Rapha Men's Explore Pants review - not quite what we were expecting

Trousers for adventures which are a little short on bike features

Male cyclist wearing the Rapha Explore Pants
(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)
Cycling Weekly Verdict

Rather than a dedicated cycling trousers, Rapha Men's Explore Pants are for all kinds of outdoor pursuits. This adaptability is useful but does mean they're not the best trousers for regular riding. The lightweight stretchy material allows plenty of movement, and is abrasion resistant and treated with DWR to repel scuffs and water. Sizing is a bit small and the cut isn't great around the crotch and bum which isn't what we're used to with Rapha.

Reasons to buy
  • +

    The stretch of the material gives a good fit and allows lots of movement

  • +

    Features and material means they suit lots of activities

  • +

    Good sized, well placed pockets

  • +

    Small pack size to stash as extra layer

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Come up small in comparison to sizing chart and similar Rapha bottoms

  • -

    Cut and seams around crotch and rear aren’t flattering

  • -

    No reinforced areas where wear is higher

  • -

    Press stud waist fastening is small and fiddly

  • -

    No women’s fit

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After reviewing Rapha’s Technical Trousers last year, our tester has rarely been spotted – on or off the bike – wearing anything else. Would the Rapha Explore Pant be enough to coax his legs out and how would they compare to the rest of our best bicycle commute trousers? We crept in under the cover of darkness to make the swap and waited to see how things turned out.

Adjustable cuff of the Rapha Explore Pants

Short leg and adjustable cuff to keep out your chain and off your shoes

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

Rapha Men's Explore Pants: construction

Rather than cycling trousers that can be worn for other things, the Rapha Explore Pants are designed for those ‘other things’ and cycling too.

This means the trousers balance some bike fit features (like a one piece gusset with taped seams and elastic drawstrings on the ankles) with general outdoor-activity ones like zipped pockets and a belt.

Zipped thigh pockets of the Rapha Explore Pants

Large zipped thigh pockets

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

The fabric is lightweight, has a nice stretch and is quick drying as well as being DWR treated for water repellence. There’s a definite nylon feel to the Adventure pants which is reminiscent of the early 1990s teenage shell suit. The lightweight material means they roll up quite small and – although I don’t think it’s been designed to do this – can be easily invert these into one of the pockets for a neat package.

Unlike on lots of other riding trousers none of the high-wear areas are reinforced so long term durability may not be great. The material is "abrasion resistant" though so should cope with brambles and scuffs. 

There are two zipped leg pockets and two small high-cut front pockets but no rear ones.  

Front pockets of the Rapha Explore Pants

Deep front pockets

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

Rapha Men's Explore Pants: Fit

The Explore Pants have quite a slim, casual fit with a low rise waist and short leg. They are available in six sizes (XS – XXL) and three colorways (brick and grey; two tone grey; all black). As with Rapha’s Technical Trousers, the Explores aren’t available in a women’s fit.

We found that the pants came up quite small around the crotch and thighs in comparison to the sizing chart and our tester’s similarly cut Rapha trail shorts, so we swapped the small for a medium.

Rapha Explore Pants

The cut of the crotch makes the trousers pull across the back

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

The larger size gave a much better fit which was enhanced by the stretch of the material. The seamless-crotch design doesn't sit neatly though, causing the material to bunch under the fly and pull around the bum in a rather unflattering way.

The belt is simple and functional and its enclosed loops neat and comfortable, a good match for the trousers. The front press stud was quite small, awkward and a bit plastic; not up to the usual standard on other Rapha trousers and shorts we’ve worn.

Belt of the Rapha Explore Pants

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

Rapha Men's Explore Pants: The ride

The Explore pants function well and suit a range of outdoor adventures be it a hike, a bikepacking layer or den building in the woods. The material is cool and comfortable with the stretch allowing plenty of movement. The DWR coating easily beads water from light showers and the short leg's ankle elastic means you can keep them out your chain and off your muddy walking boots.

The pockets are generally pretty useful. The leg pockets are well positioned and the material is stretchy enough to hold a phone comfortably when riding. Their zip tabs are subtle but tactile enough that you can still get in them with summer gloved fingers. The front pockets don’t have a closure but they’re high and deep enough to keep hold of their contents.

On the downside, the flexible "outdoor activity" design means the Explores are less suited to riding. The low waist means that the back gapes and you can’t really use the front two pockets as any contents tend to restrict pedalling or dig into your leg. 

Rapha Explore Pants

Fastening small and not up to usual Rapha standards

(Image credit: Rachel Sokal)

Rapha Men's Explore Pants: Value and conclusion

At $180 / £140 the Rapha Explore Pants are most expensive pair of trousers that we’ve reviewed, even Rapha’s own Technical Trousers are (a little) less at $160.00 / £120.00. The most similar trousers that we’ve come across in terms of design and features (such as softshell appearance, versatility and DWR coating) are the Altura Grid Softshell Pants which are significantly less at $86 / £70.

All in, we’re left with mixed feelings about the Rapha Explore pants. They are really comfy, function well and achieve the aim of versatile outdoor adventure trousers. But they're not quite what we're after when riding, in particular the low back cut and lack of reinforcement. There are also some aspects like the cut, material feel and fastening that fall short of Rapha’s usual standard and what we’d expect at this price.

Rapha Men's Explore Pants: Specs

  • Size: XS - XXL
  • Colors: Brick/light grey; dark grey; black
  • Material: 88% nylon/12% elastane (main panels); 85% nylon/15% elastane (contrast)

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