The days are getting shorter and the temperatures are getting lower, which means that shorts-weather is turning into pants weather. Sadly, that means that, for the time being, my time spent in Rapha’s Randonnée shorts will be quite limited.
The first bit of Rapha gear to find it’s way into my closet was a pair of Sprinters Jeans, which have been a delight. I had resisted the siren call of Rapha until that point, but because the jeans had won me over, the shorts were given the green light.
The initial impression was good. Very good. They performed admirably on and off of the bike over those first few weeks, and after 6 months, about 1000 commuting km’s, some in 40℃ South Australian days, some in rain, and what I estimate to be around 1200 hours worth of regular wear, what do I think of them now?
In a word – negligible. For a short time I was using a saddle bag that was rubbing ever so slightly on my leg (only one side apparently) and as a result, started to wear the Randonnée shorts away a little. I ditched the bag immediately, and aside from that, they basically still look new.
The wear is unfortunate, but I suppose it is useful information for you: the shorts stand up to regular wear very well (no wear in the seat), but if you have any rough bits (stitching, material, or other details) on your saddle, a wayward saddle bag, or something similar, keep an eye on things, as the wear started to show after only a few weeks.
Other than that, it’s all good. The zips are fine, buttons and holes fine, and no wear from where I fold them (which most people will do, as they are a generous length), and of course, the seat shows no sign of wear whatsoever.
On the bike: fit
That’s why you are buying these. I’ll start off with what I usually start off with regarding shorts on the bike: fit isn’t really a problem. Shorts, being what they are, don’t pull on your knees and allow all of the freedom of movement you should need. The only real thing I can see being a potential problem is the rear being too low cut for a normal riding position, and the legs being too tight, which is usually more of a material choice error than fit (presuming they are the right size).
With that said, the Randonnée shorts are great on the bike. The material has a good amount of stretch to it, which allows them to maintain a rather tailored look (not sloppy) while providing all of the freedom of movement required for your cycling needs. The extra length gives you the option of leaving them long or cuffing them/rolling them up, for a slightly trendier look (I presume that was their main objective), and also to reveal their signature pink, high-viz stripe on the right leg without the leg becoming too short. Also, if you adhere to The Rules, the ability to place the length of the Randonnée shorts just-so will allow you to maintain rule #7 without worry.
A note on rolling them up: because of the trim fit and the light material, rolling/cuffing them makes them just that much tighter, and, especially if your guns are of even moderate size, expect to pull these shorts down every time you get off the bike and/or bend down.
This is a bit weird to add, but my reviews cover all the angles: these shorts wear best when combined with briefs of boxer-briefs (oddly enough, what Rapha sells…). Why am I telling you this? Well, I’m sure you’ll be thrilled to know that I’m a boxer guy, and if you add that to a close fitting light material, I’m sure you can come up with the answer. I can’t say that it’s been a problem (that I’m aware of), but in some situations it can be a little… revealing…
On the bike – performance
The light material of the Randonnée shorts has been fantastic on really sweltering days, and this year we had unusually humid sweltering days. It dries quickly, and is about as good as not wearing shorts as you can get without looking like a total creep. Especially in the darker colour, this means that you’re unlikely to arrive anywhere showing off your hard-earned swass.
The secure pockets all around are exactly what you need on the bike. Three zips and a button mean that the contents of all four pockets aren’t going anywhere, and the button gives you the option of showing off the pink clasp so you can tell everyone that you are wearing Rapha, or hiding it and just looking like you are wearing some good looking shorts. I suppose you could argue that it adds a bit of contrast to the rear when riding (true, technically), but really, we all know what it’s actually for…
If you are of the leg-shaving variety, then the material can be a bit grabby if your gams are anywhere between buttery-smooth and shaving is for girls, can someone pass me my brush?
The back isn’t a particularly high cut, but it’s just enough to ward away an eyeful of your deep, dark place, thank-you very much.
All of this adds up to a casual short that is both great to cruise around in and something that will handle being ridden hard in as good as anything short of Lycra.
Off the bike
Again, great. Comfortable for all of the same reasons as above, and there isn’t anything about them that says “bike shorts”. Smart enough to wear to nicer places, yet innocuous enough to wear anywhere else. The slight stretch and light material team up to mean you probably won’t need a belt, which raises the comfort level to 11, both on and off the bike.
Worth it. They aren’t cheap, but I suppose they aren’t hideously expensive either. I’d say they’re good value for money, as they’re stylish, well designed, comfortable, and I’ve worn them solidly for an entire season and, aside from my run-in with the saddle bag, they are looking the same as the day I pulled them out of their wrapping.
Should be on your list of cycling shorts, and would be well placed in your drawer.
Header image: The Sticky Bidon