Rapha Winter Jersey, reviewed
Rapha are synonymous with top quality (and often expensive) products, yet there's no doubting that their kit has a little something extra, something that all those wooly and sheepish dupers just can't seem to nail - which is why (9 times out of 10) I love their kit, and am always eager to slip into a little black number with their name subtly engraved on it.
After discovering that I was very light on kit for handling western weather (having been in Asia for way too long) I got hold of a small consignment of Rapha "winter" kit to put through its paces - including a Rapha Winter Jersey.
To start with the term "jersey" is a tad miss-leading, it has a full front zipper, and therefore could well be considered more of a jacket, which is even better. The first thing you note is that this is no lightweight garment, there's no fancy "thinner makes you warmer' approach here, it's a real heavyweight in both build quality and targeted performance terms.
Classic Rapha black, with the obligatory white arm bad (reflective), and pink trimmed zipper and collar lining give it that now familiar, and classy look - there's no doubting this "jersey" steps out with fine style. A nice and stretchy mix of polyester and merino wool ensure the build quality.
A look behind reveals 2 open rear pockets; one large and with an inner pump pocket and the other lined with a "secret" side pocket for valuables. Above these two is a larger zipped rear pocket, which sits in with the internal ventilation layer of the "jacket" - so it can also be used as a tail-vent, or for storing rain jackets, maps etc. The arm pits also have zip up air vents. All in this is pretty well aired in the right places.
Take a look inside and you'll come across a full windproof lining layer on both siders, perfect for typical western (and northern Asian) spring and winter days. There are also tensioning toggles inside, so there's no flapping around.
Luckily, for testing purposes, the UK was amidst it's wettest and coolest summer for a century, which meant that this jersey was going to be used almost every single day for a couple of months, and well and truly abused - how did it fare?
It's a "slimish" fit, there's no baggy approach to this jersey, so be sure you order the right size (use their online charts). It's a snug and pleasingly comfortable fit, and the long tail ensures your back is well protected. The arms are nice and lengthy, so it feels great on the bike - but also steps up as a great all-rounder for off the bike wear - I wore it for social and travel use for 2 sold months, including using its "magic" rear pockets to stash excess camera lenses at airport check-in desks.
All in it looked and performed superbly on the bike, and is a great and stylish high-end investment for anything from vaguely chilly conditions upwards. The only area it was left a little lacking in was when I got a monsoonal soaking - it did hold and carry a lot of "heavy water", but any jacket of this bombastic build quality would do that, and that isn't what it's made for (I should of had a waterproof stashed in that huge rear pocket).
The bottom line - Stylish, classic feeling, comfortable, warm and versatile - great fit, seems very durable, not a rain jacket, not cheap (US$240) - but a great all-round performer, a good investment in your cold-comfort.
Team Sky will be wearing Rapha kit in 2013, and there's no doubt they'll be the best dressed and most comfortable riders in the peloton.
Check out www.rapha.cc