The roster from Rapha MTB continues to grow with the addition of the Fast and Light short; a well thought through women’s offering for big pedal days or light trail riding as the mercury starts to rise.
The fairly recent entry of Rapha into mountain biking kit raised a few eyebrows, but scroll back through the MBR reviews and you’ll see that their offerings have well and truly stood up to the competition. So I was keen to try out their new Fast & Light Women’s Trail short, a new slimmer fitting offering for warmer rides, and see if their women’s kit keeps pace.
Fabric, size and fit
Pop “light” into the name of your shorts and you have to deliver. I doubt many of us have actually weighed our shorts to see what they weigh in at but placed side by side to competitor offerings they look and feel lighter and that translates across in the saddle.
Cutting the grams hasn’t resulted in a lack of quality, which is reassuring if you are dropping £90 on a pair of shorts. The four way stretch nylon is deliciously flexy without feeling like gym kit and air permeable for hotter rides. The only downside to such a light fabric is that they did have a tendency to twist and ride up slightly while pedalling.
When the temperature drops and the British winds kick in it’s likely you’ll regulate these for something thicker, but don’t be fooled into thinking they’re a peak summer short only. On cooler rides they didn’t feel too breezy or chilly.
It’s great to see Rapha catering for the smaller female riders offering an XXS in these shorts, measuring in at 61cm (24/26in) waist. It is a shame that as a UK 14/16 on my bottom half I was at the very top end of the offering available wearing a XL in test. It would be great to see that range in sizing extended further at the top end.
However, even with my curvy and bottom heavy figure, the silhouette of these shorts is really flattering, definitely helped out by the abundant stretch in the fabric. There is a subtly integrated stretch panel on the rear of the waistband, coupled with a snap closure. The waist line was a massive hit and was incredibly comfortable on all day rides.
Although they are described as a shorter length by Rapha they were comfortably down to my knees with a dropped front hem, which at 5”9 is not something I experience regularly. The opening of the shorts is narrow due to their slimline shaping, and works with lightweight sleeve style kneepads but might struggle on chunkier protection, but these shorts are best suited to gravel, XC or light trail days, or even a post ride gin, so you’re unlikely to be looking to couple them with heavier profile pads.
Fast and Light shorts features
There is no littering of unnecessary features, which is no surprise when seeking lightness in the overall product. A single left zip pocket is situated on the thigh, big enough to comfortably hold your phone, complete with an inner sleeve to sit your phone in. This keeps the phone in position and prevents the shorts from being misshapen by the weight of the phone and stops it falling out if you forget to zip up the pocket.
While designed for summer rides and warmer temperatures, Rapha has given a nod to our British Summers with a DWR coating on the shorts. I got caught in some real deluges while testing them and while the DWR is certainly not enough to keep you fully dry, it does help keep the worst at bay and the lightness of the fabric meant that once the downpours had ended these shorts were drying again within minutes.
Nice product touches including a home repair kit and sustainable packaging are worth noting. This is supported by a free repairs offer for the lifetime of the product. All elements that turn these from a seasonal offering to a solid investment purchase.
Do they offer value for money?
Let’s be straight, at £90 these aren’t a cheap offering for a short designed with peak summer use in mind. They come in above competitors like the Endura Women’s SingleTrack Lite that we rated highly in last year’s women’s test, and alongside Patagonia’s Women’s Dirt Roamer Short.
But if your riding is about maximising hours in the saddle, you are going to get good value per mile on these shorts. And the clean styling and design means you aren’t going to be looking to ditch them quickly as soon as you step off the bike. A considered purchase but one that will repay you in use we are sure.
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An understated, subtle and, dare I say it, elegant design combined with good in-saddle performance make these a great pair of shorts for long days in the saddle in summer. And this quickly established them as a go to favourite for some multi day MTB rides in testing, light enough to chuck into bikepacking bags without a second thought and comfy enough to spend long days in the saddle in. I'll be wearing these long after our fleeting British summer has passed by.