There are a lot of mountain bike trends that I either show up really late for or boycott altogether. Flat pedals—nah, I still ride clipless (ones without platforms, no less). I even still call them “clipless” even though the original definition is lost on most riders under the age of 35. Bum bags and water bottles—I was years off the back on this one, insisting on using packs long after they were deemed uncool. I do still miss the convenience of drinking on the move that the hydration pack provides, but I haven’t worn one in quite a while. Riding pants—fine, I guess they have their purpose.
I don’t think I’ve been resistant to riding pants just simply because I’m one of those dummies who hates things just because they’re popular. I could’ve had 15 more years of enjoying Nirvana if weren’t the way I am. But unlike hating popular bands for no reason, I feel like my aversion to riding pants was substantive—for a time, at least. What I’m trying to say here, is that riding pants used to suck, mostly because they were tailored all wrong for pedaling in—mostly because most riding pants weren’t made for pedaling in anyway. Most were made for downhill riding.
But that’s not the case anymore. There are some sweet trail riding pants out there now that you can pedal all day in, and the ones Rapha makes as part of their newly launched mountain bike collection, are my favorite.
It’s not really that complicated to be honest. It’s the same reason most of us have that one favorite pair of jeans: They’re comfortable and I like the way they look on me. The Rapha Trail Pants have a slightly more relaxed fit than some other riding pants, which works out well for me because I’m not a skinny jean guy. Not because of my stupid nonconformist thing, but because I just don’t have the body for them. I’m not a skinny guy, which makes me not a skinny jean guy.
But riding pants sort of have to be skinny. You don’t want extra material flapping around, and they have to taper at the cuff to avoid getting caught in the chainring. It’s a matter of function. However some pants take it too far f0r my liking. Rapha thankfully chilled out and kept the taper reasonable on this pant, which I think feels and looks great. They’re loose enough for my liking, but still fitted athletically enough for solid performance—and I’ve never once had them catch in my drivetrain.
I usually wear size 34 pants, and the size large is right on the money. I use the cinch straps a little bit, but don’t come close to running out of them. It would be nice to see Rapha do inch sizing for critical fit items like this. For $180 I would expect more size options to fit a wider range of people. They do offer six sizes, and again, mine fit great, but many brands with inch size do seven or eight sizes.
Beyond fit, the Rapha Trail Pants are packed with features I love. Between the high waist, non-elastic cinch straps, and super secure keyhole-type button snap thing, I know the pants are secure, will stay in place, and won’t show my butt crack off to riders behind me. Next, the articulated knees mean that I can pedal without material tugging with each pedal stroke, and finally, the pockets are situated right where I want them. They have the obligatory front hand pockets, which I find to be key on even the most athletic pants, along with a vertical zippered pocket on each leg, perfect for cell phone stowage. Plus, there are belt loops just in case. I haven’t needed them, but they might as well be there for someone who does, right?
And that’s about it. They’re pretty simple, but very well thought out. The mid-weight, double weave polyester with DWR coating is perfect for cool days. I’m comfortable in mine in temperatures up to around 65 degrees, but I’ll also wear them on hot days if I know I’ll need the extra protection they provide. Speaking of protection, they’re loose enough on my legs to wear lightweight kneepads underneath as well.
My go-to cool-weather solution used to be knickers under a pair of baggies, but that was before I became a total conformist. You know, sometimes trends aren’t so bad.