Rapha Trail 3/4-Sleeve Jersey and Trail Shorts
High-end apparel worth the price of admission
Rapha may be a new apparel brand for mountain bikers, but it has been a mainstay for roadies since 2004. Wrecking crew members who crossed over to the road side of things and were familiar with the brand at its start thought it took a few years for the quality and fit to catch up with the high-end image it built. Since then, Rapha has been considered a premier cycling brand, so we were eager to get our hands on the mountain bike line to see if the attention to detail, fit and high-end materials would carry over. We tested the Trail 3/4-sleeve jersey and matching Trail shorts, but did not review the matching Trail cargo bib liner shorts. Truth be told, most of the wrecking crew pitches the liners that come with most shorts and use their favorite high-end bibs.
Features: Soft, stretchy and lightweight material makes up the body of the jersey. The material is textured to make it stand off the skin when wet or sweaty for extra comfort. It is also said to be “environmentally preferred” because the 100-percent polyester material is 68-percent recycled. Rapha uses a more densely woven material for the arms to ward off abuse from branches and falls. An antibacterial treatment helps fight off the stink. Rapha’s signature left-arm reflective stripe adds safety after dark, and there is also a small loop on the inside of the neck to hold earbud wires if you’re into that sort of thing.
The short is made up of lightweight, four-way-stretch material and uses an integrated belt system for improved comfort and fit. The inseam length and cut are designed to be used with or without pads. Four pockets offer generous storage. Two of them are standard hand-pocket types, while the other two side pockets are zippered with an integrated phone sleeve.
Both the jersey and shorts come with iron-on, color-matched patches so that you can repair any damage yourself. If that doesn’t do the trick, Rapha also offers a free repair service for the original owner.
Field test results: Let’s get this out there right away: there is nothing inexpensive about either piece. You can easily spend half the money and get something pretty decent, but there are a few good reasons to make the investment. The jersey fit is very good, assuming you are trim and in good shape. Nothing binds or pulls, and there is little in the way of extra fabric flapping in the wind. Just as claimed, the material is breathable and feels nice against the skin, even when sweaty or wet, and the arms held up well to our SoCal brush fights. We only had one issue with a rider’s forearms being a bit too big for the sleeves on what otherwise was a good overall fit on the medium jersey. Other wrecking crew members who didn’t eat their spinach had no such complaints.
We’d say the shorts are the real highlight of these two pieces. Not only is the cut extremely comfortable while pedaling on the bike, but the inseam is exactly the right length with or without pads—no unsightly knee gap here. The integrated belt system is among the best we’ve used. It locked the shorts in place without creating pressure points or binding anywhere on our waist. We can take or leave hand pockets on riding shorts, but one of our favorite features on these Raphas is the location of the side pockets. They are low enough on the thigh that even heavy loads, such as a large phone, go unnoticed while riding. In our opinion, it’s the only proper place for a pocket on the legs, and so many get it wrong. Yet another super-nice touch is the extra-long pull tabs on the zippers that make opening the pockets super easy, even while wearing gloves. The material can easily wrinkle if the shorts are haphazardly stuffed in a gear bag, but that’s really our sole complaint.
Yes, Rapha apparel is expensive, but in this case, if you can afford it, the performance lives up to the hype. It’s hard to rationalize such an investment, but when you consider the included repair kit and free repair program offered by Rapha, the investment might make sense, especially long-term.
• Great fit
• Awesome details
• Lightweight, nice-feeling materials
• Repair kit and free repairs
• Those with Popeye forearms should try on the jersey before buying
STAR RATING: ★★★★
Price: Jersey, $100; shorts: $150