Rapha's Classic Winter Tights are luxuriously comfortable with a supreme softness next to the skin, provide good freedom of movement around the knees and provide just enough insulation for the winter.
Compared to Rapha's Deep Winter tights, these uses a lighter Thermoroubaix fabric with a Thermolite fleece finish that keeps the legs warm in a range of temperatures from about 2 to 12 degrees. That seems to characterise most of my rides of late, and the Classic Winter Tights offer a comfortable level of warmth.
As usual, Rapha understand what details ensure you'll want to wear them a regular basis. All the panels are stitched together with flatlock seams, which reduce the potential for discomfort and chafing. The cut is just right, with a good shaping around the knees helped by strategically shaped and cut panels and pre-shaped legs. They come up nice and high at the front too, providing a good overlap on the lower torso for extra warmth. A long zipper makes getting them on and off easier, and allows for easy comfort breaks.
At the legs are wide thin mesh stirrups. You don't notice them in your shoes when riding, and they ensure a good seal inside overshoes when worn over the top. Around the back is a large mesh panel to ensure good breathability, and it doesn't prevent your chosen base layer from doing its job of wicking sweat away from the skin. There's a small valuables zipper pocket on the lower back, which I admit I haven't found any use for yet. But it's an extra pocket if you need the storage space.
I've been giving these tights plenty of use recently, my first pick when they're clean and dry from the wash for nearly every ride. They're clearly built to withstand some abuse. The stitching is of the highest quality, there's been no loose threads or popped stitches. The fabric is still looking as new as when they were first pulled from the packaging. I can see them lasting through ten hard winters of use quite easily.
Every brand likes a signature detail and Rapha is no exception. The left leg has the same white vertical panel that features on their other tights (and on the front of their three quarters) and is a nice touch. I'd prefer if it, along with the reflective piping lining, was placed on the right leg for better visibility to other road users. The white stripe doesn't stay white for very long either, given how grimy the roads are, and is a good test of your washing skills. A spray with some stain remover does the trick. The final little detail is the word 'Wheelsucker' printed on the backside.
I really like the freedom that having tights without an integrated chamois provide. There's no concerns with comfort wearing separate bib shorts and these tights over the top. In fact I'd say it's a lot more comfortable than many tights with integrated pads that I've tested in the past. There's numerous benefits of tights without a chamois; an extra layer of material over your knees and hips for warmth, and you can wear them on consecutive days, provided you don't get them filthy dirty, which makes them good for daily training rides or commuting duties.
That just leaves the price. Ah the price. For a start, they're in the ballpark, and they're actually cheaper than the similar Assos LL.607 tights. But there's no getting away from the fact there are high quality tights with more features and built in pads available for a good chunk less cash than what Rapha are asking for these tights.
I can envisage the detractors commenting below this review already, but let's just remember that no one is forcing you to buy them. It's a free market and there are tights available to suit everyone's budget. If your wallet can stretch to the Rapha Classic tights, you're getting a high quality, comfortable and high performance pair of tights that will still be doing good service many years from now. I have some pairs of tights that are approaching ten years of service, and based on the quality of the Rapha tights over the past couple of months, I have no reason to suspect they won't still be in use many years down the line.
Warm, well fitting, comfortable and well made.
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Classic Winter Tights
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Rapha's Classic Winter Tights are essential for cold winter cycling conditions. Made from Thermoroubaix fabric, the inside of the tights has a brushed, Thermolite fleece finish for maximum comfort and insulation. Designed to be worn over bib shorts.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rapha's Classic Winter Tights are an essential piece of clothing for cold winter cycling. They are made from durable Italian Thermoroubaix fabric and have a brushed fleece inner throughout for maximum insulation. The tights are designed to be worn over your favourite bib shorts so there is no pad and they have mesh stirrups that can be easily removed. The tights are shaped to provide an ergonomic fit and additional muscle support.
Other features include a mesh panel in the back of the tights to help regulate body temperature and a fully-lined zip to allow you to answer calls of nature quickly and easily. The tights have a discreet zipped valuables pocket in the lower back and are finished with flatlock stitching to prevent chafing. The left leg has a contrast stripe with a printed Rapha logo and there is an additional 'Wheelsucker' logo on the seat of the tights
Flatlock seams everywhere and excellent quality construction shows in the wearing of these tights, and certainly goes some way to justifying the high price.
They provide the right level of insulation for a temperature range of between 2 and 12 degrees in my experience. The freedom of wearing your own tights under them is great, but won't suit everyone, it does mean you can get more use out of them before washes, so you'll end up wearing them more often. Fit is excellent especially around the knees.
So far they're proving to be very well made and very durable, and despite dozens of washes are still looking brand new. These have the quality of construction feel that should see them last 10 years or more.
Worn over your favourite bib shorts, they are impressively comfortable. The fabric is supremely soft next to the skin, and all the little details just contribute to how nice they feel on the bike.
You don't even get a chamois for the money. To be fair to Rapha, you can spend even more on tights without a pad, but they're still right at the pointy end of the pricing spectrum. You can get feature packed padded tights for a lot less cash however it's also got to be said that if you are in the market to buy a pair of top end tights the price tag is not necessarily going to be a deterrent especially as it isn't out of line with similar offering from other high end brands.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
These are being pressed into regular service and for hard training rides and gentle pootles around the country lanes, they're fantastic.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The softness of the fabric next to the skin, and the great fit.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The eye-watering price tag. The pointless little pocket.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? I would need a payrise first.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
If they were £40-50 cheaper, they would get top marks for sure.
About the tester
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.