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First look at the Rab Cinder clothing line for gravel riders

A two-day jaunt on the roads and trails near Boulder, Colo., reveals features of the new kit

Photo by: Rab/F4D Studio

This past Friday, I found my rhythm pedalling up Chapman Drive. For me, a climber in flat, sea-level Ontario, this mountain climb west of Boulder, Colo., was a joy, my legs burning as I went up the wide gravel trail through pines. The day started in Lyons, about 30 km to the north. My group covered paved and gravel roads, as well as some singletrack of where prairie dogs constantly let out their squeaky-toy barks at us. I had clipped an elegant little stuff stack with a shock cord to the top tube of my bike. Inside the pouch was a new cycling garment that might be a new favourite of mine, when I get my hands on it once again.

At the top of Chapman, nine other riders and I regrouped before descending Flagstaff. Some of us stopped partway down as one member of the group needed to throw more air into his rear tire. As the bike maintenance was underway, a rider from outside of our team struck up a conversation. We mentioned we were trying out new cycling clothing by Rab.

“Who?” asked the rider.

“Rab,” one of us said pointing to the logo on his Cinder bib shorts.

Rab Cinder Phantom jacket
A Rab Cinder Phantom jacket in its stuff sack, bungeed to the top tube of a Specialized S-Works Crux. Image: Rab/F4D Studio

It’s understandable that the road rider didn’t know the company. Rab is a U.K.-based outfit that specializes in clothing, sleeping bags and tents for extreme alpine adventures. (The $1,700 Expedition 8000 suit is just what you need when you are at the top of Mount Everest.) It also has clothing ines for running and skiing. I’m familiar with Rab because of my brother magazine Gripped. In fact, I’ve liberated a light Rab puffy jacket from the climbers. I pack it on hikes, as well for long trail-side stops during cross-country ski outings and bikepacking jaunts.

For Matt Gower, the CEO and owner of Rab, the company’s move into gravel seems to follow naturally from its culture. “If we looked at all the people in our office, about three quarters of them have one or more bikes,” Gower said at Rab’s U.S. headquarters in Louisville, Colo., the day before we rode up Chapman. Like me, Rab employees were using some of their gear for cycling before Cinder came out.

Matt Gower
Matt Gower, the CEO and owner of Rab, presents the Cinder line at the company’s North American headquarters in Louisville, Colo. Image: Rab/F4D Studio

The new Cinder line, which officially launched in early February, is designed around a particular style of riding. “We are very much on the adventure side,” Gower said. “We build robust mountain gear. We want to create gear for cyclists who go out and have big adventures in the mountains like we’re going to do here. Our experience gives us the ability to craft those products.”

The Rab Cinder Phantom waterproof jacket

One of Rab’s latest cycling garments is the Phantom Cinder jacket. It’s an extremely light and highly packable piece that can keep out wind and rain. I had it in its stuff sack on my top tube, but others had it attached to the back of their saddles. It doesn’t take up much room in a jersey pocket or handlebar bag. The 7D Pertex Shield material that makes up the majority of the jacket gives it a waterproof rating of 20,000 mm. That’s not as high as Gore-Tex, but still pretty high. During my two days of riding, I didn’t get hit with any rain (just a little snow), but I’d expect the Phantom to work well in all but the heaviest downpours. The jacket has a moisture vapour transmission rate of 25,000 g/m²/24 hr, which means it’s breathability is quite good.

The Phantom was great for throwing on when there was a quick temperature change in the foothills or as I cooled down at stop. It was also easy to stow. At the hood, there’s a wire that you can mould over the top of a helmet or use to create a peak over the glasses to keep the rain off. Gower says they’ve used that type of wire in other jackets and that it will work well after 15 years.

My only concern with the Phantom jacket is its stuff sack: I feel like I’m going to lose it. As I openly mused about this worry at a coffee stop, one of my fellow riders pointed out that I sure had a lot of pockets that should help me hold onto the pouch. He wasn’t wrong.

Rab Cinder Phantom jacket
The Rab Cinder Phantom jacket keeps a rider warm during a stop.

Rab Cinder cargo bib shorts

The Cinder cargo bib shorts have four pockets: one at each thigh and two at the lower back. The thigh pockets are perfect for stashing ride fuel and, yes, the Phantom’s stuff sack. Each pocket is sewn with a piece of material at its opening that hooks inward to add a bit of extra retention. Some of my colleagues wished the thigh pockets held their smartphones better. My iPhone 14 Pro with a case technically fit in the thigh pocket, but there’s only so much real estate you can find there on a pair of extra small bib shorts. Besides, I have my specific packing system: the phone always goes in the centre back pocket of the jersey.

Rab Cinder cargo bib shorts
Storage on the Rab Cinder cargo bib shorts.

The straps of the bib shorts are narrower and thicker than most of the shorts I wear. The design should make for some good durability. On my rides, the straps were comfortable over a base layer or directly on my skin.

At each cuff is about 3 cm of silicone gripper. Even with the gripper, the cuffs didn’t hold to my legs sufficiently. Throughout a ride the legs of the shorts would ride up a bit. Some other riders in my group with different sizes of shorts found the same behaviour.

The one element in the Cinder collection that Rab didn’t have any previous experience with was the chamois for the shorts. Instead of developing its own pad, Rab did like so many other cycling clothing brands—it went to an outside company for the piece. Rab chose Elastic Interface. Like any good chamois, I didn’t notice it on my rides, which meant it worked well as I spent hours in the saddle.

Matt Gower
Rab’s Matt Gower points out a feature on the pocket of the Cinder bib shorts.
Rab Cinder jersey and cargo bib shorts
The Rab Cinder jersey and cargo bib shorts in action. Image: Rab/F4D Studio

Rab Cinder jersey

The third Cinder garment I spent a good amount of time with during my trip to Colorado was the Rab Cinder jersey. While it’s made completely from polyester, its panels don’t feel overly synthetic. They’re soft, almost cotton-like. The fit, even of my extra small jersey, is a bit loose, but not overly floppy. The bellowed back pockets seem to sit low and are easy to access. Some of my jerseys have pockets that are much higher, which can make for a struggle getting stuff in and out. Not the case with the Cinder jersey. While access is easy with the pockets, they also held everything securely, even on rough surfaces.

Out in the cool dry Colorado air, I wasn’t able to really test the jersey’s sweat-wicking abilities. I’m definitely going to take it on my summer rides to see how it fares in the humidity of southern Ontario.

Rab Cinder jersey
The Rab Cinder jersey. Image: Rab/F4D Studio
Rab Cinder jersey
The Rab Cinder jersey pockets. Image: Rab/F4D Studio

Cycling-adjacent pieces by Rab

Our second day of riding started off quite cool, around 4 C. To manage the chill, I wore Rab’s Transition Windstopper gloves. They’re for speedy hikers and mountain runners, but I found they worked great on the bike. I wore the gloves for the whole day, as the temperature only rose to about 15 C. The only time the breathability of the Gore-Tex Infinium was maxed out was on the Chapman climb.

Another piece of clothing that regulated my temperature was the Rab Syncrino long-sleeve base layer. It’s loose compared with my cycling-focused base layers, but worked well under a cycling jacket.

Rab Syncrino long-sleeve base layer
Rab Syncrino long-sleeve base layer

Rab Transition Windstopper gloves
Rab Transition Windstopper gloves

Rab and the environment

“We’ve had an aggressive plan for the past five years to reduce our environmental impact,” Gower said. In 2020, Rab became a climate neutral company, meaning it not only reduced its emissions but accounted for the emissions it did produce through offsetting. “You’re trip, we’ll offset that,” Gower said to me and other journalists who had flown to Colorado from across North America, as well as some who drove to Louisville. Some of the projects that Rab has been involved in are forest protection in Zimbabwe, transitioning homes in Myanmar to more efficient stoves and hydroelectric power in Indonesia. The goal is to make Rab net zero by 2030, which means the company will have reduced emissions across all its business operations and supply chain. Net zero is a higher standard than carbon neutral.

Rab Cinder Phantom jackets
Rab Cinder Phantom jackets

All of Rab’s fabrics and durable water repellents are fluorocarbon free. Gower notes, however, that there could still be a drop or two of fluorocarbons on an item of clothing. “Sewing-machine oil has fluorocarbons in it,” Gower said. “So, you can get a spot of that on a garment.”

This fall, Rab is planning to roll out a label it calls material facts, inspired by the nutrition facts label you see on every food item. “When you look at this,” Gower said, holding up a can of carbonated drink with a nutrition fact label, “our label is unabashedly ripped off of this because it’s really clear and really simple to read. Recycled content can be measured. Virgin content can be measured. There’s chemical testing to show what’s in it and what’s not in it, just as you can show the number of grams of carbs. We list every fabric and the recycled content of it.” The facts won’t be printed on a garment’s packaging. Instead, an article of Rab clothing will come with a QR code that will lead to a material facts page. Gower said the European Outdoor Group will adopt this system. The company is in talks with other outdoor brands with the hope that the label will be picked up and used widely.

At the moment, the new Cinder clothing comes with the current, standard material labels. In the jersey, the body is 55 per cent polyester with recycled fibres and the panels are 56 per cent recycled polyester. As for the Phantom jacket, I must confess, I don’t know. I forgot to check before I returned my demo model at the end of the Rab event. Not to worry, though. There’s a sample model on its way to me that I plan on examining and testing more thoroughly on my home roads and trails.

Rab Cinder Phantom jacket
Editor Matthew Pioro will get another Rab Cinder Phantom jacket to test, later. Image: Rab/F4D Studio