If you didn’t spot the recent announcement, Rapha have launched a new “entry level” range called Core. It’s a simple line to begin with a bib short and a jersey available for men and women. Likewise colours are limited but have just been expanded to six colours for men and five for women. The men’s bib shorts are available either in black or with white straps and the women’s short are waist only – no bibs.
I have to say that I was surprised to see Rapha move down the price point for their range but it’s an excellent way to extend the brand and bring new riders in who might have either not wanted to or couldn’t afford to spend the higher prices.
What’s even smarter is that the designs reflect a pared down simplicity in a really smart way. I’ve been sent a pair of the shorts and a jersey to try and right from getting them out of the bags, they give the feeling that the design has been as considered as the higher end products but from a different perspective.
Rapha Core sees the designers attempting to make a simpler product with the quality, feel and fit of the more expensive ranges. At first glance, I think they’ve achieved this as the Core shorts and jersey are more minimal in design flourishes but seem to have the substance and quality of materials to justify the prices. On the website, Rapha talks about how they used the fabrics more carefully across the garments to keep them simpler (and the price down) such as the leg-gripper trim being also used in the jersey back and the material for the zip guard is used again in the sleeve tips.
The branding is also more subtle, which works very well with the simpler aesthetic. I think it’s a clever approach of doing something simple and doing it very well. As someone who personally likes to be a touch understated and favours quality without spending a fortune, the Rapha Core range seems to be very compelling – especially if it performs as it should.
As part of the value aspect, the Core bib shorts use the same pad as the considerably more expensive Classic bib shorts, which is a great move as it’s a very well respected pad. This is then manufactured with a dense-knit fabric and flatlocked stitche for comfort. The straps are a simpler design too but give an excellent fit on me at least.
I’ve worn the shorts a few times so far and have been very happy with them. For me, it’s still not exactly shorts weather (I feel the cold) but I’ve used them comfortably on the Wattbike and under some unpadded bib tights on a recent trip to the Ardennes. I have friends who’ve also taken the plunge and ordered them and have had a similarly positive early experience. The only negative I have noticed is that on my Core bib shorts, the writing on the care label has almost disappeared completely after 3 or 4 washes but I can’t find any other sign of wear at all.
Whilst you can certainly bike more complex and arguably more highly engineered shorts for the price, the Rapha Core bib shorts give a strong early account of themselves.
The jersey (I have the Navy colour), which once again demonstrates that Rapha have a great eye for colours, also provides a fine snug fit. The fabric has been given an antibacterial treatment and whilst the design is simple, it feels like a quality garment with just enough flourishes to make you feel that the company has put in some effort for the £75 asking price.
Both the Rapha Core bib shorts and jersey give the impression that they’re made to work hard and be worn often. Over the next few months, I’ll try to test that out and will report back.
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