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First Look - Rapha Performance Trailwear MTB Line 2

The high-end cycling garment brand officially enters the mountain bike landscape.

First Look - Rapha Performance Trailwear MTB Line

What if there existed a way to experience the same exceptional performance, comfort, and durability of high-end athleisure brands on a trail ride with your crew, and not get made fun of? Rapha has you covered. Traditionally a road brand, Rapha has officially crossed over from the world of pavement. Meet Rapha Performance Trailwear, a complete line of MTB apparel. We headed to the single track in Truckee, CA and Incline Village, NV to put some laps on these threads and offer our first impression.

Highlights

  • Recycled construction materials
  • Repair patches included
  • Free repair options available
  • Men and Women lines
  • Bib shorts feature rear pockets
  • Dual zippered pockets on Trail Shorts
  • Men's 3/4 and regular T-style jersey
  • Women's sleeveless and regular T-style jersey
  • Clothing places emphasis on moister wicking and heat management

The Lineup

Rapha has a men's and women's line with shorts, jerseys, and jackets. A line of accessories also accompanies the new line. In addition to claiming durability and high-stress testing, Rapha is purporting to deliver a more conscientious product via environmentally preferred, recycled fabrics. A visible step Rapha has taken is the inclusion of repair patches with its garments. The included patches are leftover materials from original construction. Rapha also touts free garment repair for customers, thus improving overall life of your gear.

 

Rapha has one outer short for men and women, dubbed the Trail short, and offered in several colors for each. Flexing its road heritage, Rapha has a men's Trail Cargo Bib short and women's Trail Short liner. There are multiple jerseys, all of them with low-key design work. Topping off the main trail gear is a lightweight jacket.

Women's Lightweight Trail Jacket - $180
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Women's Trail Tech T - $75
Women's Trail Tech T - $75

Initial Impressions

We were impressed, but not surprised, by the high-quality construction and lightweight technical, fabric blends that composed all of the gear. Rapha’s years of experience delivering top-notch cycling apparel to discerning roadies has carried over into this all-new line of mountain bike apparel. Not only does the entire range deliver on performance, Rapha served it up with a clean and refined style that had us looking dialed but not flashy. The straight-forward aesthetic is clean and understated.

Men's Trail Tech T - $75
Men's Trail 3/4 Sleeve - $100
Trail Shorts - $150
Trail Shorts - $150

On The Trail

We put the Rapha gear to the test at two locations in the Lake Tahoe region. The first was a maze of technical single track in Truckee, CA and the next was a downhill shuttle in Incline Village, NV. Our after work loop in Truckee involved a little under 2k feet of climbing in the pine trees and an equal amount of downhill splendor. It was around 66-degrees and trail conditions were a little loose but in great shape for Tahoe in a drought. This is the type of trail that has countless optional doubles and rock jibs if you know when and where to hit them, and we hit them all. Our DH shuttle laps were hot in more ways than one. It was in the mid 80’s, even at 9000 ft. The trail was all the same- fast and loose. We went incredibly fast, broke both tires loose, soared over piles of granite, and did it again.

Men's Tech T

Thanks to the lightweight fabric and ultra-comfortable neckline of Trail Technical Tee and Trail 3/4 Tee, it was easy to forget we were wearing it and put all the focus on hitting every feature on the trail. In all seriousness, this lightweight fabric feels like both nothing at all and something really tough at the same time. Our shuttle laps were rough enough to make our hands sore the next day and both jerseys felt like enough coverage. Our tester is always oscillating between medium and large jerseys depending on brand. Most larges are a little too roomy and mediums can be too short in the sleeves and waste. While the size large that we tested did fit a tad loose, we liked the longer sleeve length on the Trail Tee and think a medium would be too short at the waist.

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The Trail Shorts are also lightweight yet give a durable feel. We really liked that there are adjustable waste straps that do not include scratchy Velcro. Additionally, we loved that there are side pockets on both sides. We were able to keep our phone in one pocket and a snack in the other pocket. The size medium shorts were the right fit for our 31-inch waste line and 32-inch inseam. We had the adjustment straps almost all the way loosened, so a rider any bigger at the waste might do better in a large.

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The Trail Cargo Bibs are in a class of their own, or perhaps, a class called road cycling. We never knew we could feel this comfortable while climbing in the seated position. The Trail Cargo Bibs prompted us to rethink many things. While these bibs cannot reverse the laws of physics, we almost forgot that we should be in pain. We are still adjusting to the wonders of bib life and did not use the storage pockets on the back, but more storage can’t be bad. The size medium bibs that we tested fit perfectly, but the sensation of wearing suspenders took some getting used too.

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The Trail Lightweight Jacket did not get any action on our test rides. It was just too warm and dry. It did accompany us to the café and will probably continue to be worn off the trail as well as well as on the trail. Don’t be mistaken though, this very light, yet durable jacket has a purpose. It will block the wind and keep you dry and do it all while stretching as you move. The size large fit us well and a medium would have been the wrong size. Truthfully, the $180 price tag is up there but Rapha has us thinking this jacket will last a lifetime.

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Things That Could Be Improved

The old saying goes, “You get what you pay for,” and that is true here. The price for entry into the Rapha Trail line is steep but the reward is also high. There are no obvious shortcomings of the Rapha gear other than cost. We found ourselves wondering if we would enjoy a lens wiper or hidden pocket integrated into the t-shirt. Either of those features might have added weight to a seemingly weightless shirt, and truthfully, we own other brands with both of those features and don’t use them. In our opinion $150 for shorts with no liner included is very expensive and they don’t do anything special other than promise to last forever. Spending $135 on the bibs might be worth it, they are amazing, and no one needs to know what’s underneath those clapped-out clearance rack shorts you refuse to wash.

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Long Term Durability

Without having tested Rapha’s garments for a very long time, our hunch is that the entire line is quite durable and will serve us for years of going very fast on bikes in the woods. Should you rip your garment in the event of an unplanned encounter with the trail surface, Rapha includes repair patches made from extra material with most of their products. We fully expect to use a few of these patches on the shoulders of the Trail Technical Tee or elbows on the 3/4 Tee. If you really screw things up badly, most pieces of Rapha Performance Trailwear can be sent back to them for free repair.

Women's Trail Short - $150
Women's Trail Short - $150

What's The Bottom Line?

Rapha delivers performance, style, sustainability and durability all at a price some riders may not be able to afford. Conversely, riders will purchase fewer items, less frequently after the larger initial investment. It’s impossible to please everyone, but every Rapha Trail product we tested felt really great against the skin, comfortable on the climbs, and performed flawlessly on the descents. We have come to accept paying more for other brands like Patagonia because we acknowledge that superior craftsmanship, repairs for the life of a garment, and environmentally preferred manufacturing are worth the investment.

Visit rapha.cc for more information and the complete line.


About The Reviewer

John Armbruster - Age: 42 // Years Riding MTB: 20 // Height: 5'11" (1.778m) // Weight: 157-pounds (71.2kg)

John has spent enough time mountain biking to witness the technical evolution of our sport and its bikes. Fads have come and gone but the fun never dies. He won't say no to a new trail or another lap, and when the bikes are clapped, John has the mechanical experience to revive his rigs from the ground up. Once resuscitated, he's back on the trail, clocking the miles, vert, and shenanigans.


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