This is round two between myself and a pair of Rapha jeans. Last time I had a pair of the standard denim, which, as you may know from that review, were very impressive in most ways but simply didn’t fit me very well under normal circumstances. More importantly for an item of clothing like this, they didn’t fit well while on the bike, which, whatever the contributing elements were, didn’t allow the freedom of movement that is required while turning the pedals.
Through yet another very helpful and pleasant correspondence with the good people at Rapha (thanks Sarah), I had decided to give the Team Sky Sprinters Jeans a try.
Now, in theory, these are the same jeans as the standard ones, but are cut with more room in the legs. They are cut for a thigh ratio of the next size up compared to the waist. Most of my issues were around the thigh area, which was strange, because I’ve always been the skinny guy. Plus, the Levi’s Commuter jeans were tighter. Originally I went for a size 30L of the standard jeans but then immediately swapped them for the 32L, which fit more comfortably, but you know how the story went. These Sprinters jeans are back to a 30L. My inseam is around 88cm/34.5in, if you want a reference from the picture below.
According to the tag inside the jeans, these are the same 1% elastane that the regular jeans have, so again, should be pretty similar. What I was expecting was the same pair of jeans, but with more room. What I got was slightly more than that.
What’s in the bag
What is the same is the attention to detail. The classy little touches found in all of Rapha’s clothes. The stitching that feels like it will last forever. The quality of the material. The Sprinter jeans have pretty much all of the same cycling-related features of the standard jeans, but with slight differences.
As these are the “Team Sky” jeans, you get their trademark blue colour instead of Rapha’s famous pink. The reflective belt loop around back is replaced with a non-reflective black and blue loop in what feels more like silk (the same material as that which lines the inside of the waist, zipper, and the front pockets). Gone also is the grippy liner running around the inside of the waist.
The reflective “Rapha” logo on the inside of the right leg is still there, of course, as are the now bright-blue strips running up the inside of the seams.
The change pocket is a bit smaller, for some reason, but that’s neither here nor there. The other one was enormous (this one is still roomy to say the least, but if there is one thing that drives me mad about pants of any kind, it is a change pocket that is hardly large enough to get two fingers into – why even bother!?).
The bigger differences are the one’s I was hoping for…
These Sprinter jeans are a size 30L, which fit me much better around the waist, but crucially, fit really well everywhere else too. They measure the waist above the hip, just below the navel, which would explain why these are a fairly relaxed 30 compared to others. Still, compared to the standard jeans in the 30’s, the pocket’s aren’t quite as tight which makes them a little easier to use. The length somehow feels a touch shorter (again, they measure from the crotch to the ankle), but that is probably just my imagination. Overall, these are just what the doctor ordered.
The most curious thing, however, is that the material seems different. Softer. Stretchier. The extra room in the legs of the Sprinters jeans is definitely a better fit on the bike, but also while just wearing around, which I have done exclusively since they arrived. I’m not exaggerating even a little: I’ve worn these every day bar maybe one or two for the last 6-7 weeks, and ride to work in them 5 days a week, which brings us to…
How do they work?
In a nutshell, well. Rapha has confirmed that these are indeed the very same denim used as for the standard jeans (but that there will be updates for the 2016 jeans that will include, amongst others, a little more stretch… keep an eye out), but these definitely feel different. I’m not at all sure what to attribute this to. Were the old ones a bit of an off denim? Is this pair? Whatever the case, the denim feels as though it has a little more stretch and a little less rawness to it, and of course, the fit is a touch more relaxed.
To be sure, these aren’t stretchy, per se. Not like the Levi’s were/are, and probably nothing like what next years jeans will be. These are still very much what you would expect denim to feel like, but even the tiny bit of stretch is useful both on and off the bike.
Again, I can’t say why, or even what it was, but the first pair I had felt like it clung to my skin at all times, restricting freedom of movement enough to make riding in them a chore. Not clingy like too tight, necessarily, but clingy like sandpaper. Maybe grippy is the better word. Especially on warm days or when you have to push the pace on the bike a little. At least part of that was due to how stiff a denim the was. The Sprinter jeans don’t do this. Same denim, apparently, but they feel softer, like they don’t require as much “wearing in” as the other ones.
Don’t get me wrong, they still restrict your movement a little – they are jeans, after all, and not Lycra. If you get a bit of a sweat up, or get caught in a drizzle, they still cling to the knees as you would expect, making you want to reach down to give them a tug upwards whenever you stop. These do show their limits as a cycling garment (obviously), but not at all to the degree that you would fault them for it.
I would characterize these as I did the last ones: stylish, well made jeans first, cycling garment second.
About drizzles. These aren’t water resistant in any real sense of the word. Rapha doesn’t make that claim, but instead describe the Sprinters jeans as “fast drying”. I’ve been caught in a few drizzles, and one good, heavy downpour in these. While they aren’t exactly fast drying, I could be convinced that they probably dried a little more quickly than normal jeans made of good sturdy denim.
In a way, Rapha’s Sprinter jeans aren’t all that different from a well made designer jean from any other label. If they fit well, they fit well. There are plenty of jeans out there that vary from harsh to soft denim and lots of stretch to none, but the Rapha jeans throw in a few cycling-specific touches into the mix that were all covered in the last review that set them apart from the standard designer crowd. Plus, if you are into cycling, you’re likely to prefer clothes made by a cycling brand anyway.
My critiques are minimal here, but I like to give you the complete picture. My pair of Sprinters jeans are really good, but not perfect.
Out of the bag there were a few loose, or more accurately, unfinished threads around the button hole. I don’t think this is at risk of unraveling, but the first two pairs I had were very cleanly finished and this stood out to me as a bit sloppy compared to the detail of everything else Rapha that I have encountered. That’s what you get from setting a high standard.
More surprising to me is that they are showing a little wear already.
I cuff these probably half of the time. They’re long enough, and depending on the shoes I’m wearing it just works better. On the left leg at the spot where they get cuffed is starting to fray. Not surprising in and of itself, but I wouldn’t have expected it so soon. I have to admit that it is very superficial at this point.
The other spot where they are wearing is precisely where cycling-specific denim is supposed to be better than the rest: the seat. It’s worth noting that Rapha refers to the denim as, “Developed specifically for Rapha in Italy, unlike regular denim, the jeans are resistant to abrasion and won’t deteriorate at key wear points, particularly around the seat.”
Note the smoother and slightly lighter material just left of the pocket, and the white edge of the pocket itself – it’s not significant wear, but I have to say I’m a little surprised to see any at all so soon. I’ll see how it goes.
Just a final note – as you can see in the pictures, the reflective “Rapha” print on the inside of the leg is not blue, as pictured on the website, and the pattern of the blue lining on the inside of the waist is different from the jeans that I was sent. Neither are problems or a big deal in any way, but just something to note.
As with the previous pair, the overall quality is high, and the fit is actually really great. There are just enough cycle-specific features to make these practical as a cycling garment. So far, the only thing I have been surprised at is what appears to be premature wear, just where you would expect it.
Overall (while keeping an eye on the wear), these have been really, really good. I think all I have to say is that I’ve worn them every day for a reason: I don’t want to wear anything else.