(note: when you’re done, you can find the long-term review here)
Winter is behind us here in the Southern Hemisphere, summer is upon us (though it is coming and going as it pleases), and as I have been more than happy with Rapha’s Team Sky Sprinters jeans I thought it would be a good idea to see what they do with a pair of shorts.
I’ll save you all the superlatives about the brand in general (my thoughts can be found here) and get straight to the good stuff.
Of the two pairs of shorts that Rapha offers, the Randonnée Shorts are the more casual and perhaps more stylish when compared to the Touring shorts (which are designed to be worn over bibs and while touring, with reflective piping and special gussets to prevent chaffing, etc). The Randonnée Shorts are for the man-about-town who wants all the style but doesn’t want to give up any practicality.
Available in more subtle colours than previously, I went for black (size 30), because black is black, and I wear them to work and such. Ripping open the bag, I was immediately taken by how light the material is, and it is stretchier than I had imagined too.
The finish it typical Rapha, with an eye for detail and quality.
Also typical is the inclusion of a flash of colour here and there on the Randonnée Shorts. The left rear button tab and inside leg trim get the pink treatment, and below the right rear pocket is a subtle but reflective “Rapha” logo, as is the standard reflective belt-loop.
The front pockets are deep enough to avoid unplanned content ejections, and the right rear is zipped. What I actually really like are the rubber buttons. I’ve never come across rubber buttons before, and I’m not entirely sure why they’re so much better than normal buttons (I’ve never broken a button before), but I’m a fan. Maybe it’s just how they feel. Who knows. Thumbs up on the buttons, though.
Now, how do the Randonée work for cycling?
Very well, thank-you.
The practicality for cycling comes primarily by way of the stretch, which is ample (including in the waist). Freedom of movement is a non-issue, both on and off the bike, so if you put on a few pounds you’ll probably still be ok… Let’s be honest, shorts are not the most restrictive of garments to wear in general, on or off of the bike, but these do have a nice feel, so, there’s that.
We’ve had a few stonking hot days here in Adelaide so far (40℃+), and the ultra-light, very breathable, and quick-drying material has been appreciated. Tan lines can be tightly monitored as the Randonnée shorts are fairly long, and all the cool kids will roll them up to get the swatch of pink on display anyway. Adjust as necessary.
Though they move freely because of the stretch, they are still reasonably tailored, so, especially when rolled so as to show off the pink flash on the underside, they get a bit huggy on the old guns. Again, in no way restrictive, but expect them to stay in the “up” position when rolled and pedalling until pulled back down.
The Randonnée Shorts are a little higher in the back, though not substantially. Lending an extra hand in the fight against plumbers crack is the slightly tacky material that lines the waist. All in all, I haven’t noticed a situation on the bike that needs tending too back there, but now that I’m thinking about it, they fit higher than most shorts I’ve worn, so perhaps it’s just a higher fit more generally that maintains the lunar eclipse. Either way, no problem.
Yesterday I rode with my wallet in the zipped rear pocket, phone in the front-left pocket, and various keys in the front-right pocket. Firstly, the zips erase all doubt as to the security of your contents, and secondly, they weren’t positioned awkwardly when pedaling. Well, mostly. An iPhone 6 (nonplussed) or equally large mobile device will tend to sit slightly skewed in the front pocket and make it stick out at a weird angle, but I suppose that’s the worst of the offenses.
The reflective elements are minimal, and the pink stripes small, so although they do exactly what they are supposed to (reflect and provide some contrast), I doubt very much that they are enough to actually catch someone’s attention while driving.
The only other thing I can think of that is relevant to on-the-bike usability is the material. As mentioned, it is light, but it also feels slightly coarse? The lightness has obvious properties, namely, great for hot weather, or wet weather, or if you are riding at anything but a leisurely pace. I haven’t been in a downpour with them as of yet, but I have gotten pretty sweaty, and they have dried in a respectable time-frame.
The coarseness of the material is not enough to be rough against the skin, but does give the impression that it should hold up pretty well against wear. Only time will tell, of course.
Gripes? None of any consequence yet. The way a phone sits in the pocket is quite a small one. The zips, when on the bike, are somewhat difficult to open or close with one hand due to the material bunching, but again, that’s very minor, if not irrelevant, as that’s just zippers for you. If I had to pick something, however, it would be that the material (in the black, at least) has the appearance of looking dirty or worn in many cases, even while clean. The shorts are not a deep black to begin with, but I have noticed that they can look a bit more grey in some areas, like the folds when you roll them up, for instance. For me, that puts them into a more casual category rather than something a little classier. A fault? No. Just the nature of this material, I’m sure. Like I said, the gripes are hardly worth mentioning, and only brought up in an effort to be as objective as possible.
It has just occurred to me that I haven’t yet worn the Randonnée Shorts over any Lycra, which isn’t really the point of these, but it’s something I will do in the future whenever I eventually embark on a long-enough-but-casual-enough ride somewhere, and let you know the results in the long-term review.
All in all, a nice, light, stylish pair of shorts, with enough stretch and practicality for comfortable use on the bike. Will other shorts do the same job? Most likely. If, however, you like the quality, style and attention to detail that you can count on with Rapha and like your clothes made by cyclists, then consider Rapha’s Randonnée Shorts a welcome addition to your next cycling excursion.
All images: The Sticky Bidon