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A few years back, I scored a pair of Rapha road bibs at a press event, and I’ve coveted them ever since. They’re the perfect long length, with a thick, comfortable chamois and the signature hot-pink Rapha logo. I know they’re cool and sleek and meant to be seen in a peloton, but I’ve been sneaking them under baggies ever since I’ve had them. So when I heard almost a year ago that Rapha was planning a proper mountain-bike collection, I couldn’t wait to see what they’d do with apparel that’s actually made for the dirt.
The Performance Trailwear collection, which finally debuts today, definitely hits all the right notes.
“As relentless enthusiasts of cycling in all its forms, we’ve long been inspired by mountain biking,” says Rapha MTB General Manager, Jake Rosenbloum. “After 17 years of innovating road and gravel cycling apparel, now is the right time for Rapha to enter the mountain bike market and we’re confident we can have an equally meaningful impact on the future of the sport. This is a huge milestone for the Rapha brand and we couldn’t be more excited to kick off this new chapter.”
It’s launching with men’s and women’s options that include a liner (bib for men), a trail short, a technical tee, a 3/4-sleeve technical tee, a women’s trail tank and a lightweight, full-zippered jacket. The colors are all muted and embellished with a small Rapha logo. The tees are made in a polyester/nylon blend with a touch of elastane in the sleeves to aide in movement. I’ve only just had one ride in the kit, but the tee material is thin and breathable, with a fit that strikes a nice balance between relaxed and fitted.
The shorts use the same three materials and feature a stretchy waistband. That allows the women’s shorts to stay snug without any tighteners or integrated belts. The men’s shorts feature two semi-external cinch straps, and all shorts get a zipper closure with a snap that slides into place and two zippered side pockets with an internal phone sleeve (or snack or credit card or whatever, but the iPhone fits perfectly). The best feature on the women’s short is the long 15-inch inseam, which actually falls below my knee, accomplishing a rare feat in women’s shorts. The tapered leg fit well and provided a subtle shape to the short.
The line also includes accessories, like a Rapha-branded Smith Forefront helmet, trail socks, a hip pack, full-frame sunglasses and a five-panel hat.
This is Rapha, and the prices reflect the brand’s premium place in the market. The shorts run $150, the tees between $70 and $100, the liners $110 to $130 and the jacket $180. But most of the products come with repair patches made from excess fabric that would’ve otherwise been tossed, and for more serious stitch-ups, most pieces of Rapha Performance Trailwear can also be sent back to Rapha for a free repair (Rapha has repaired more than 34,000 garments since 2004). Rapha has also taken care to use environmentally preferred materials across the range wherever possible. In 2021, 43 percent of Rapha Performance Trailwear, by volume, is made using environmentally preferred materials, with a commitment of reaching 90 percent across the range by 2025. The line was has been ridden on trails and race courses all over the world by Rapha ambassadors and athletes like Jill Kintner, EWS racer Ella Conolly, Adam Craig, Bryn Atkinson, Eliot Jackson and Joey Schusler, to ensure it won’t crack under pressure or fade over time.
Rapha also intends to be a meaningful member of the mountain bike community, and later this year, will launch a series of initiatives to support organizations across the U.S. and UK that work to create better opportunities and access for mountain biking. Partnering with advocacy groups like the Oregon Timber Trail Alliance that work on the ground with local municipalities to repair and build new trails, programs like NICA who can educate the next generation of mountain bikers on maintenance and trail etiquette, and by leveraging the Rapha Foundation to improve access in under-represented communities, Rapha intends to continue to give back to the sport.
Check out the full line at Rapha.cc/mtb.