The Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Tights provide good levels of warmth and weather protection, together with a comfortable chamois pad. The bib strap and buckle design for easy loo stops is straightforward and effective too. Fantastic quality, but pricey with it.
Designed for the worst of winter, these full length bib tights have plenty of features that show great attention to detail for the needs of women riding in cold conditions. As well as being made with a tough but lightweight three-layer fabric, including windproof and water-repellent panels at the front and Thermoroubaix fabric at the back, the broad stretch straps are designed to sit around the outside of the bust, and a heavy duty magnetic clasp at the back allows for pee stops without having to strip off.
The tights are designed to have a sleek race fit, and thanks to the windproof fabric they take a bit of wriggling to get into, though they aren't over-snug for their size. Rapha says they are designed to be snug and that those who are borderline on sizing might want to size up, but I felt no need, with the size large tested being fine for my generous 14. (It's not me in the photos, that's Tass who's a couple of inches taller than me and closer to a size 12.)
Length in the leg will be ample for riders taller than my 5ft 5in frame, but wrinkling was not a problem, although I suspect shorter riders might find it so. There was a little fabric left over in terms of length, but it didn't cause any comfort issues.
The bib straps are soft and comfortable, and because they sit around the outside of the bust they should easily accommodate a range of sizes.
Given the windproof panels on these, I was quite pleasantly surprised by the ease of getting them on and adjusted. They needed little in the way of tugging and stayed put very well.
I also had no issues with binding on the legs once on, and pedalling felt similar to more pliable non-wind resistant tights, even in hilly conditions that leave your quads on the pumped side.
The levels of warmth were perfect on days hovering around zero, and they saw off freezing winds. The water repellency is enough to deal with road water and reasonably heavy rain, and my legs have stayed warm and dry throughout testing, with no sweatiness or discomfort even when working hard. These are aimed at demanding riders and it shows. No matter what I threw at them, they delivered on comfort and just the right amount of protection for UK winters.
The chamois pad looked on the basic side when I first tried them, but I soon found it to be pliable and comfortable yet pleasantly unobtrusive. It's one of those pads you forget about, which says a lot.
Aside from the great fit, excellent levels of warmth and ride comfort, and protection from all but the very worst weather, the major draw of these bib tights is the clever drop seat design that allows for easier loo stops, the bane of every female rider's winter. Rather than having to bare it all, the magnetic buckle design on these simply unclips and allows for the super-stretchy yet tough fabric at the lumbar area to be pulled down. The buckle is easily reached from below a jacket and jersey, and just about workable without removing gloves if that's important to you.
It's eye-openingly easy and straightforward, and makes winter rides much less stressful – and less chilly – though I did have a small issue with tucking my baselayer top back in again afterwards. The fabric of the waist area is quite slippery and snug, and I had to take my gloves off at that point, but it was a quick job, so not disastrous.
There's no getting away from the fact that £210 is a lot of money for a pair of bib tights, but if you consider the protection and features on offer, compared with others they're not completely off the wall.
Castelli's Nano Flex Pro 2 W bib tights are more protective and £20 less at £190, but they don't have any sort of pee-stop technology, and an extra £20 feels like a good investment to me for the ease of the Raphas in this arena.
You can buy very good bib tights for less, like Castelli's Velocissima bib tights (£120) and Iris's Signature Winter Bib Tight Light (£135), but neither are weather-resistant designs, and are better suited to dry chilly days than deep winter. The Castelli tights have no pee-stop tech either, though the Iris ones use a similar magnetic clasp concept to Rapha's. Sportful's Bodyfit Pro Women's Bibtights (£150) do offer some weather protection, but not as much as the Rapha's.
Although the Rapha Pro Team Winter Tights are pricey, bearing in mind the features, protection, warmth, comfort and that handy pull-down design, they are a good investment if you have the dosh. They offer excellent quality, comfort and a really good design, together with a sleek silhouette and low weight that'll please competitive riders. Definitely an investment, but a worthwhile one that should last.
Top notch winter tights offering comfort, protection, warmth and easy pee-stops – expensive, but worth the investment
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Pro Team Winter Tights
Size tested: Large
Tell us what the product is for
Aimed at performance orientated female cyclists looking for comfort and some weather protection.
Rapha says, ' When the temperature drops, these padded winter tights will keep you warm and training hard, and also feature a breakthrough clasp-system for quick removal without compromising comfort.
'The combination of warmth and racing performance is tough to achieve because insulation usually results in a bulkier garment. But with the Women's Pro Team Winter Tights, you'll stay warm and comfortable through a wide range of effort, at the same time as staying sleek and fast for times when the pace picks up. The tights feature a three-layer fabric that offers water resistance to the front, and warm yet breathable thermoroubaix panels at the back, while a high waist and thermal uppers provides further warmth for your torso. A women's-specific chamois pad with a fully moulded, seamless construction balances support and speed.
'When nature calls, a magnetic clasp at the bottom of the upper section can be released with one hand, enabling you to relieve yourself without removing your jersey. Positioned neatly below the rear pockets of your jersey, the clasp is constructed with injection molded plastic for long-lasting strength. Designed for winter training when skies darken earlier, reflective logos and elements feature throughout.
'Our Pro Team range has a closer fit. If you're unsure which size will offer you the most comfort, our updated size guides can help you find the perfect size.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Main fabric: 54% Polyester, 32% Nylon, 14% Elastane
Panels:85% Nylon, 15% Elastane
Magnetic clasp at rear for bib section
Padded panel behind magnetic clasp
Women's specific chamois pad
Wind resistant and water repellent panels
Machine washable at 30
Available in sizes XXS-XL
Superbly made from top notch fabrics and well finished.
Comfortable, protective, warm and with an incredibly easy to use pee-stop solution. The only snag was the slight difficulty in tucking in again after a stop.
Very well made; no reason to suspect they won't last very well if treated as per the manufacturer's instructions. A top-up with a reproofing wash will help maintain weatherproofing.
Excellent shape and stretch, especially taking into account the stiffer windproof fabric panels; good length in the legs and torso for medium or taller riders, but riders who are particularly short might find them a little long.
Rapha says they are a neat fit, which was my experience, but neat and sleek rather than tight. I wouldn't go up a size.
Good weight for their levels of protection and warmth.
Superbly comfortable in terms of fabric, warmth, protection, breathability and also the chamois pad.
Undeniably expensive, but they offer more protection and features than some slightly cheaper options. For more protection and a pee-stop-friendly design, you're looking at spending even more. If you're a hardcore winter rider, these will make things much more comfortable and they are excellent quality.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to look after, clean up very well.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Superb performance and comfort.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quality, the quick-exit magnetic bib buckle, their wind and water resistance, warmth.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Slightly tricky to tuck in baselayers at waist after pee stops, expensive.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Castelli's Nano Flex Pro 2 W bib tights are more protective and £20 less at £190, but don't have any sort of pee-stop technology. Sportful's Bodyfit Pro Women's Bibtights are £150 but don't offer as much protection as the Rapha's. The Assos Habu Tights Laalalai S7 bib tights are more expensive at £235, as are Rapha's own Shadow Souplesse Tights at £270, but they are more protective.
You can get very good bib tights for less, like the Castelli Velocissimas at £120 and the Iris Signature Winter Bib Tight Light at £135, but those aren't weather-resistant designs, and the Castelli has no pee-stop tech.
Did you enjoy using the product? Very much. Repeatedly.
Would you consider buying the product? Definitely, if I saved up enough.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Without hesitation.
Use this box to explain your overall score
These are exceptional bib tights, but undeniably expensive. The build quality, exceptional attention to detail, and great features like the easy to use solution to winter pee-stops justify the price, if you have the money. They are warm, protective and well made, and should last well. Expensive, but if you're a hardcore winter rider, they're worth the investment.
About the tester
I usually ride: Liv Invite My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb,
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.