The Rapha softshell trousers are the most “specialist” pants I’m probably ever going to test. I bought these in the middle of a lousy winter and that’s what they’re for. Rapha advertise the softshell trousers as for “the worst the city can throw at you” and that’s about right – you can cycle through a blizzard in these bad boys. They shrug off downpours, freezing temperatures, snow, hail; whatever, whilst still letting your skin breathe. They make the days when you’d normally say “no chance” possible. The softshell construction and waterproof coating make these without doubt the most weatherproof trousers I’ve owned.
They do that, of course, whilst retaining Rapha’s famous tailored good looks. They’re full of clever details – an abrasion resistant seat panel matched up to a waterproof neoprene panel to catch tyre spray at the very back are somehow styled into the cut to look like a design feature. The taped seams and superb tailoring mean they fit like a glove and remain comfortable when you’re in the most uncomfortable situations – like in the middle of a downpour.
A pair of these would not look out of place anywhere – they may be tough as old boots, but they look like a million dollars. Which is almost what they cost – if you buy these at full price (rather than in one of Rapha’s regular sales HINT HINT), you’re looking at £110 a pair – (so make sure you get the right size). Quality does cost however and the quality of materials, cut and overall finish mean that these are worth every penny.
The only faults with these pants are the flip-sides of their plus points… They’re made to be warm in the winter and that they are – whilst you’re riding through a blizzard. Unfortunately, what normally happens at the end of such a ride is that we climb off the bike into a nicely heated office. Whilst the pants let your legs breathe, the Brushed lining is simply too warm to sit indoors in for any length of time. I teamed these with a pair of merino boxers one cold winter day and within 2 hours sitting at my desk I had sweat running down my legs. This is a major fail for me for trousers branded as “city” (ie commuter) trousers. If you’re going to wear them, you will need a pair of suit trousers at the other end – which, after being stuffed in your rucksack will look nowhere near as good as the Softshells!
Secondly, softshell rustles. Which you sort of expect from a sporty, weatherproof jacket – it’s unnerving coming from a pair of beautifully tailored suit trousers.
Thirdly – well, it’s the waterproof coating in combination with the “breathing” pores I suppose…. If you’re riding in a downpour then you’re probably wearing overshoes too right? Well, I made the mistake of tucking the pants into the overshoes and, well the trousers inflated like a pair of balloons tied to my legs… NOT A GOOD LOOK!
[Update (21st Jun 2012) in order to check that I wasn’t being unfair, I tried the softshells out again today – it was chucking it down this morning, so I figured they were appropriate. Everything I wrote above was true again. They’re just too warm. To the extent that I was really slowed down on the way home (when it was still raining, but not so heavily) – the pants were heavy and waterlogged (although my legs were dry, they were so hot I was sweating!) They’re too heavy to roll up effectively and they really became a hindrance.]
I’m a real Rapha fan. A raphanista if you like, but I’m afraid I really can’t recommend these trousers. I live in the north of England and even cycling every day in the middle of winter can only find maybe two or three days where I can justify them – and then I’d have to take a pair of regular pants to change in to when I got to work. They’re just too damn hot for commuter pants, they rustle and they inflate if you tuck ’em in your socks. It’s a shame, because they’re beautifully tailored but for me they struggle to a measly