Every problem I ever had with bicycle seats turns out to have been because I did not own these shorts.
This sounds like hyperbole, I know.
Stay with me, here.
I have an ongoing struggle with bicycle seats, especially on my road bike. They’re all just awful. Long rides are studies in endurance, and I’m not talking the cardiovascular kind. I adjusted my seat, moved it forward and back, replaced it, replaced it again, moved it again, tried chamois cream – you get the picture. I spend most of every long ride squirming in small ways, trying to become more comfortable. I move forward, I move back, I shift around – nothing really works.
Then Rapha sent these shorts and changed the game.
Since I’ve been privileged enough to add Rapha to my client list, I’ve been really enjoying the Rapha gear that comes my way. I love it because it’s high end, it’s comfortable, it’s gorgeous, it’s classy, and it performs like no other. I love putting together little Rapha outfits to go ride my road bike, and as you all know, I need serious motivation to ride my road bike so the inspiration lent by having a great outfit to wear is much appreciated. When I get a new Rapha shipment I really look forward to donning my new duds and cruising around like I actually belong on this skinny-tired monstrosity.
Little did I know, dear reader, that the reason I felt so out of place on the bike was that I didn’t have these shorts between me and it.
It’s been a tough transition to road bike season. Injuries, stress, and lots of moving around have made it really tough to force myself on to the bike; not to mention the persistent low temperatures. I’ll get on the bike if it’s over 50, but I won’t enjoy it for at least ten more degrees. Serendipitously, the newest Rapha package combined with the first time Durango hit 60 degrees this spring was enough to motivate me to rack up some mileage, so off I went. I wore the Rapha shorts and club jersey, both for the first time, and both without washing first. What can I say, I’m a climber at heart so even when wearing Rapha I’m dirtbagging it. Anyway, the general recommendation for bike shorts is to wash before wearing for chamois comfort. I didn’t wash before wearing. I didn’t even use chamois cream. This would seem like a recipe for disaster, but lo! Twenty miles later and I hadn’t even noticed that I had just ridden a bike for twenty miles. Nothing was chafing, nothing was hurting. Twenty four miles after that and my ride was over, but I was still ready for more. I was not DYING to get off that bike seat like I usually am. The chamois on these shorts is a thing of wonder.
I had a horrible moment in which I pulled the bike shorts down to take them off and saw the printed label on the inside – on the front. I thought I’d had them on backwards the entire time, but on the heels of that was the thought that they had been so comfortable that I must be onto something – I was willing to wear bike shorts backwards forever if they would always be that comfortable. Luckily for my dignity, though, the shorts were on correctly; the label is just in the front for some reason.
Rapha told me that I had received the old sizing standard, which utilized numerical sizes and seemed to be oriented to Euro as opposed to US/vanity sizing. In US sizes I wear a 6 but in Rapha I wore a 10, which Rapha probably wisely realized wouldn’t fly in the US market. They have since changed the sizing scheme to S-M-L which isn’t my favorite either, but pretty standard in bike shorts I suppose. I’m guessing that the 10 that I wore probably corresponds to medium now, which suited me nicely because I like a little give and flex in my bike clothing as opposed to that sausage casing look. One really nice thing about the fit of these shorts is that they weren’t too snug, but didn’t suffer from that dreaded waistline gap, either – you know, the one where everything fits fine except for the waist, which yawns open like a hungry mouth wanting to swallow whatever crumbs you may drop (if you’re one of those goofballs who won’t actually stop pedaling to, you know, eat).
The rise of the waist was nicely done, with the front cut lower than the back and a very comfortable hem with no drawstring. I despise drawstrings and find them tacky and pointless, and evidently so does Rapha because there was no drawstring here and it’s certainly not needed. There is a small line of silicone on the inside of the shorts which isn’t my favorite, usually, but didn’t bother me at all. The length was a tad on the long side and could be a little shorter, but Rapha said that future iterations of the shorts would be shorter so I think they’re being responsive to that issue. My sample pair is about two inches above my knee which is OK but for tanning purposes, shorter would be better. For right now, I’ve got to contend with the knee-length tan line resulting from my longer-than-intended ride. See, the unanticipated consequences of having a great, super comfortable chamois – a longer workout and even some color on the pasty white winter legs.
I know these shorts are expensive; retailing for about $185. Bike shorts can really run the gamut of pricing from $50 on up to $Rapha, but in my humble opinion you get what you pay for when it comes to such a crucial item. I wouldn’t expect to find a decent pair of bike shorts for less than $100, barring a supersale somewhere, so I think the $185 price tag on these puppies is pretty reasonable. Having a chamois so comfortable is priceless, in my opinion. I used to search for deals on bike shorts but every pair of shorts I purchased for less than $100 ended up having to be returned because they were just not comfortable, so I wouldn’t even bother looking in the lower ranges at this point. Just save the pennies and get what’s good.
I’m super paranoid about both falling down and getting anywhere near Velcro when I’m wearing my Rapha stuff. I already put a few pulls in my Rapha jersey thanks to my winter gloves, which makes me bitter about Velcro every time I wear it, so I’m extra careful now.
To sum up: if you like to ride your bike but don’t find it particularly comfortable, you need these shorts. If you’re already comfortable on your bike, imagine what you can accomplish with the leftover comfort you’ll have if you have these shorts.