Who remembers mountain biking before riding pants were a thing? Our shorts were too long, our socks were too short, and I'm pretty sure I was too cold and wet all the time. Smart riders had been wearing heavy moto-style pants for years, of course, but these days we've got plenty of bike-specific options to choose from, including the new $180 USD Trail pants from Rapha that are reviewed below.
Rapha is known for its high-end stretchy road kit and classy colors, and 2021 saw them debut an entire range of clothing for mountain bikers
. I took a closer look at their Trail shorts, Cargo bibs, and Tech t-shirt
back in the heat of summer, but I've been wearing the new Trail pants and just-released $110 USD knee pads since our fall Field Test series (full disclosure: they sponsored it) in October. Conveniently, we've had nothing but wet and miserable weather during that time, and absolutely no chance to wear shorts.
Trail Pants Details
• Nylon 89%, Elastane 11%
• Reinforced, articulated knees
• Adj. waistband w/ cam locks, belt loops
• Deep hand pockets
• Zippered vertical pockets, phone sleeves
• Keyhole metal snap enclosure
Trail Pants Details
Up at the waistband is where you'll find two adjustable straps, each with a locking cam to hold them in place once adjusted to fit properly. While some brands use a big plastic ratcheting strap or straps to get the job done, I prefer these barely-there plastic cams and they never once loosened their grip. There are also belt loops for some strange reason - does anyone out there wear a belt while riding? - and the metal waist snap locks closed no matter how much eggnog and Christmas cookies you've managed to consume over the holidays.
If you need pockets but don't want to dig out your cargo pants (we don't want you to either), you'll like what Rapha has done with these Trail trousers. There are two normal, unzippered pockets at each side so you have somewhere to put your hands while standing around at the trailhead like a goober, but it's also worth mentioning that they're deep enough to actually be useful, unlike some other options out there. There are also two zippered cargo pockets on the side of each thigh, both with an internal sleeve to keep your phone from flopping around, and that's where you'll want to keep anything important during a ride.
Down at the bottom of the legs is where you'll find non-adjustable cuffs - some other brands use Velcro enclosures or zippers down here to rein in any loose fabric - but they are both reinforced and elastic for durability. And speaking of that, Rapha has also added some reinforcement at the knees and the cut is articulated to keep the cuffs from being pulled up while you pedal or bend over on the trail.
And because it's almost always better to fix something rather than replace it, Rapha also offers an interesting repair program where they'll fix your pants (or other Rapha gear) that you've damaged: "Rapha offers free repair service for the lifetime of the product with valid proof of purchase. This service also applies to garments outside the 90-day return policy.
Fit and Performance
My 5' 10" frame is mostly legs and that means that pants can sometimes feel a bit short on me, but that's not the case with these. They're long enough to not get pulled up above my ankles while pedaling, and while I thought I needed an adjustable cuff to deal with baggy fabric, it's not an issue because there's not much extra material to begin with. As a relatively slim guy, the POC and Race Face pants I also have in my drawer can feel a bit baggy in comparison to the Rapha trousers, and for that reason, I almost always reach for the Rapha pants first. Another factor in me preferring them is how quiet they are; who remembers the Seinfeld episode with the swooshing pants
? That's a real thing with some riding pants out there, but not these.
Much like on their Trail shorts, the pockets on their pants are at just the right size and angle to slip a phone or multi-tool into and have it basically disappear. The internal sleeve does a good job of holding either from flopping around while you spin circles, and there's enough room to add in some snacks or other stuff that you might need. Another often-missed detail is how easy (or hard) it can be to open and close the zippers while you're on the move, but it's easy to do with the large pull tabs on the Trail pants which means you won't need to stop to pull out more gummy bears.
Up at the waistband, the two adjustable straps and plastic cams never once loosened and were much more inconspicuous than the large plastic ratchets that some pants use. I had both snugged down during our fall Field Test when there was a bit less of me, and I've let them out a bit more recently as the winter donuts have added up.