Shorts with pockets in the side, brilliant, but not for the reason Rapha decided to market them by, I had to get me some of those.
I like to wear loose tops on long distance rides, which generally means no pockets for stuff at stops. After years of stuffing cash and my phone down my shorts leg I had side pockets to carry the things you need off the bike, brilliant.
Raphas whole marketing of this frankly brilliant idea seems to be based around stuffing the pockets for use on the move. Try it and you’ll see just how sweaty your legs get when your Gels and phone are cutting off the escape path for the moisture those thighs are generating. The pockets are great, unobtrusive, and do hold stuff very well on the move; but apart from a great place to stuff your shades when it rains, that’s not my thing.
After a couple of long rides, it was appearing that these were the go-to shorts for long-distance rides. The pad seems to be of a low level design without breathing grooves, but for me, it was very comfortable. The fit was good, the leg grippers worked well and I had already wanted a second pair, and then I noticed the damage.
The material on the pad seemed to be picking up, bobbling and the seam had completely gone on one side. I checked my saddle, even having someone check where the contact patch was when I pedalled. Nothing was obvious no sharp seams etc. Once you started to look it was obvious that the fabric used was not going to last long, it just seems to “catch” even rubbing it with a rough skinned hand. Now as part of the marketing for these is gravel riding and roughty toughty long rides something seemed wrong.
After only a few weeks use I was horrified as this is the kind of purchase I expected to last me years of very hard use, just like all the shorts I’ve previously paid good money for. I reluctantly accepted that something I had done must had caused the damage, and fixed the seam with some stitching.
Contacting Rapha they stated that the fabric used on these was very soft compared to most other shorts i would be used to, no shit Sherlock. To be honest you’d have to take care when ever you sit down on a wooden bench with these, and if you go off road and mix in some typical mud paste, well good luck.
As a comparison these are my ALE Gorilla shorts, they are Lycra, about the same price and totally abused. Faded scared, the pad pretty squashed but all the stitching is intact. It does have some pickup on the material on the same side, but again I cannot find any place on the brookes saddle that could cause this. The brass Rivets are polished and flush with the leather, but something is going on down that left side.
After the Race around Holland where I wore these shorts for 6 days, literally, it was even more gutting that they are not more durable. They were fantastic, so comfortable, very breathable and I can’t go on epic rides without pockets again. I’m just going to ride these to destruction, it’s a shame it will come so soon.
Come the time for the Transiberica race the shorts now only six months old were surviving with a few more stitching repairs, and luckily not causing any internal skin abrasions. They had a great test doing 3000 miles round Spain and Portugal and again were superbly comfortable but pretty soon there was another problem, they looked like Shit!
Now Rapha must expect these shorts to get some pretty basic washing, well their original promo film Explore showed epic riders Jesse Carlson and Sarah Hammond putting them through their paces in far-flung tough rides. Well, it seemed doing the travel dude wash in the shower every few days was too much for these fragile babies. It appeared the waterproof coating was failing. Frankly the shorts started to look like you had spilled your breakfast down them, it was embarrassing, even for a hobo bikepacker, you just had to live with it.
I have enjoyed wearing these shorts so much, do I just accept them as wear items; Some will pay this much for a pair of tyres and get less use from them
Reading the on-line reviews it seems I’m not alone in the problems I’ve had, it’s a shame these could be my perfect short and I’d buy nothing else for life if they were more durable. Are the £195 “not core” version the answer to that; well according to the reviews they have other problems.
For now I think I could be buying another faithful pair of ALE shorts and cutting off the side pockets from the Rapha ones and sewing them into the legs. Durable and practical.