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In our sport, we pay so much attention to aerodynamics, power, and carbon fiber bits that sometimes we need to remember to just take a break and go for a ride. Rapha’s new Core Cargo Bib Shorts are made for that kind of ride. Is there something more aero? Yes. Will they help you generate more power? No. Carbon fiber? Not even close. And yet these super practical bib shorts will trade monotony for adventure on most training rides.
Originally designed for the “bikepacking” crowd, Rapha released their original Cargo Bibs a year ago to wide acclaim—allowing riders to carry gear in their bib shorts, eschewing the need for saddle bags, stuffed jersey pockets, or extra on-bike storage. This would seem like a ridiculous and unnecessary feature, until you try them. The addition of pockets allows you to carry more when riding with a jersey, or simply leave the jersey at home and ride in your favorite T-shirt while still bringing your essentials (imagine the fashion possibilities!).
Of course, we’ve come to expect excellent craftsmanship, attention to details, and top-shelf materials from Rapha—and for the premium price the brand generally charges, it’s to be demanded. The beauty of the “Core” version of these cargo bib shorts is we get high-end design at a more affordable price via a slightly lesser quality chamois and less-refined leg grippers. And yet the seams are flat and unnoticeable, the legs provide comfortable compression, and the chamois is quick drying and supportive.
Even on rides approaching 90 degrees F, putting a smartphone in the body-hugging short pocket wasn’t an issue—no damage from sweat. Rapha’s materials did as advertised and allowed for rapid drying.
As far as philosophical freedom goes, there’s nothing more refreshing than grabbing a coffee while wearing a regular shirt. These cargo bib shorts can transform the wearer into a city bike hipster or all-day gravel adventurer. The only trick here is the noticeable, almost racerback, style of rear suspender panel—likely meant to keep the weight of the cargo from creating a dirty diaper look. It can feel a little different at first and require a little more finesse while taking a “nature break.”
Though food may feel more comfortably stored in the familiar confines of a jersey pocket (likely due to decades of habit), the convenience of having fuel easily accessible on your thigh is actually more than novel. If you have done any road racing with a gel tucked under the leg gripper of your bib shorts—or tri if you prefer to change in T1—you can imagine improving that scenario. Rapha’s thigh pockets are a larger, more sophisticated solution to feed access, and having a phone on your leg is surprisingly fun. Your teenage children might cringe, but taking photos and videos along your ride is exponentially easier with a more accessible phone.
With so many choices of companies providing technology in cycling apparel, it is hard to get excited about another pair of bib shorts. However, the versatility of Rapha’s Cargo Bib Shorts are worth a second look—and for the new lowered price, you won’t have to forego a month’s rent.