When you pull on a piece of Rapha kit you know you you have something special - with that there's no arguing. The British company has been producing possibly the best cycling clothing around for a few years now, and it really is something apart - and a cut above the rest.
Many of the major, and smaller opportunist manufacturers, have tried to copy and emulate the success of the brand and it's products - but as yet nobody has quite gotten close to Rapha in terms of quality and style. It's hard to sum a brand up in one word, if we had to, umm - "premium" would have to be that word - premium quality and style, and at a premium price.
The range was born from necessity for luxury and functional cycling gear, and a product that dared to walk away from the normal multi-coloured mass produced gear we've been wearing for years -and they certainly achieved that goal. The product is, we hate to say it - but it's cool, subtly cool, and is truly designer cycling gear that works. We've been wearing it for many years, and although there are a few points we'd take minor issues with, we can't argue with the fact that pulling on Rapha kit is a feel good factor in it's self, add in the look good and performs good factors, and it adds up to something quite special.
The brand it's self has gone way beyond clothing; not only do they have a race team, they have a great cycling "cafe" in central London, produce books, DVD's, CD's and even a magazine - it's a concept, that really works.
We recently got hold of one of their Country Jerseys - which are a small range of jerseys celebrating a particular cycling rich nation and it's culture, and of course we chose The Italian. If (like us) you like that understated look then you'll love the Country Jersey, it's a single solid colour with just a nationally banded arrn, and a very small trip to match on one of the rear pockets. It's made Sportwool, which is created from a mix of merino wool (40%) and polyester (60%). This is a really comfortable and durable fabric to wear, which wicks and dries well, and has longevity (or at least we've found that in past tests). The jersey has a great cut, which won't squeeze us fatty's into a boob-tube like pose. The full length zip is ideal, especially in hot Asian climates, the dropped rear tail and with gripper trim and twin tensioning toggles makes sure the fit is spot on, while the rear has 3 nice (reinforced) pockets. One of these has a zipper compartment for keys/cash, and a button hole for any gadgets you may want to carry, the middle pocket has a pump sleeve (although you will need a skinny pup to fit here), and the last pocket is a regular one.
The zipper pocket also carries the "trade-mark" Rapha label, which is a very short story and sketch relating to each product, and always makes you smile.
In use; it's great, the ultimate in comfort, and you do feel kinda, well - cool. It's practicality and style all in one. On a price scale the jersey is quite expensive, but then again it is very special. This jersey is least pricey in the current range, with a retail price tag of GBP80, about double that of a Lycra/nylon jersey - but is it worth the price? It is a luxury item, but once you get over the initial price hurdle and wear a Rapha product I'm sure you'll find it hard to go back to anything else - it's addictive, be warned.