Clothing companies are increasingly designing their garments to complement each other and to work together as outfits. I learned this last year when Capo Cycling suggested outfits to try and this winter Rapha have suggested the same.
The advantage for us as customers is that as well as getting items of clothing that will work best for you when put together they also help make us look good on our bikes. Perhaps it shows that I’m getting a little vainer each year but nowadays this is exactly what I want to do on the bike. I want to wear quality clothing that looks good together and so I appear well turned out. I also want the benefit of being warm and comfortable for my ride in kit that’s designed to work best together as a system.
With that in mind, I’ve chose (in consultation) an outfit for Autumn/Winter riding. This is the first time I’ve tried Rapha clothing, so I’m interested to see how it works for me.
I admire what Rapha have achieved in the 10 years they’ve been around for – they’ve built a significant business, a brand that people emotionally respond too (for both good and bad), they’ve help make cycling more stylish. I also think they’ve got people excited about road cycling and about looking good whilst doing it. I’ve noticed a difference on the roads where I live too. Over the last 5 years more and more riders look good on their bikes rather than looking like an explosion in a lycra factory. Obviously people can and do look good not riding in Rapha too, but I think they’ve made a positive impact on how cycling clothing is designed.
I’ve aimed to choose an “outfit” to mean I can ride through winter in comfort given the typical temperatures I’m experienced in the last couple of years. The specific pieces I’ve created my review outfit with are:
Pro Team Jacket
Rapha say that the Pro Team Jacket is designed for high-tempo interval training in cold weather. What I read into that is it’s not a jacket designed for complete warmth on really cold rides. This jacket is in fact a good example of how new materials (in this case one from Polartec) are enabling manufacturers to innovate on their designs. In this case, Rapha have been able to build a winter jacket that’s not much bulkier than a winter jersey. Yes it certainly has some substance but not as much as full on winter softshell. By using Super Roubaix fabrics on the rear, the jacket is designed to breathe.
It’s also not a waterproof shell, so Rapha sensibly advise carrying a packable rain jacket such as their own Rapha Rain jacket when you’re expecting proper rain. It does seem to shrug off showers well thanks to the water repellent coating.
There are three good sized pockets on the rear and a small zipped one on the front left at the bottom. Perfect for your credit card or cash for the café stop.
It’s definitely a slim fit, but the fit is very good for me anyway. I’m riding in a size small and for my 68kg and 180cm size it’s perfect.
I have the blue colour and it’s a terrific colour and the which reflective arm bands and trims look really good and provide a little more visibility. It’s a classy looking jacket and seems very well made.
In the riding I’ve done in this jacket so far, I’ve been very happy indeed with how it’s been on the bike. It does work best in high tempo riding or when it’s not too cold. The lower the temperatures, the more higher tempo you’ll need to ride. I don’t like the cold, so when it’s got down to lower than 2 or 3 degrees Celsius I’ve swapped to a warmer jacket but I think you could happily ride up to around 10 degrees.
I’ve not had this jacket for too long but it’s already become a favourite and I’m delighted to have it in my wardrobe. I’ll keep riding in it and report on it closer to spring (where I think it will also perform well).
October 2015: I’ve now published my full review of this jacket here: http://girodilento.com/rapha-pro-team-jacket-review/
Find out more at the Rapha site: http://www.rapha.cc/gb/en/shop/pro-team-jacket/product/PJC02
Pro Team Bib tights
These are designed to work as an outfit with the Pro Team jacket and like the jacket they feature a windproof, DWR coated front for weather protection and more breatheable fabrics on the rear. Again Rapha describe these as perfect for tempo winter rides. You can see and feel the difference between these fabrics when you examine the inside surfaces and construction of the tights and they do feel nice to the touch.
The Pro Team bib tights have a pad build in, apparently at the request of Team Sky who wanted a simpler winter wardrobe (than having both shorts and unpadded bib tights). As a purist, I felt a little saddened by this but I’m also very happy to try new solutions.
Like the jacket, these are a slim fitting product and I needed a medium to be comfortable.
Featuring the same design treatment as the Jacket, they feature white reflective details and a block Rapha logo across your backside to give some winter visibility. I personally really like this graphic treatment and I think it works very well.
The pad is attached to the tights differently than I’ve experienced on other brands and almost feels like it’s just stitched around the outside edge to the tights, so the middle feels disconnected when you’re putting them and before you get on the bike.
However, as soon as you get into the saddle and start riding, it’s hard to not be impressed with how they perform on the bike. Even from the first couple of rides, the on bike fit for these tights is one of the best I’ve ever ridden. There’s also a good amount of warmth given they’re pitched as being for tempo riding. On my first ride with them, I found myself warming up from the legs rather than from my core.
I’m looking forward to spending more time in them, but first impressions are very favourable indeed. An impressive beginning. I’d not ridden tights at this price point before and they’re not that differently priced than some of their peers but I already think Rapha might have nailed it with these.
Find out more at the Rapha site: http://www.rapha.cc/gb/en/shop/pro-team-winter-tights-with-pad/product/PWT01
Long sleeve Merino Base layer
Rapha’s Merino base layers have had a good reputation for quite a few years, so it’s nice to have one to try. The one I have is a black long sleeved one in size small. The fit is very good, it seems really well made and has a couple of nice small Rapha flourishes in the design. Having moved away from Merino base layers in my own riding, it’s going to be interesting to spend time in them again.
So far mostly, I’ve been wearing it around the house and to my work as it’s got colder and it’s very nice in those situations. I’ve yet to get out and ride hard in it but I most certainly will.
I’d read a number of good reviews and reports on Rapha’s rain jacket, so it’s great to have one to try out and report on. The biggest disadvantage is that I’ll actually have to go and ride in the rain a few times (something I’m almost pathologically averse to).
The first thing that stood out on receiving this jacket to test is …. the colour. It’s absolutely stunning in orange. Even Mrs GdL who isn’t generally at all interested in cycling stuff, said “wow, that looks great”. It really, really does. The matching accents are a creamy white, which matches the Orange perfectly. It’s a thing of beauty and I could get quite carried away about how much I love the colour…..
Anyway, the white/cream elements are all reflective. Nice. There is a small zipped front pocket for cash/cards and it’s lightweight enough to be considered a packable.
Some other nice touches in the design are that there is a different fabric for the forearms in case you ride it with a short sleeve jersey. It’s designed to feel nicer on your skin on the arms, which is a nice example of the thinking Rapha’s designers have put into the product. It’s also sensible because as it’s packable you could take this jacket out anytime all year if there is a chance of rain.
The seams are all taped as you’d expect to ensure the waterproof fabric doesn’t get let down by the seams.
The fit is also very good. I’m riding in a small and it’s a perfect fit.
Whilst I’ve not ridden in heavy rain yet in it, I have taken it with me when using the Pro Team Jacket as Rapha suggest and it’s been particularly useful on cold rides to have as an extra barrier layer. For example if you ride to a meeting point, or you stop to fix a puncture, or even a café stop, I’ve found that popping on the rain jacket over the top of the Pro Team Jacket helps protect my core temperature. It’s a good reminder that a packable jacket gives you great flexibility in layering.
Using the Rain Jacket so far has helped me work the Pro Team Jacket a little better and manage my temperature more actively on colder rides.
I’ll report again once I’ve got a proper soaking or two.
To date, and I’m only part way through the testing, I now can see better what all the fuss is about with Rapha. All of the items above have been beautifully designed and well manufactured to look great and they do. However, these garments also do definitely perform very well indeed.
I have other clothing from other brands at similar price points as these and my early impressions are that these Rapha garments are every bit as good as anything else I’ve ridden and in many cases are better.
I’m looking forward to spending more time in them to see how I feel after another 500km or so of riding.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions, please leave a comment.