Rapha Men's Trail Gore-Tex Pants — First impressions


I’m three rides in and so far I have only good things to say about the pants. Seems like a solid piece of gear with a single caveat: when worn in heavy rain, waterproof shoes with a high cuff are a must (more on that in the ride impressions).

Holy Capitalism, Batman! 300+ bucks for waterproof pants?

Yeah, that was my reaction when I first saw reports on a few cycling websites I read. The bad thing is that I was in the market for a new pair of waterproof pants because I had lost enough mass over the past few months that my Vaude pants simply didn’t fit anymore.

What I set out to find were pants that wouldn’t be used over jeans or chinos, allowing for a tighter fit suitable for foul weather road and off-road cycling and without a zippered leg cuff if possible.

After some research the contenders were the Raphas I ended up buying, the Q36.5 Rain Overpants, and the Fox Defend 3-Layer Water Pants. The Q36.5 were not advertised as off-road-worthy so despite the nice looks, I opted to order the Rapha and Fox pants because both were discounted around Black Friday.

I was honestly hoping that the Fox would come out on top because really, I didn’t see enough of a difference in quality of construction to justify the Rapha pants being more than 2× the price but … nope, that typical Fox cut that works so well for me in fair weather pants and shorts ended up a mixture of sagging on the back, constricting beneath my belly. The almost customary lack of a crotch zipper felt stupid on pants that are supposed to be waterproof. Oh and I quickly found that the elastic cuff of the Fox Defend 3L pants was tight enough to not fit over the cuff of my Shimano SH-MW702 waterproof shoes.


Pretty darn good.

Imagine a well-fitting straight cut jeans crossed with contoured MTB pants and a fabric feel like your typical high-quality 3-layer laminated membrane.

The fastening system works very well; it can be adjusted both very easily and precisely. The slightly elongated back is also a welcome design choice, reducing the chances of rain and wet, sloppy dirt from your back tire making its way up your spine.

The legs are quite long and while that may seem an odd choice at first, it makes sense the second you get on the bike and start pedaling because it ensures that cuff can rest on or barely above your shoes when pedaling or moving around on the bike.
Even only three rides in, this is something I really appreciate because my posterior tibial arteries were always covered, reducing the chances of me feeling cold in strong winds and rain.

Ride impressions

On each of the rides I did with the pants I tried testing something else. Two were done on my road bike, one on the MTB.

Mixed-surface ride, road bike, 5-ish°C, dry but windy AF

Wore the Raphas over a my padded summer MTB bib shorts and full-length merino tights. I had mid-weight below-the-calf merino socks on my feet and my go-to cycling shoes, the Specialized S-Works Recon Lace combined with a wind-proof toe cover.

I typically suffer from my lower back and the sides of my butt becoming uncomfortably cool even in supposedly wind-proof bib tights. Not this time. The combination of merino mid-layer and properly wind-proof outer layer worked super well on this pretty long ride. The long leg meant no wind was cooling out my ankles and that added to the comfort.

Road ride, road bike, 0°C average temps, rain and snow + wet roads

I paired the pants with my padded summer MTB bib shorts, long, unpadded and insulated Assos bib longs, and knee-high merino winter socks, as well as the Shimano MW-702 shoes.

The pants flowed well over the slick surface of the Assos tights and the aforementioned long legs meant that the pants stayed put over the cuff of my winter cycling shoes.

Throughout the ride I felt properly warm and didn’t overheat even on the hardest climbs of the route I chose despite a good amount of rain blocking evaporation on the membrane. Sure, I was sweaty when I got home but not wet from rain, snow, or road spray.

Off-road + trail ride, MTB, 10°C, windy and later the heavens opened up

This time I wore regular and slightly warmer padded bib shorts, no tights, some crew height mid-weight merino socks, my S-Works Recon Lace shoes + wind-proof toe cover. It was going to be a lot of climbing and sweating up the hills here and I also wanted to find out how the fabric of the pants felt on my skin and it wasn’t bad but also not as nice as with flowy non-membrane fabrics.

It was supposed to rain that day but only later in the afternoon and that’s why I didn’t wear my waterproof shoes. Well, halfway up and not even halfway into the route it started to rain and then it poured.

This is where I get back to the caveat I mentioned at the very beginning: when there’s rain, high-cuffed waterproof shoes are a must. The well-fitting elastic cuff of the pants funneled all of the rain, spray, and dirt into my shoes. Within minutes my cycling shoes were full of water and I was starting to get cold.

Even so: my legs stayed dry and comfortable and I got home in a good state, my feet being the exception. I rinsed off my waterproof jacket and pants in the shower and was glad that all of the muck and rain didn’t penetrate.

Here’s to more rides

The mixed surface ride and this very mucky trail ride covered the pants in dust and wet dirt and I’m happy that there’s no sign of abrasion so far. I’d be seriously alarmed if it were the case for a piece of gear so expensive but you never know.

The great fit is inviting and I’ll be wearing them often this winter.

Alex Hoffmann @mangochutney