Rapha has nailed the comfort of these shorts from the off – even without the cargo capacity they would be a great buy for their mid-range price tag. Considering the extra versatility offered by the cargo pockets for essentially no downside (the amount of extra material is very small), there's not much of a reason for anyone not to choose these.
Pockets are practical and secure
Quality materials and good chamois
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Rapha’s Core Cargo Bib Shorts are a great addition to the wardrobe of any adventurous cyclist looking for an extra bit of storage space for those longer rides.
Comfortable, stylish and practical, they are well suited to different disciplines and riders. Even though they lie in a relatively niche area of the market they are still some of the best bib shorts we have tested this year.
I’ve always liked the idea of having pockets on shorts, and my first pleasant surprise in the design was more pockets than expected. Not only do the bibs have storage on each leg, but there's additional capacity on the rear bib straps themselves.
Having as many pockets as you would expect on a normal jersey means you are covered for anything from fixed gear T-shirt cruising, to eight hour epics – with twice the storage space.
Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts: sizing and style
I had the Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts on test in a medium size and found them to be a good fit for me. At 6 foot tall and only weighing 64kg, I’m not the most stocky rider, so I often find it tricky to find shorts that don't ride up. Rapha passes the test here: I wouldn’t say the shorts are ludicrously tight fitting, but the grippers do a great job – and even on off-season hairy legs, they were pretty comfy.
The styling is good, too. Classy and relatively discrete, the pockets add some texture to the side of each leg without shouting too loud about your 'trendy' gravel outings on every group road ride.
One personal gripe I have with the styling is the gripper, though. I have always been one for a slightly chunkier hem on the bottom of the shorts. To me, having something thinner feels slightly less premium – and this does make these shorts distinguishable from Rapha's Team Edition Cargos, which are more than twice the price.
Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts: comfort and function
In my time riding with the Core Cargos, I have to say, I have been impressed. The chamois is great, especially for this price point. Admittedly, the chamois doesn't rank amongst the very best on the market – but then these aren't a set of > $250 / £200 bib shorts so that shouldn't be expected.
Anyway, beyond this point you are very much starting to get into the realm of diminishing returns and marginal gains anyway – there was plenty of padding for on and off road riding and not once was I in discomfort even on longer rides in the Oxfordshire countryside.
Neither did I have any issues with labels itching or stitching rubbing, so that’s good to see - it stands up to the high quality we've expect from Rapha, at all price tiers of their range.
The pockets themselves are great. I had assumed that the pockets on the legs would be gimmicky and uncomfortable when packed full, but this just isn’t the case.
By making the pockets quite long and deep down the length of the leg, you are free to pack them thinly so they don't bulge. As a result, even laden with a phone and a couple of bars, after the first few seconds of riding you don’t notice these are there.
The leg pockets are secure too - the cut of the pocket in combination with the elastic at the top encourages items down into the pocket rather than them riding up - in a few hundred kilometres I didn't lose anything.
The pockets on the bib straps were great too, although unless opting for more casual attire on the upper half, I didn’t end up using them all that much. Although a great size for a rain cape, or arm warmers, I found under a pocketed jersey they bulged too much on one side or the other to be comfortable.
That said, for bikepackers or gravel racers, where storing as much food and as many spares as possible is paramount, it is something that could be worked around with the right packing. And if you're opting for a casual Tee on your top half, this extra storage capacity is very welcome.
Rapha Core Cargo Bib Shorts: value and conclusion
I think the Rapha Core Cargos sit at a quite a reasonable price point. Rapha is a premium brand and offering such a level of practicality for around the $140 / £100 mark is good to see - they aren’t cheap, but the quality is there to back up the price tag.
For comparison, Specialized's RBX Adventure Bib Short W/ SWAT come in at $180 / £100. This makes them a fair bit more expensive in the US – and in the UK, the Rapha shorts would still be the better buy for most people are the straps are a little short without so much give.
The Rapha Core Cargo bib shorts are an excellently designed addition to the cycling wardrobe of anyone at the more adventurous end of the riding spectrum.
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