It’s still cool to dress for a ride like you don’t care about fashion. Prolly always will be. It allows us to take things a little less seriously, or at least look like we are. Throw on a no-fit black t-shirt (often with the sleeves chopped off), black jeans (jorts or full leg), and a pair of blown-out Vans. No gloves are allowed with this look. Kinda like all the unique punks with identical mowhawks, we can put a load of energy into looking like we don’t care what we wear. I know I have. “Chillin’ all day with my party vibes.” The look is a sensible budget move for some folks, but that’s likely not the case for everyone.
While that’s all good fun, a well-made riding kit that’s designed to exhale sweat and move along with your body is a lovely alternative to cotton-glued skin. Yes, you might look like you give a shit, but the tradeoff is merited. Rapha kicked off their first MTB apparel lineup this spring with some sharp-looking gear that’s cut and sewn to a high quality standard, and it feels really cozy on the bike. Unlike a lot of trail apparel in this higher price range, there is not a loose thread or misaligned seam to be found on the shorts and jersey, and the fabric feels tough enough to endure a few fun seasons.
Functionally, the Rapha Trail Shorts hop ahead of some other leg coverings, with long, side-hip pockets that zipper shut to keep your phone and snacks securely chill and not rubbing on your thighs. My massive iPhone 11 is hardly noticeable inside, hammocked in the pocket lining. There are dividers inside the hip pouches to separate your lift pass from your beer cash, and there’s also a set of good ol’ hand pockets to warm your fingers while you wait in line for that pilsner. The pocket zippers feel relatively sturdy, with proper placement to keep them from jamming with fabric when you need to zip and ride at the same time.
I originally tried my usual size small in these shorts, and found the fit a little too tight for my liking. With the adjustable waist belt engaged the medium fits my 31″ waist more comfortably, and there’s room to adjust it if I eat the whole pizza at lunch. The 34cm-long legs (~13.5″) drop to the middle of my kneecap, covering more than the top chunk of any kneepads. I have a short 76.5cm (30″) inseam, and a lot of MTB shorts hang too low, but the Trail Shorts length falls just right. The overall fit is wide enough to allow for air flow up the legs, while somewhat constrained to keep the fabric from catching on things.
The shorts are made of 88% nylon and 12% elastane that’s shaped for a proper riding position, and it moves about well as you dance with the bike. The material is slightly thicker than some summer shorts, while not so ample that it’s hot. As ever, the stretchiness helps keep it from tearing when you hit the dirt, and Rapha will repair the shorts for free if you do manage to rip them open. There’s a repair kit included in case you want to fix rips yourself.
With gear stored on the sides where it shouldn’t annoy you, these shorts serve up a fantastic trail feel all around. Top it off with the clean look and minimal branding for some upper-leg coverage that will rival the best on the market.
Trail 3/4 Sleeve Jersey
I don’t really understand 3/4 shirts. I keep the sleeves on this jersey rolled above the elbow any time I’m not taking photos of it. Fortunately, Rapha also has short and long sleeve options that skip this step.
This jersey is fairly straightforward, with no little pockets or lens wipes to speak of. The tail is dropped a touch, and the main fabric is stretchy to allow it to move with the rider’s body. The sleeves are made of sturdier fabric, and they have held up to the blackberry snags I manage to find on every local ride. The recycled main-body material is comfortably breathable, without being overly thin and clingy like some summer jerseys. The hems around the neck and sleeves are notably comfortable, with folded cuffs that are undoubtedly designed to be forgotten about on the trail.
I fit into my usual size small with a little room left for a back protector should I need one. Like the shorts above, the jersey comes with a repair kit, and Rapha will repair the garment for you if it’s damaged. They also offer a 50% discount on a smaller size if you happen to lose weight after purchasing the jersey.
Pandemic habits dictate that if I’m leaving my apartment it’s to ride or fetch vegetables, apart from the occasional rainy dig-day. These fewer social interactions have me stoked to throw on my Sunday’s best, which in the case of riding is this new Rapha kit. If you’re in the market for trail apparel that looks as good as it feels, give these threads a go.
- Fantastic fit
- Free crash repairs
- Precise construction
Pros and the cons of the Rapha Trail Shorts and 3/4 Sleeve Jersey.
- 3/4 sleeve doesn’t make sense for everyone
- No lift pass pocket or lens wipe on jersey