The Rapha Classic Winter Tights are very good for cold conditions, make no bones about that, but it’s difficult to justify the £170 price tag in light of the competition.
First things first, these are unpadded bib tights, so there’s no chamois. The thinking is that you can wear your favourite bib shorts underneath.
There’s some logic to that. The additional material that comes as a consequence of wearing tights, as opposed to regular shorts as in summer, means the chamois can be pulled away from where it’s needed when pedaling. It’s not a problem we’ve experienced with many tights, particularly at this end of the market, but one that does exist.
Unpadded bib tights allow you to stick with your most comfortable shorts – the ones that you rely on during long summer rides – and lets the tights concentrate on what they’re meant to do – keeping your legs warm.
And they do that to good effect. They’re made from an Italian Thermoroubaix fabric which has a brushed fleece lining and it’s proved warm enough on rides close to zero degrees, while doubling up with a pair of shorts also helps keep things toasty. There’s no windproofing; that’s saved for Rapha’s water resistant Deep Winter Tights.
Because the tights are unpadded and your shorts will be worn next to the skin, you can also use them on consecutive days without bunging them in the washing machine, unless it’s after a particularly filthy ride, but your shorts will still need washing.
The tights are certainly comfortable, with plenty of ergonomic panels to ensure the fabric stays where it should during the pedal stroke, and there’s no bunching of material. The fit is snug but not restrictive and the fleece-lined material is soft next to the skin.
The mesh stirrups provide additional support at the bottom of the tights. Rapha say that these can be cut off if you find having material against the sole of your foot uncomfortable. The end of either leg is lined with silicone gripper, again to lock everything in place. Other features include a reinforced seat panel to improve durability and a zipped valuables pocket on the lower back – though, in reality, we haven’t found a reason to use it.
There’s also a zip at the front of the tights which extends the fleece-lined fabric up to the midriff to add more warmth, while the back and wide (therefore comfortable) bib straps are made from mesh to improve breathability. The front zip makes comfort breaks easier than if it wasn’t there, though you still have your shorts to contend with under the tights. All seams are flat-locked, so they sit comfortably next to the skin, but a couple on our sample weren’t finished to the quality we’ve come to expect from Rapha.
The tights are available in two variations of black, with either a ‘chartreuse’ or ‘white stripe’ panel on the left leg, which adds a flash of colour. A black-on-black ‘Wheelsucker’ logo is printed on the right-hand side of the seat panel.
Rapha’s Classic Winter Tights do exactly what you want from an unpadded tight but if we had the choice then we’d prefer the simplicity of a well-fitting tight with a chamois. That’s a matter of personal preference, but there’s no getting away from the fact these tights are going to leave a large hole in your wallet for an unpadded tight and up against rival high-end brands we’ve featured, including Castelli, Sportful and Le Col and Endura’s flagship Equipe range.
There are more expensive options, of course, and value is relative. If you take the numbers out of it, Rapha’s Classic Winter Tights have proved very comfortable and warm enough for typical British winter weather.
Colours: Black/Chartreuse, Black/White Stripe