stretchy, and feels a little resistant to fluid pedalling. For me this was minimal, but noticeable – yet a price worth paying for better insulation. I was also impressed at how well the tights dealt with milder days. The rear fabric, especially behind the knees, is lighter and allows a little more breathability. They wouldn’t be my first choice when temperatures are above double figures, but below that (as most of my morning commutes currently are) they function superbly.
The tights have shown little wear over the test period, other than some shine on the, er, buttock area. I’ve actually taken a couple of off-road tumbles in them with no ill effects, much to my relief, given the price tag.
£200 is an enormous amount of money to spend on any item of cycling clothing, especially when it won’t be used year round. However, if that money means you are more likely to get out and ride, even when the weather is at its grimmest, then maybe, just maybe, it is worth it?