Tested: Rapha Women’s Winter Tights
A few weeks ago, Rapha sent over the Women’s Winter Tight for review. I took them out for a week’s worth of rides including a few (2-hour) commutes and two 4-hour training rides and then wrote a re-cap of first impressions for the next issue of Peloton Magazine. Since then, they’ve been on heavy rotation in my winter mix, carrying me through 3.5-hour 40-degree downpours, 28-degree morning journeys and one long, climbey 5-hour adventure last Saturday in fairly moderate 45-ish-degree weather.
Gotta be honest with you, I’ve owned other winter tights for years and have almost always preferred knee-warmers with standard team-issue bibs, but I am really loving these tights. Here’s the stuff that’s good:
What I Love
- As a result of a recently acquired 9-5 contract position in the ‘burbs, I am doing a lot of training at ungodly hours of the morning. When it’s that dark and that cold and that early, a little cozy-motivation goes a long way. These are lined with brushed fleece and climbing into them feels a little like sliding into soft pajamas. Some mornings, it’s just the extra encouragement I need to roll out into the black blackness of the rain.
- Compression. I went with a small (I’m 5’6″ with a medium build and hearty cycling-type legs, women’s size 6-8) and the fit is perfectly compressive. It requires putting them on like tights (scrunching up the bottom half to slip over ankle then pulling carefully up) but once I’m in them, the compression feels wonderful, especially on longer rides in the 3-5 hour range.
- No chamois. It seems that opinions are split about whether people prefer a winter tight with or without chamois, but I cannot tell you how much I appreciate the convenience of a chamois-less winter overlayer. It’s nice to be able to wear chamois that I already know and love (I’ve worn Rapha shorts as well as Castelli custom team bibs underneath). I find that “fitting” shorts underneath is not a problem at all and I appreciate not having to wash these after every outing as I’m wearing them nearly every day right now.
- Full, high-cut lycra chest panel. In addition to providing support (a LOT of support, if you’re larger than a B, you might feel constricted or want to order a size up), this adds a layer of windblock to your layering scheme – a nice bonus.
- Large white reflective strip on the back of leg. I didn’t even think about this as a safety component until Diana pointed it out while riding behind me at the crack of pre-dawn last Wednesday: “That white stripe is SUPER reflective!” Awesome. Anything that can make 6am Dirty Highway 30 seem a little less dastardly is welcome.
- Warm, but not too warm. So far, I’ve been comfortable in temps as low as 28 degrees and as high as 47. Forty-seven is pretty warm for tights (I misjudged that day a bit), but I never found myself uncomfortable – even with 5,000 feet of climbing thrown into the mix.
- Not waterproof, but magically warm when wet. They’re water resistant and dry quickly, but they’re definitely not waterproof. With my former set-up of plain lycra bibs and wool knee-covers, rainy days would leave me with two very heavy, albeit warm, knee warmers and mostly freezing-cold thighs and ass. (Ever get home and peel off your layers to discover that your legs are BRIGHT red from the cold? That.) The Winter Tights stay warm even when they take on water, even when it’s only 39 or 40 degrees out. If you’ve ridden in Portland either of the last two Sundays, that’s the stuff I’m talking about! Miserable weather for bikes, for sure, but more tolerable with warm legs.
- Versatility. Because they don’t have a chamois, these could easily transition into cold weather aerobic activities like cross-country or skate skiing.
- Subtle “wheelsucker” black-on-black inscription on the bum. As the consummate wheelsucker, I appreciate this cheeky little gesture. The girls and I had a good laugh about it in Japan.
What I Wasn’t Sure About
- Heel stirrup: Because the fit is so compressive, they seemed redundant or unnecessary.
- Back zip pocket. I appreciate the thought, but I can’t think of a time I would use this, but possibly when riding without a pocketed jersey? (I don’t really ever do that.)
Things to Note
- The compressive fit can make it tricky to tuck in a baselayer without creating lumps. I’ve gotten pretty good at this. (With very thin Ibex base layers)
- It’s also necessary to smooth out and flatten the hem of shorts, which have a tendency to roll or bunch underneath the tight. A firm, flat hand achieves this with relative ease.
- Stopping to use the restroom will require full disrobing. Not an issue for me on rides of 3-4 hours.
- For what it’s worth, the white reflective stripe took a serious hit on Sunday after a monsoon-meander on Marine Drive. Washed up just fine. Good as new.
- As with all Rapha, this premium tight comes with a premium price to match. ($240.00) One thing I’ll say about that: It’s a lot of money, but having used Rapha’s complimentary repair service (I had a crashed-jacket mended and the elastic on a jersey hem repaired last year), you can count on having these last you quite a while.