Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts review - not just for Sunday best

All the quality you'd expect from Rapha but without the eye-watering price tag

Female cyclist wearing the Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts
(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

The Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts will suit riders who want a good quality set of bibs for everyday riding. They have a great fit and feel as well as being extremely comfortable. They're also substantial enough to cope with a lack of care and attention that comes at the end of a commute or an opportunistic ride.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    Robust enough for day-to-day wear

  • +

    Great fit and comfort

  • +

    Well contoured and flat seams

  • +

    Comfortable chamois

  • +

    Range of colors

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    A little too heavyweight for warmer days

  • -

    No easy-pee system

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Launched in 2021, the Core Collection is Rapha kit that is designed and priced for everyday wear. As a traditionalist who sees Rapha as high-end kit that should only be worn on fanciest of Sundays, I was rather fearful of damnation as I took a footloose and fancy-free attitude to riding in the Women’s Core Bib Shorts and comparing them to the rest of the best women’s bib shorts.

Female cyclist wearing the Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts: construction

Made from a dense-knit fabric the Rapha Core Bib Shorts are robust and modest, there’s no translucent patches to worry about on the thighs or bum. Seams are flat-locked and positioned to minimise the risk of chafing. The silicon leg grippers sit on an elasticated band.

The dual density chamois is size specific so not overly bulky or scant regardless of the size and is very neatly flat-lock stitched.

The Core Bib Shorts are available in six sizes from XXS (waist 24” / 61cm) to XL (waist 34” / 86cm) and three colors (black, navy or burgundy).

Pad of the Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts: the ride

As they’re designed to be, the Rapha Core Bib Shorts are relatively middle ground in terms of cut and feel. Not too high, not too low, nothing fancy and nothing overly clever.

The chamois is dual-foam Classic chamois is quite dense, a style that I favor. It’s well contoured in the shorts so sits evenly too. My bum was perfectly happy on rides of over four hours and even after a couple of hours on the indoor trainer.

Leg gripper of the Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

The ‘dense-knit’ material is relatively heavy but not so much that it hits you in the face (or bum); they have a nice feel and are well contoured without any rucking and the seams sit unnoticeably. As the lycra is more robust than lighter-weight shorts the Cores have been great on the commute, under baggies and on off-road rides.

In terms of coverage, the leg is fairly long in length. I’m 5’6” with a fairly standard length limbs and they came an inch or two above my knee. The silicon gripper on the leg band did its job without any unwanted tightness and bulging.

Waistband of the Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts

Tucked in feel from the high, double thickness waist

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

The front of the bibs sit quite high so give a “well-tucked-in” feel which is emphasised by the double thickness broad waistband. The bibs themselves are the same material as the shorts which means they aren’t as lightweight as many other meshed materials (like the Sportful Classic). There’s a nice stretch to the bibs which combined with the broad shoulder straps makes them very comfortable.

The thicker material and cut of the bibs does make the Rapha Core Bib Shorts warmer than many others so they’re not the best on hotter days or longer rides.

The inside of the leg bands on the Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

Rapha Women's Core Bib Shorts: value and conclusion

At $134 / £110 the Rapha Core Bib Shorts is the cheapest in Rapha’s collection by a good way. You need to spend half your money again for the Pro Team Training Bib Shorts ($210 / £165).  By this measure, the Core Bib Shorts are a great option for most riders and are certainly the more affordable option in Rapha's range.

Away from the Rapha collection, the Core Bib Shorts perform very similarly to offerings from other manufacturers at this price point. Cut-wise the Cores are similar to the Sportful Classic Bib Shorts ($140 / £105) - that said, the Core’s more robust material makes them better for everyday riding. The material of the Velocio Foundation Bib Shorts ($129 / £105) is similar to the Rapha Cores although they have a shorter leg and less extensive bib coverage which makes them feel a little less practical.

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Rachel has been writing about and reviewing bike tech for the last 10 years. Cynical by nature, Rachel never really trusts the marketing hype and prefers to give products a mighty good testing before deciding whether they're worth buying or not. 

Rachel's first riding love is mountain biking where she's been European and UK 24hr Champion on more than one occasion. She's not just confined to the trails though and regularly rides - and occasionally races - on gravel and road too.