I asked Rapha for a go at their Winter Tights, but they were all sold out, so they sent the Leggings instead. Guess the Winter Tights are good, as selling out usually indicates, but I missed out for the year. So today I took the Leggings out to see how they fared. Rapha cautioned me that the tights are “general wear-around-town or short commute, rather than our full cycling sport tights,” and it seems like they didn’t really send them for review (“we just thought someone might enjoy them”), but I never listen, we know that.
I had better specify that I didn’t use these while commuting to work. My actual commute is a mile and a quarter long, and though the weather here is frequently demoralizing, I could commute in a tissue paper gown and survive if I absolutely had to. Who cares how something performs over a mile and a half? So I took these tights out for a wilderness-y outing, the likes of which one will not find in Portland where these tights are made. Once you leave the road system here, it’s not likely you’ll see another person, so you’d better have good enough gear that you can survive on your own. The trips I’ve worn fancy Rapha cycling gear on over the years would give Portland hipsters the vapors from a wear-and-tear-on-fancy-gear perspective, but I’m happy to report that I’ve been repeatedly impressed with how tough Rapha’s stuff is, so I don’t worry too much about it now. Nor did I ever, really, let’s face it.
I did have a moment of doubt when I first put the tights on, as they weren’t that easy to get on. They have a stout waistband that almost made me give up at knee level. Once they were on, though, they were super comfortable and I didn’t notice the waistband again until trying to drop trou to pee later. I’m not kidding, that thing is binding. You will want to pee strategically, because if you hear someone approaching, you will not get away with trying to whip these tights up fast. Not an issue so much today, the fish aren’t running so I had the route to myself. I did take a few good looks around before squatting, because I was a sitting duck for any of our newly-awakened brown bears with this waistband around my knees. And of course it’s Rapha, so it’s so tough that even yanking didn’t pop any seams for a little more give.*
I was surprised to find that these are not uniform one-thickness tights. There’s an extra layer welded on from the waistband down to just above the knees that seems to provide some wind protection, and they’re very light from there on down. The fit is great, mostly on point though generous in length. Us shorties have to tolerate some wrinkles, but I prefer that to gaps in coverage.
But before I get too far into this, let’s examine my commute today:
What the picture doesn’t show is the bluster that comes along with the sunshine in these parts. Temps are in the low thirties and I wasn’t partial to the headwind whooshing down from the pass. Admittedly when I started, I was wishing for the Winter Tights as it was chilly in the lighter weight Leggings. I also wished the double layer part extended down to my knees, because I’m all for keeping the knees warm. I wondered if I’d need to layer on my ever-present rain pants to stay warm even on this day devoid of precip.** I won’t lie, I didn’t dawdle getting ready after leaving the toasty truck, as I knew I’d need to generate some heat to be happy at these temperatures in lighter legwear, but as soon as I got started, I was perfectly comfortable. I was even fine on breaks. I never quite let go of my wish to have the extra wind screen at my knees, but it wasn’t noticeable as I kept going. Truth be told, had I been wearing the gaiters that I usually don when riding in the backcountry, the lighter weight fabric at my calves would have been great. As it was, I knew that had I run into trouble and needed to hunker, I have no doubt I’d have been perfectly warm with rain pants on over these tights. It turns out they were actually the perfect legwear for today’s non-urban adventure.
I finished my ride fully satisfied with these tights. So they’re not “meant” for regular riding, but they do just fine for it. Why would you waste these beauties riding around a city, anyway?
*You know what I mean – when you’re in the dressing room, trying to get that dress on, and just tug a little harder or take some deep breaths so that you hear the crackling sound of freedom as some stitches give…just me, then?
**I lied, it did snow a little, out of the blue sky. Oh, Alaska.