Rapha Men's Powerweave Bib Shorts review

Expensive but high performance aero bib shorts whatever the level of racing

Rapha Powerweave bib shorts
(Image credit: Future)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

If racers have the money and fancy bib shorts that aren't just black with a small logo on, the Powerweave bib shorts are a brilliant purchase. Incredibly quick drying is a massive plus, but there's no hiding from the price.

For
  • +

    Compressive fit

  • +

    Incredibly quick drying

  • +

    Aero features

  • +

    Stylish

  • +

Against
  • -

    Expensive

  • -

    Only two colours

I always laugh at sports marketing, and wonder how anyone can really believe such hilarity. Rapha’s mumbo jumbo is at least always poetic, and in selling their Powerweave bib shorts, they claim that they are “made for race-winning movement.”

I hate to be the one to break it to them, but no-one ever won a bike race because of their bib shorts.

But not taking it too literally, it’s in their press release that we get a firm idea who the Powerweave shorts are intended to impress: racers and those who want to go fast. And, to give them their credit, the bib shorts rise to the occasion. 

The British brand claim that the very light fabric they've used (the total bib shorts weigh a measly 180 grams) improves the management of moisture and it’s hard to disagree: I tested these out days on end in a week-long heatwave and they retained their breathability, never once sagging under the weight of an ever-increasing amount of sweat. They do, as they claim, appear to wick sweat away even quicker and dry incredibly fast. 

An unexpected downpour half way up Alpe d’Huez left me sodden, but within 10 minutes of taking shelter inside a cafe, the shorts were mostly dry again. If they can withstand a mountain deluge, they can certainly cope with sweaty efforts.

There are only seven panels to the shorts, and it has to be said that while they never irritated in any spot or caused chafing, the seam just to the outside of the chamois pad did leave an imprint in my inner thighs after every long ride. It never caused me pain or discomfort, and was only noticed upon stripping off, but its mark was undeniable.

Rapha Powerweave bib shorts

(Image credit: Future)

Every bib shorts ultimately depends on its chamois, and the one used in the Powerweave bib shorts cannot be faulted. I wore these bib shorts on five particularly long days out in the saddle, and the chamois pad remained stable and comfortable. The best compliment I can always give to a chamois is that if I don’t notice it, it’s doing well. And it was only in thinking about this review was I conscious of the chamois. Following a quick wash and rinse post-ride, it wasn’t long before the chamois was dry; Rapha will point to the 5mm quick-drying high-density foam as the reason.

The leg grippers are devoid of seams and are as compressive as the rest of the shorts, sitting exactly where you placed them without being suffocating. That’s a nod to the whole shorts, too: they’re breathable, compressive but don’t feel too tight. Aerodynamics is clearly important for anyone who opts for these shorts, and there were never any wrinkles or creases, meaning aero optimisation marks scored high.

As for the bib straps, they come with a large space of fabric at the top to sit over the back. They’re more flexible than they appear, the straps appearing to resist any initial tug. But don’t be fooled, they will sit and stay, and won’t irritate you.

I’m not going to say these are the best bib shorts I’ve ever tried on (my main gripe is that the high length of the front panel makes toilet breaks that bit more difficult which isn’t ideal on longer rides when you’re stopping more than just once), but they’re up there for sure.

Rapha Powerweave bib shorts

(Image credit: Future)

They are high-performance, designed for a race or important event in mind. They’re stylish, too. Too many manufacturers restrict themselves by going for a clean, simple style - Rapha have played around, adding fancy stripes on each thigh and not being afraid to clearly write who they are, Rapha largely embolden on each side. It looks cool. A criticism, though, is that there are only two colourways, and while I was a fan of the small navy/green shorts that I tested, I have to admit that they don’t match with many colourful or vibrant jerseys.

Of course, you’re paying for them. At £295, it’s a very big chunk taken out of anyone’s wallet. But if you’re racing - whether that be road races, crits or on the track - you can’t really go wrong with the Powerweave bib shorts. Every millisecond counts in cycle racing, and the aero gains promised in these shorts might just prove the difference after all.

For adventure and multi-day riding? They won’t let you down, but there’s more appropriate shorts on the market.

Now you’ve just got to ask yourself where that spare few hundred quid lying around is. 

Specifications

Colours: Navy/green and dark grey/navy
Sizes: XS - XXL
Price: £295/€350/$395
Website: Rapha.cc (opens in new tab)

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Chris Marshall-Bell
Chris Marshall-Bell

Chris first started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2013 on work experience and has since become a regular name in the magazine and on the website. Reporting from races, long interviews with riders from the peloton and riding features drive his love of writing about all things two wheels.


Probably a bit too obsessed with mountains, he was previously found playing and guiding in the Canadian Rockies, and now mostly lives in the Val d’Aran in the Spanish Pyrenees where he’s a ski instructor in the winter and cycling guide in the summer. He almost certainly holds the record for the most number of interviews conducted from snowy mountains.