During the development stages of the recently released Rapha Jeans, lead product designer, Graeme Raeburn, and messenger Seb Cherchi-Bersch tested a pair of what we termed 50/50 test jeans. One leg was constructed from a benchmark cotton twill denim, the other used the denim Rapha developed exclusively with a mill in Italy. This fabric, from which the final Rapha Jeans are cut, was designed specifically for use on a bicycle.
They rode the 50/50s into the ground, commuting back and forth from south London to North London, riding all over the city, night and day, for over six months between them. This intensive testing (approx. 1800 miles and over 20 washes) was done to see where the weak points on regular jean material were, how it broke down and how effectively the Rapha denim stood up against the benchmark fabric.
The images demonstrate how and where the yarns of traditional denim break down, and shows us how robust the Rapha Jeans really are. Breaking in jeans is a nice attribute of denim but when riding this process is accelerated and in a very localised area, particularly the seat.
By mixing in a Cordura-type yarn (a robust nylon) with Lycra to cotton, our product development team could improve the wear, durability, moisture transfer and strength and also reduce the colour-fade.The development team and test riders went through five different prototype fabrics to arrive at the weight, weave and colour of the final denim. As no mill had ever made denim specifically for cycling they spent time finding a mill that could fabricate such a yarn but who would also understand its application.
Once the material was correct, they then spent time carefully incorporating cycling-specific details into a contemporary jeans pattern.
Rapha’s trademark attention to detail was applied to everything from the high-visibility binding, engineered seams, to low-profile rivets and the shape of the front pockets. Getting the balance wasn’t easy when tailoring for on-the-bike fit and visibility issues. In the end a totally unique product was created, giving the city rider everything they could possibly want in a pair of jeans: comfort, flexibility, visibility, cycle-specific pockets for D-lock and keys. And perhaps most importantly they are hard-wearing.