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First Look: Rapha Trail kit delivers style and substance

Smart design and simple appearance define brand's first swing at mountain bike kit

Photo by: Rapha

After nearly two decades on the road and in the cyclocross pits, Rapha is finally releasing its first mountain bike apparel line. While the look will be familiar to many fans of the brand, there are some key details that make Rapha’s first kit stand out in a sea of mtb clothing options.

Read on for the full details of what’s included in Rapha’s first mountain bike line and our first look at the Trail Shorts and 3/4 sleeve jersey. Those who have waited for years for this kit won’t be disappointed. The brand hits the ground running with its dirt debut likely quieting critics and skeptics, myself included.

Photo: Rapha

Rapha Performance Trailwear

For those not familiar with the road brand, Rapha was first established back in 2004 with a focus on high quality construction and style. After waiting a full 17 years to dive into mountain bike apparel, the brand’s clearly done its research.

That means design as well as branding. Rapha’s brought big names on board from the start. Olympic medallist and multiple-time Queen of Crankworx Jull Kintner joins Enduro World Series racer Ella Conolly, and a slew of industry veterans – from XC to DH – including Adam Craig, Bryn Atkinson, Eliot Jackson and Joey Schusler.

The initial line is focused, aiming to do a few pieces well rather than cover the full range. Shorts, jerseys and a lightweight jacket are the core, while a hip pack, sunglasses, and Smith co-branded helmet ensure you can dress yourself almost entirely in Rapha kit for your next ride if you want to.

The Performance Trailwear line’s appearance follows a single theme across all the different pieces. As expected, it continues Rapha’s tradition of simple, but not boring design. The materials are performance focused, breathable and light, while also appearing durable enough for full trail riding use.

Those expecting a more race-focused cross country kit will, for the most part, have to look elsewhere in Rapha’s line for spandex. The Trailwear line is focused on riding, not racing.

Easy small repairs – free big repairs

Rapha’s built its reputation on quality and appearance. That mean’s its clothing isn’t cheap. To offset the initial cost, Rapha offers free repairs on its clothing. Most items in the mountain bike line actually ship with several repair patches, so you can fix small problems at home. Not just a single patch, but several in each colour/material found on that piece of clothing. To keep things green, Rapha creates the patches from excess fabric left over from making the clothing.

For bigger repairs, Rapha encourages you to send them the clothing to be fixed. Falls happen, especially in mountain biking. Knowing grazing a tree won’t be the end of your brand new jersey makes it easier to shell out $140 for something well made.

Rapha Performance Trailwear MTB 3/4 sleeve jersey

Rapha Performance Trailwear tested

We’ve had the chance to try out Rapha’s mountain bike kit prior to its launch. While it has been a while since I was personally a big fan of the brand, I’ve come away impressed. I’m not sure what I was expecting, other than the Rapha look and white lettering, but it wasn’t this. Both the shorts and jersey are comfortable, light and feature smart and functional design.

Rapha Trail Shorts

Rapha’s mountain bike shorts are the most minimalist in appearance of an already understated line. While not flashy, the Trail Shorts could also be the stand-out piece of apparel. From pockets to fit and feel, they check all the boxes.


The men’s Trail Shorts feature four pockets, two on each side. There are standard, open street pockets at the hip for casual use. There’s also two zippered pockets, one on each side. Proper pocket placement is still highly contested on mountain bike shorts, but Rapha does it right.

Zipper pockets are placed down on the thigh, where they don’t drag the shorts down and items won’t dig in while bent over in a seated position. Each pocket also has a smaller, interior space so smaller items don’t float around. The best sign of a good pocket is that you forget there’s anything in them when you start riding, without the items actually disappearing. Rapha nails both, with snug pockets well placed with zippers. For off the bike, the larger pockets hold whatever you need, and add a more casual look.


Fit is a mix of a slide-clasp button and micro-adjust straps, one on each side. There’s also belt loops, should you desire that. The slide-clasp button, which keeps the shorts from popping open under pressure, takes a half-second to figure out the first time, but is second nature after that.

The fit adjust straps provide a functional range of adjustment without causing the shorts to bunch at the waist. Straps tuck nicely into the shorts instead of hanging down. The clasp even hides behind a belt loop, making it harder to bump accidentally.

On the trail, the material is light without being delicate. Rapha’s cut is on the longer and slimmer side, without being skin tight. My size Large shorts sat nicely at my knees, leaving no gap to knee pads, and fit loose but not baggy. The cut is comfortable for short days on trail bikes or long days of pedalling without chafing. My first few rides in Rapha’s shorts were also the first really hot days in a while. While I was struggling with the heat, the shorts were impressively cool.

At $205.00, Rapha Trail Shorts aren’t inexpensive. They also aren’t totally out of line with some other high-end mountain bike options. With excellent pockets, and a comfortable fit, Rapha’s debut is an excellent lightweight trail short.

Rapha Trailwear MTB Trail Shorts
Rapha Women’s Trail Shorts
Women’s Shorts

Rapha’s women’s MTB line looks much like the men’s, except with “Anthracite” purple added in place of “Pageant” blue. For whatever reason, though the women’s trail shorts lose one set of pockets, waist adjustment straps and belt loops. Either you’ll like the more minimalist look or be frustrated with the lack of fit adjustment. I didn’t try these, so I can’t say how that design choice pans out on the trail. The more functional set of zippered pockets do make their way over to the women’s shorts, thankfully.

Rapha Trail 3/4 Sleeve Jersey

While good shorts are hard to make, jersey’s are a bit more straightforward. Still, Rapha finds a few ways to make its Trail 3/4 Jersey stand out.

With a few, muted colour offerings the jersey is understated without being boring or monotone. It’s made of lightweight recycled polyester, nylon and lycra, giving it a breezy feel while still sitting snug. Rapha aims for a close, but not tight fit on the jersey’s torso, while the sleeves taper below the elbow to sit snug.

Sleeves are made of a slightly tougher feeling material than the very light, breathable torso. This should help the jersey hold up against branches and bushes on trail, without adding much weight at all.

Rapha’s Trail 3/4 Sleeve Jersey is $140 in Canada. There are four men’s colours – dark and light grey, blue and green – and two women’s options: purple and light grey.

Photo: Rapha

Rapha MTB availability

The full Performance Trailwear line of clothing and accessories is available now through Rapha’s MTB landing page, and at Rapha Clubhouses worldwide.