REVIEWED: RAPHA PRO TEAM WINTER TIGHTS
REVIEW IN SIX WORDS
Not necessarily better than the stand-by
daylight hours have waned, temperatures have dropped, and here in the PNW, the drizzle has returned; all not so subtle signals that's it's time to break out the fall/winter cycling gear. that means thermal bibs and knee warmers (or three-quarters for others), vests with long sleeve jerseys, full finger gloves, shoe covers, a rain jacket folded in the rear pocket (just in case) and lights for the those pre-sunrise/post-sunset rides. i don't mind it really. in fact, fall is my favorite time to ride. there is something i love about the sound of riding over leaves, the smell of wood burning fireplaces lingering in the crisp, dry air, all while taking in a rich canopy of trees in rich reds, yellows, and browns.
yet just as i was getting into fall, mother nature decided to push some arctic air into the U.S. and throw much of the country into winter. here in seattle, we didn't get snow, but we did get freezing temperatures. i figured i would take advantage of the change in weather to test some new winter gear, namely Rapha's new pro team winter tights.
What makes this piece of gear significant is that it is Rapha's first consumer bib tight offering that has a built in chamois. up to this point, Rapha's winter bib tight offerings were meant to be worn over your normal bib shorts -- and that solution has worked splendidly for me over the years. however, i'm always open to new solutions.
outside the fact these tights have an integrated pad (same as in their pro team bibs), the other obvious difference is that the pro team tights lack the stirrups of the classic tights. the pro team tights also feature a wind blocking fabric on the front panels to keep the elements at bay. the stiffer fabric makes getting in and out of the tights a little more difficult vs. the classic tights, but i emphasize a little more difficult. i chose a balmy 26°F morning to debut the tights and set out on a 45 mile ride to put them through their paces. i figured the time/distance would be enough to know whether the tights could earn a spot in my winter wardrobe and whether they could unseat the incumbent -- rapha's classic winter tights.
the first thing i missed when i put on the tights were the stirrups. i know, a little detail, but i really like those stirrups. while the grippers at the bottom of the tight's leg openings performed their job adequately, when i returned home, i noticed the tights had ridden up slightly over the course of my ride. i feel like the stirrups would have kept things in place. other than that, the overall fit was spot on, as i expected. i really love the pro team range from both a fit and performance perspective. so if the fit was dialed, how did they perform?
i have to admit, while the pro team tights will have a spot in my winter wardrobe, they don't supplant the classic tights for the coldest of cold rides. halfway through the ride as my garmin is telling me it's 20°F, i was really wishing i had my old standby. you see, one of the benefits of the existing "system" of bib shorts and tights (sans pad) is that you get a little extra insulation via layering and on this sub-freezing morning, my pistons (aka upper legs) were wishing for some extra insulation. and i'll mention this as well because, well, i have to be honest. the lack of a second layer on this frigid morning meant my junk was a tad bit chilly. i know, it's probably not something that gets talked about, but i know hardcore runners who have the same problem in the winter in terms of needing a little extra insulation in their running tights, so let's just be candid shall we? now all this being said, the tights are really nice, but i just don't think they'd be my first choice for rides where the temperature is below freezing.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Overall, i recommend these tights but my recommendation comes with conditions. if you have the extra cash or want multiple options in your winter wardrobe or you really want a solution where you don't have to layer (and don't ride when it dips below freezing), then these tights fit the bill. however, if you are looking for a single option to get you through winter, my recommendation is to stick with the classic tights, the old stand-by. knowing what i know now, i plan to wear the pro team winter tights on rides that start out in the 35-40°F range or up to 45°F if it's windy and/or rainy.
buy them for your local rapha retailer or on rapha.cc ($295)