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I told my $500 Assos bibshorts that I had a new favorite and they slammed the door to the Kuku Penthouse in my face. But it’s the truth. The Core bibs are Rapha’s entry-level offering but they surpass that designation in both price and quality.
The Core bib fabrics are a touch thicker compared to something like the ProTeam line and provide more stretch so they’re more forgiving to various leg lengths and girths. They are somehow more modest, if such a thing is possible from spandex. A complete summer of heavy use left them untarnished. Not a single thread out of place.
This fabric is wonderfully stretchy and supportive, and the chamois is perfectly placed. It’s not too far forward or too far back (the latter is always a concern such “entry level” lines, which are often designed for more upright riders). There are no pinch points or chafing seams in the wrong places. The graphics are subdued. No contrasting bands anywhere, just a black-on-black Rapha logo on the back. They can be worn with any jersey — such is the beauty of an all-black short.
There remains a single, mild grievance, which is that the bib legs are too long, at least 3cm or so longer than other Rapha shorts of the same size. One is thus faced with an unenviable decision between rolling them up a bit or suffering from the Neopolitan ice cream multi-colored leg look.
Speaking of size, due to the stretch and longer legs, sizing down is a good option. I often wear medium Rapha bibs (ProTeam Lightweight bibs run tight, for example, so that I can’t even get a pair of smalls on) but size small Core bibs fit perfectly.
As a side note, buy the version that pairs black shorts with white bib straps. This allows you to wear thin, light-colored jerseys without looking like you forgot to take your underpants suspenders off. I’m not sure why black bib straps are a thing.
Entry-level is the wrong term for Core, both the bibs and the jersey. The jersey is $115 and the bibs are $150, pushing the total kit cost to $265. That does not approach cheap. But compared to premier Rapha jerseys in the $140-180 range and bibs from about $215 to $280, totaling nearly $400 for a kit, Core feels proletarian indeed.
A more reasonable price and excellent construction mean there’s no need to leave Core in the closet or save it for sunny Sundays.