by Hannah Dobson
February 8, 2017
Hannah tests out two cycling specific bras from Rapha
They’re not small, they’re pert. Perky even. Well, OK perhaps they are just small. And not all that perky after the attentions of two hungry babies. But that’s what I have, and that’s what I’ve been using to test these two bras from Rapha.
Just because I have lemons not melons doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate a good bra. One that is insufficiently supportive will still result in breast pain (a fact I established at great cost to the NHS. It wasn’t until after the mammogram that anyone suggested a better bra). Since having children, I’ve also found almost any kind of metal work pretty intolerable. Even a clasp at the side often ends up digging in and causing pain.
There are two bras here on test: the Light control, and the Medium control. Both are metal work and clasp free – you just pull them on over your head. They are both available in three colours: black, white, and pale blue.
The Light control version is a knitted seamless construction in two layers, with a slightly more open knit pattern in high sweat areas to aid ventilation. The couple of joins that there are, such as this one under the arm, are completely unnoticeable and don’t cause any pressure points.
The Medium support bra has an inner mesh, with a seamless slinky stretchy fabric outer, and two removable pads. I’m afraid I completely fail to see the point of the pads – they move around in the washing machine (as do most bra pads, in my experience) and fishing them out of wherever they end up and trying to arrange them symmetrically over your boobs inside the inner mesh seems to me more hassle than is worth enduring. I discarded them in the bottom of my knicker draw and the bra’s function seemed unaffected by their loss.
In use I found the knitted double layered fabric of the Light control version to run slightly warmer than the medium. The Light seems to me to be relatively thick for a bra and on very hot days it wouldn’t be my first choice, although the seamless construction does mean it stays comfortable without any particular hotter spots or chafing points. The Medium support bra has laser cut cut holes for ventilation – I guess the fact that I find this one runs cooler is testament to the fact that these work.
As well as the difference in fabrics, there’s a difference in the cut of the back. The Light support gives slightly more coverage at the back. I prefer the cut of the Medium – although the straps are narrower I didn’t experience any digging in on the tops of my shoulders, and I found the slightly cooler running of the Medium support bra more comfortable, especially as I usually ride with a pack I like to do what I can to keep my back cool. That said, I’ve worn the Light just as often as I have the Medium – they’re both very comfortable and since I do a lot of riding I’ll happily wear whichever isn’t in the wash.
I also preferred the depth of the Medium support bra, as it doesn’t come up quite so high into the armpit. For riders with a little more boob, the relatively low cut of the Medium might lead to some splurging out, but this isn’t a problem for me.
I’ve never paid more than £20 for a bra, although the RRP of some of them would have been higher. But then, I’m a small boobed person who has previously ended up with sore boobs from lack of support, so who’s the fool? The higher priced Medium support is my favourite of these two, although I would object somewhat to paying £50 for something where I end up leaving a good chunk of it in my knicker draw – although perhaps others will like the pads. Certainly their movement isn’t unique to these bras, and yet pads seem to be a staple feature of many bras, so someone out there must like them.
Fit wise, I went with the medium size in both, having tried on a large and found it a bit loose. There’s only the most minimal of cup shapes to the bras – more crop top than bra. In a normal bra I’d expect to be a 36B, possibly a 34B with a decent block of training behind me. I do wonder how effective this small/medium/large sizing is going to be for those seeking ‘lift and separate’. If my 34/36Bs are comfy in a medium, then what about a 34D? I can’t help but think they’re going to be fairly packed in – which means they won’t go anywhere, but if meeting in the middle causes you discomfort you might want to look elsewhere. That said, I think all our variously shaped body parts mean you always need to try on a bra and can never rely on measurements alone, so you might want to take advantage of the free returns policy and see how you get on.
I’ve worn these a lot – no sooner are they washed and dry and they’re worn again. So they’ve been washed a lot – and aren’t looking any the worse for it. Other crop top style bras I have that have cost less have generally gone a bit bobbled or saggy in the same time frame, so I guess this is a reflection on the quality of these (and the price you pay). Designed for cycling, I don’t think these would be supportive enough for a run, but for riding in these are ideal – there’s not strain or rub on the shoulders, even when combined with bib shorts. The modest crop top style also comes in handy for pre and post-ride car park changes.
Overall: these are soft, comfortable and durable. If they fit your body shape they’re worth a look, even more so if you can grab them in a sale.