DSC02428-denizmerdano  deniz merdano cooper Rapha Kona process
Head to toe review

Rapha MTB Trail kit

Photos Deniz Merdano
Reading time

When Rapha stepped into mountain biking, I rolled my eyes. My impression of the brand was purely high end road – the domain of fit, shaved legged folks on bikes with price tags that make Flight Attendant-equipped Megatowers look cheap. But then I saw the pricing and it was surprisingly not outrageous, and the cut and colors looked nice. Could it be the brand is so invested in road culture and café rides that they have Rapha branded coffee sho- sorry, clubhouses, makes fairly priced mountain bike kit worth having?

A couple years on from the launch, a package marked Rapha showed up on my doorstep with a chamois, shorts, an emotional support jacket you’ve seen before, and a long-sleeved merino jersey. The jersey immediately confused me – I love a merino t – but this thing had some sort of weird synthetic front panel, no cuffs and just threw me off. I didn’t like it. Reviewing things you don’t like is the worst.

DSC02419-denizmerdano  deniz merdano cooper Rapha Kona process

Its a Rapha review... we had to include coffee. United Strangers serves fantastic espresso with usually three choices on the bar; if you're strictly a Third Wave type you'll have to go on Monday as that's the only day the Lagom P64 grinder is in the store for all your pour over needs. Photo: Deniz Merdano

DSC02437-denizmerdano  deniz merdano cooper Rapha Kona process

The owners are bike people in the truest sense - drop by on sunny summer weekends to see an astonishing array of bikes, and it's conveniently nestled at the bottom of my favourite trails. They also have some groceries and gifts if your ride went too long and you need to return home bearing gifts, or dinner. Once you're done with your double anaerobic process or geisha, its time to hit the trail. Photo: Deniz Merdano.

Trail Cargo Bib Liner

We’ll work from the bottom up; starting with the 230 CAD Bib Chamois. This is designed for warmer conditions, and to be worn under baggies. There’s large mesh cut-outs on the sides and one small stash pocket on each side of the back. Chamois are obviously a rather intimate item where personal preferences rule. I’ve found this one to be comfortable, with very soft fabric, well thought out padding that isn't too bulky, and I like how the bibs attach and distribute tension. My only two gripes would be larger pockets, and a slot to pee. I realize the second one is hard for a variety of technical reasons, but once you’ve had a bib chamois that doesn’t require the ‘stand awkwardly, pull down, aim up’ maneuver, it's a feature that’s missed. On rides I’m not wanting ample stash pockets, these quickly became my go-to. If bibs aren’t your jam, there’s a non-bib version as well that’ll also save you $50.

Rapha_Chamois_Pockets

No one needs to see me in a mesh chamois; I'd need to sing some Right Said Fred, and I can't sing. Photo: Rapha

Trail Shorts

We’ll keep the shorts talk short. They’re everything I expect from a modern mountain bike short: well-designed pockets, good zippers, adjustable waist, DWR, and stretchy-but-durable. If you like your shorts in a somewhat trim fit, these should be on your short list, however take note the price does seem comparatively higher than some of the other items on this list at 230 CAD. There’s a lighter weight version available, as well as a full pant that I’d love to get my hands on for $245.

Trail Lightweight Jacket

I make no apologies about it – barring real rain, I’m a vest guy. I’ve been riding in the same Mission Workshop Interval vest since 2019 and despite crashes, branches, and a bazillion washes, it's going strong. If it's too wet for a vest, I’m in a proper three layer GORE-TEX jacket like the 7mesh Copilot*. So, what was I going to do with this single layer, ultra-lightweight emotional support jacket (ESJ)? It turns out quite a bit – it's become a staple in my kit. You can now spot me regularly pedaling up the hill, purple ESJ strapped to my frame, ready to be deployed for the descent, or if a bit of rain rolls in. Is it waterproof? No, but it's enough to get you home, and if you’re out for a cold spin on drop bars, it's windproof enough to make all the difference on those cool, clear days. To improve this piece, I’d ditch the hood (seriously, though, does anyone actually ride with a hood on?) and shorten the frame strap.

For 255 CAD it's not cheap, but if you’re seeing a trend here, I’d argue it's justifiably priced in the segment; I’ve put this jacket through a lot of thrashing, and it's going strong. It's not going to keep you dry in a downpour, or warm if it's freezing, but it suits temperate climates well.

*someone is going to point out the Copilot is technically a “2.5” layer GORE-TEX. Sure. You win. I rounded up.

Trail Windblock Jersey

Picking up where we left off, after this jersey showed up, it went in a drawer and stayed there for a while. I definitely thought, “Who on Earth would buy this?”. And then one cool morning most of my kit was dirty, and I had to get to the office. So, on it went, and suddenly it all started to make sense.

To explain a little bit more in overly simplistic fashion that is sure to get the Rapha product team up in arms, the Windblock Jersey is basically a long-sleeved merino shirt with a block of nylon sewn over top on the front half. While strange on the rack, it makes tremendous sense if you’re moving through the air with any velocity. Around here in the great, soggy northwest, this air is often filled with moisture; it's not raining per se, but you’ll be wet. Having this synthetic layer up front means you’re significantly less wet, but the merino is open to the world on your back, allowing excess heat and sweat to escape. It can get a little clammy up front under the synthetic in the right conditions, but overall it works as designed.

I’ve worn this mountain biking and on gravel bikes with and without baggies, and have been happy almost every ride; the construction means it's suitable for a broad range of conditions. At 195 CAD it sounds pricey, but keep in mind you’re basically buying a merino jersey and an over layer. I like this jersey so much I went online and bought another as I was writing this (on sale, for 129 CAD).

DSC02569-denizmerdano  deniz merdano cooper Rapha Kona process

It looks like a pretty normal jersey, but there's a lot more going on. If you want to round your look out, instead of my plebian Smith Forefront 2, you can get the same helmet in Rapha collab colorways for the same price. Photo: Deniz Merdano

DSC02498-denizmerdano  deniz merdano cooper Rapha Kona process

One oddity with the Trail Windblocker comes about if you're wearing a layer over the top, and unzip it to cool down... this doesn't really work, as the Windblocker doesn't allow cooling breeze to work its wicking magic. Photo: Deniz Merdano

Conclusion

I started this by saying I was initially impressed with Rapha’s mountain bike kit pricing, 910 CAD later I have to justify that. I’d argue being comfortable, for longer, in more conditions means you’re likely to ride more. I’d also say well-made, well thought out things last longer, ultimately amortizing the purchase price over a longer period and winding up cheaper on a per-ride basis. Small features make a difference, be it pockets-inside-pockets or a rubber frame protector on a strap, and these often get lost in lower end items.

There are some other niceties here: Rapha includes repair patches for everything in a small pouch on the tag, lots of the materials are recycled, and to top it off I like the simple, blocky styling. Fit wise, I'm a medium in everything here, and I'd say they pretty much nailed it for my 5'11" 165-pound frame.

There’s a car commercial I like, the content isn’t too important, but the punchline is “it’s not cheap, it's inexpensive.” If you can swing for it, spending money on good clothing and kit is worthwhile, and while Rapha isn’t cheap I'd argue it's competitively priced, and, years down the road, you may very well find it was inexpensive.

DSC02439-denizmerdano  deniz merdano cooper Rapha Kona process

Time to go ride. Photo: Deniz Merdano

cooperquinn
Cooper Quinn

Elder millennial, size medium.

Reformed downhiller, now rides all the bikes.

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Comments

oldmanbike
+15 Sandy James Oates Niels van Kampenhout chacou trumpstinyhands Jerry Willows Pete Roggeman Tremeer023 Jotegir Andy Eunson Cam McRae Nick Maffei Metacomet vunugu pedalhound Craig Ellis

What a strange concept. An insightful review of stuff your readers might be interested in, instead of clickbait about stuff they're not. Don't you people know anything about mountain-bike journalism?

Quite a study in contrasts between this piece and PB's Rapha piece today.

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cooperquinn
+1 OldManBike

I haven't been over there yet today... but I did see the weird-ass collab Rapha announced yesterday and was like... what... the hell is this. 

Also, thanks!

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cyclotoine
+2 Cooper Quinn Andy Eunson

My take is that the collab is seeking to appeal to a different generation of mountain bikers than their more muted offerings. At 42 I'm definitely interested in single colour plain logo riding gear, but garish things seem to be back in style in some circles.

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cooperquinn
0

Its definitely not geared at me - I'd never even heard of the other party! 

But I've come to terms with not being cool anymore, or even remotely knowledgeable about what IS cool.

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cxfahrer
+2 Cam McRae Cooper Quinn

Those fancy Rapha Braindead trousers and pajama are great to shake up those color schemes stuck in colorblocking vs plain black. I think it's refreshing - not that I would spend that much money on it, and always prefer black over the wrong color.

Maybe this leads to other designers rethink their brown olive grey black colors. 

I am 64 and still love my early 2010s Sombrio shirts.

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cooperquinn
0

Different strokes for different folks!

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doodersonmcbroseph
+1 Cooper Quinn

I'm 42 and I thought the pants looked nice, I like the funky style. Kind of reminds me of some Korean hip hop dance wear. Too bad the price is way up there. I don't wear mountain bike specific anything because I find they have always lacked any sort of personality or style; sorry no offense to anyone who likes to 'look the part'.

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LoamtoHome
+4 Andrew Major Cooper Quinn Mammal Jotegir

Didn't know Vancouver was in the "Northwest"?.... It's the West Coast yankee.

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cooperquinn
0
LoamtoHome
+2 Jotegir Cam McRae

An American term imo but from your link:

"Definitions based on the historic Oregon Country reach east to the Continental Divide, thus including all of western Montana and western Wyoming. Sometimes, the Pacific Northwest is defined as being the Northwestern United States specifically, excluding Canada."

*The top photo could have lots of fun with in Photoshop.

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cooperquinn
+1 Morgan Heater

You've gotta dig pretty deep in there to find a "sometimes... excluding Canada", hahaha. 

I'll go with the second sentence, whereby the Pacific Northwest broadly lines up with Cascadia.

"Though no official boundary exists, the most common conception includes the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington, and Idaho, and the Canadian province of British Columbia."

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pete@nsmb.com
+3 Jerry Willows dhr999 Cam McRae

Jerry's right - PNW is decidedly an American term that is sometimes adopted by people not paying attention (aka America-centric Americans who don't realize there is more than half a continent north of their border).

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LoamtoHome
+1 Pete Roggeman

You can't always be right, but when you are, it's so right it's almost wrong!

Jotegir
+4 Andrew Major Jerry Willows Cam McRae Vik Banerjee

The Pacific Southwest, if anything.

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xy9ine
+1 Jotegir

holy shit, i guess we're technically southerners here. quick, we need a defining accent.

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cooperquinn
0

Chinook.

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tashi
+4 Jotegir Niels van Kampenhout Andy Eunson Pete Roggeman

I’d say the Pacific Northeast ‘cause it’s referencing the ocean but only ocean biologists seem to agree with me on that one.

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mats
+4 Cooper Quinn Jotegir Niels van Kampenhout Cam McRae

I have a pair of the trail pants and the wind block jersey and they're both great. I paid full price for the pants but got the jersey on a pretty good sale. One detail that I didn't see mentioned is that you can send gear back for free repairs if the damage is too extensive for the included patches. This pushed me over the edge when deciding what riding pants to buy.

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cooperquinn
+1 GB

Oh, I neglected to mention it because I didn't know that! That is neat. 

Kitsbow offers service like this as well; I've got a 5 year old hoodie in for repairs with them right now. $20. I'm very excited to have it back.

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Jotegir
0

Ohhhh that's actually a good one - My Bontrager, Trees, Fox Head, and RaceFace apparel always seems to be falling apart at the seams after a season of proper use. The only way I've mitigated this in recent years is just increase the number in the rotation - which doesn't help the rides-until-blown rate. 

I wonder how sending stuff in from Canada works for them?

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tashi
0

Now THATS a good feature.

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mats
+1 Cooper Quinn

Here's the link to the repairs page on the US site.

https://www.rapha.cc/us/en_US/repair-service

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velocipedestrian
+3 Jotegir Gabriel Barbosa Pete Roggeman

Do you have small children, Cooper? Those haunted eyes look familiar.

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cooperquinn
+3 Jotegir Velocipedestrian Gabriel Barbosa

Ha, I have a two year old!

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mudhoney
+3 Cooper Quinn Hbar Emma Le Rossignol

Would love to see a review of the women's kit

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Emleross
0

Same ;)

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cooperquinn
0

I obviously can't speak to fit - but I'd expect the finish to be the same. 

I can say that one of the main designers behind the Rapha MTB line is a woman (who lives in Gibsons, so maybe its no wonder the stuff works for our weather), so I'd expect the same attention to fit with the women's line. But, that's all just my conjecture and not a replacement for review.

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Offrhodes42
+2 Cooper Quinn Pete Roggeman

Paying for high quality sports clothing does hurt initially, but years down the road when you are still using them it pays off. If you are patient you can get deals too. Rapha, Gore, Velocio all had/have deals over the past two months. I have a Gore Windstopper jacket that is going on 8 years old now and is my go to jacket when it drops below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. It has more than paid for itself.

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cooperquinn
+1 vunugu

Absolutely.  Buy once, cry once.

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Andeh
+2 Cooper Quinn vunugu

I'm usually the first one to hate on hipsters decked head to toe in Rapha, but their trail knee pads are just amazing.  Super comfortable, and they scored really well in Enduro Mag's impact test too.

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cooperquinn
0

I've heard nothing but rave reviews about the kneepads.

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GB
+2 Gabriel Barbosa Pete Roggeman

I can't believe  I have not visited  this coffee shop.  Bike friendly , three choices of bean for espresso? Or three drips? Pour over is always sublime if your appreciating a single variety bean .

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cooperquinn
+1 GB

Usually ~3 espressos on any given day, and there's only one pour over option (and its only on Monday) 

They've got some pretty neat beans for sale, too.

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GB
0

Looked them up . Thank you for link.

Pallet coffee. Oh man Diego Robello CostaRica is amazing . Think chocolate with cherries or raspberry. 

Ismael Hassen Ethiopian.  Blueberries .

Outstanding  beans , I do  wish Pallet would roast beans full city roast .

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cooperquinn
0

I had the Ismael, it was great! 

I bought a bag of the Sought&Found Paradise Pink Bourbon there the other day, and its been... a wild way to start the mornings, haha. Even my very-non-coffee-snob partner was like "what is THAT, it smells wild?!"

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xy9ine
+1 Cooper Quinn

i recently had a (nicely made) pour over for the first time. which i kinda lament, as i don't really need to expand my repertoire of vices. at least the required hardware is relatively minimalist. that said, my espresso grinder isn't great for single dose, so there's a potentially expensive rabbit hole...

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cooperquinn
0

I've got a reasonable espresso setup at home (Gaggia Classic Pro, Baratza 270wi). I've picked up a hand grinder for pour over, and don't regret it. The MUCH coarser grind required for pour over means its easy to weigh and grind beans while the kettle heats up. Grinding for espresso by hand would be a hard no, but pour over is totally fine. And its so much easier to dial in, you can buy much smaller bags, and keep two or more on hand and pick whichever suits your fancy at that point in time...

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xy9ine
+1 Cooper Quinn

yeah, was looking at hand grinders; suits the minimalist process quite nicely. what you got?

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cooperquinn
+1 Perry Schebel

I ordered a scratch and dent Varia from idrinkcoffee.com after a couple airport beers. 

If I could do it again, I'd probably get a Timemore - which conveniently you can also buy at United Strangers! 

That said, for pour over, you'll also be totally fine with something cheerful like a Hario Slim.

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fed
+2 Cooper Quinn Pete Roggeman

I roll my eyes when Rapha jump into mnt biking, surprisingly it was not as expensive as their route stuff.  One time I found a sale on their stuff and bought a merino top 50% off, I found the quality to be outstanding.  I was so impressed that I then decided to buy their trail pant at full price, I literally worn them for two years on fall and winter rides and still look like new; I even used them for hiking. I have the trail windblock jersey as well and I find it very well design for those chilly days, the front panel keeps the wind out well the back breaths well. I have also found this jersey useful to run on with on windy chilly days. I find Rapha to be a great value on the long; definitely not cheap but if you wait for their sale their value is even better.

Reply

thehfk
+2 Cooper Quinn Troy

I’m very impressed with the Rapha gear. 

I have the wind knock jersey and can honestly say that it’s the only layer I need in the winter unless it’s raining. The wind block layer is DWR treated and works as advertised. 

I also have the pants and pads. I tore the and repaired the pants on one of my first rides. It’s refreshing to have the patches included. The fit is superb. The pads stay put and are very comfortable. I’ve had them for 6 months and they look and smell brand new.

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cooperquinn
0

I want the pants and pads!

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rnayel
+1 Cooper Quinn

Picked up a matching pair of trail shorts and trail pants during their end of season sale in the very classy Blue Green/Egg Shell, colourway. Lived in them last fall. They are great. The fit is spot on and the features are well thought out.  Big fan, value is there too - especially if you catch one of their sales.

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cooperquinn
0

Yeah, they have some good sale pricing, especially if you're not opposed to colors.

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DaveSmith
+1 Niels van Kampenhout

Shorts are...short

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LoamtoHome
+1 Dave Smith

better to show off your knees!

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DaveSmith
0

so trashy.

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earleb
+1 doodersonmcbroseph

The price of Rapha stuff makes my Patagonia addiction seem just fine. 

Alternative ESJ is the Houdini at $135. 

I did drop for the Rapha knee pads as soon as they were launched. First pair of pads on the market that didn't turn you into a billboard with some massive bright white logo's on your knees. They fit excellent and I'd pedal all day in them no complaints.

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cooperquinn
0

I don't have a ton of experience in the Patagonia mtb collection - I think Cam reviewed some? 

And yeah, I'm not big on paying to advertise either, ha!

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pete@nsmb.com
0

I've had good luck with a Houdini, but it's nowhere near as comfortable (the fabric is cool and clammy against the skin when wet) or as feature rich. BUT at the price point, it can't be beat.

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maxc
+1 Cam McRae

Nicely written.

“does anyone actually ride with a hood on?” - yes. Hello from the uk.

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cooperquinn
+2 4Runner1 Niels van Kampenhout

Interesting. Its certainly not that we don't ride in the rain here... its that I can't deal with the lack of situational awareness with a hood.

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maxc
+1 Cooper Quinn

Yes I have heard it sometimes rains elsewhere :)

Situational awareness: fair enough. Does that vary whether the hood’s over or under the helmet? If it’s wet and cold then hood under helmet definitely improves my day.

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cooperquinn
0

Doesn't matter over or under. I just accept my head getting wet!

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xy9ine
+2 Cooper Quinn Niels van Kampenhout

funnily enough (or not), while i'd never buy a jacket without a hood, i never actually use them. i even have a jacket with a removeable hood; yep, that stays on. fashion, huh?

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LoamtoHome
+1 Cooper Quinn

I just used it over my helmet coasting down IRR....  really the only time.

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andy-eunson
+3 Cooper Quinn Metacomet Gabriel Barbosa

I’ll hood up on cold rides when I first start out. Or if I get caught in significant rain. Not being the owner of any hair, rain through helmet vents is cold. Hail is colder and hurts.

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troy
+1 Cooper Quinn

I too was afraid of the initial bougieness of Rapha, but I have a lot of it now, jacket, pants, windblock shirts, knee pads, shorts, chamois and really like all of it. They have some big sales so you can save. Check the archive section.

The other thing you missed is the free repairs! That alone puts the initial cost into a better space when compared to other brands.

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cooperquinn
0

I honestly didn't know about the free repairs until the comments section here, but agreed that it adds huge value!

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khai
0

Afaik 7mesh invented/was first to market with that pocket design.  I remember my wife bought me a pair of their shorts years ago and I thought "that's really weird" until I slipped my phone into it while sitting on the bike - then "OH!  DAMN!!!"  

I have a Mons Royale (merino LS) shirt with a similar wind proof front panel and really like it - it's my go-to from mid-late autumn through mid Spring, and often times means the ESJ can stay in my pack.  

The hood on the jacket is most useful when standing around in the rain, though I have ridden with it up occasionally - mostly to see if it was worth doing.  It works pretty well for slow/easy rides, but I don't love it when things heat up.

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cooperquinn
0

Yep, I've got some Pearl Izumi shorts and pants with the same pocket design... and had a similar experience of "huh" to "brilliant". And there's no real downsides for off the bike, either? 

My 7Mesh Glidepath pants have 'normal' pockets and side pockets.

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