Rapha Cycling Apparel for the Cold and Wet
By Brandon Bilyeu
Pro Team Base Layer:
Pro Team Lightweight Rain Vest:
Pro Team Race Cape:
Pro Team Winter Tights w/ Pad II:
Base Layer: $75
Rain Vest: $190
Rain Cape: $295
Winter Tights: $285
How obtained: review sample from company
Available: online, retail, Rapha website
Rain Cape: Dark Red, Dark Navy, Yellow
Rain Gilet: Dark Red, Grey Blue, Yellow, Black, Bright Orange
Base Layer: White, Black
Winter Tights: Dark Navy/Chartreuse, Black/Black, Black/White
Website: www.rapha.com, Race Cape, Rain Gilet, Base Layer, Winter Tights
RBR Sponsor: no
Tested: 25+ hours
Sizing: All kit available in XS – XXL
Reviewer Measurements and Fit Comments: 5’10” (178cm), 150 lbs (68 kgs), 33″ (84cm) waist, 33″ (84cm) inseam, 37″ (94cm) chest. I choose size medium based on the Rapha sizing chart and found the sizing to be accurate.
Pro Team Base Layer – Essential Winter Gear
- Snug fit hugs the body for effective wicking
- Drastic improvement in cold weather comfort
- Pricey for a simple piece of kit
I got my first cycling specific base layer at the beginning of last summer. You know, the skin tight, short-sleeved, fish-net embodiment of cycling sexy that gets you very confused looks from your significant other. Hoping for some relief from an atypically hot summer I was disappointed to find no discernible advantage.
I shelved the summer base layer but was excited to try again in cold weather when extra insulation and wicking are important. Rapha was kind enough to send me a cold weather gear package to test out and included a long-sleeved base layer. I am not exaggerating when I say my cold weather ride comfort has been drastically improved by wearing a base layer.
As a heavy sweater, every winter ride used to turn cold and uncomfortable when I started to sweat. The Rapha base layer pulled the sweat away from my skin and kept me feeling much drier and warmer than when not wearing a base layer. No miracles here — it won’t keep you 100% dry and warm — but it helps a lot. Adding a simple base layer effectively made it possible for me to go longer and in more comfort than ever before on winter rides.
The Rapha Long Sleeve Base Layer uses an open mesh structure against the skin for good wicking and a closed outside layer to trap a film of air next to the skin for insulation. The material is soft and stretchy for a skin-tight fit that allows optimal wicking and insulation, with flatlocked and bonded seams helping to avoid any irritation. It is light enough to not feel restrictive and easily fits under other layers. The sleeve length is generous for full arm coverage and the torso length is just long enough to stay tucked into shorts but short enough not the interfere with the chamois or bunch up.
Pro Team Lightweight Rain Vest – A Sleeveless Rain Jacket
- A fully waterproof vest
- Includes a rear pocket and rear wheel road spray protection
- Great fit and durable build
- Chest velcro is a redundant feature that gets in the way
- Lack of rear venting
Rapha’s Lightweight Rain Vest is a very interesting piece with a lot of neat features. Like any good vest it packs down to easily fit into a jersey pocket ever at the ready for a little added warmth, but with the addition of rain protection. The vest is made of a lightweight 3-layer waterproof fabric and all the seams are taped for complete waterproofness. There is a single rear pocket (with a drain hole of course) that is externally laminated with a waterproof film for extra protection against rear wheel spray. Two zippers up front give options for venting and a velcro closure across the chest allows the vest to be worn unzipped with reduced flapping. Reflective accents and bright color options are great for visibility.
I found overall fit and construction to be excellent. The material is definitely waterproof and provides good core protection. The chest velcro closure is a redundant feature that accomplishes the same function as the two zippers. And while the zippers are very easy to use one handed, the velcro actually requires that two hands be used if you want to get a zipper through that section.
Venting is another issue. While the solid waterproof back is nice when it’s raining it also holds in body heat. Generally, vests are used in mild weather when some core protection is needed but back ventilation is typically built in for temperature regulation. I found this vest to be a great emergency waterproof shell for milder days with the threat of rain, but I would really like to see a slot vent across the top of the back for better air flow. This would retain full waterproofness and reduce the need to unzip up front and deal with flapping.
Pro Team Race Cape – Great Protection and Fit
- Waterproof with good breathability
- Shaped construction for a perfect riding position fit
- Zippered expanding wrist openings
- Lack of rear venting
- Chest velcro is not redundant but still hampers single handed zippering
The Race Cape borrows a lot of features from the Rain Vest but does a better job of maximizing overall functionality. The most obvious difference between the two is that the Race Cape has long sleeves. But don’t worry, if you want a short-sleeved rain jacket all you have to do is cut the Race Cape sleeves in the middle. There is a bonded strip in the center of the sleeves that can be cut while retaining a clean edge. The sleeves also have zippered wrist openings which I really like for two reasons: it makes getting the jacket on/off a breeze and is great for vent control of the arms which typically get no airflow.
The cut of the jacket is optimized for the stretched-out bike position with long, curved sleeves, long rear tail for good coverage, and a super short front waist to avoid bunching. On the bike fit was perfect and the shaped construction minimizes excess material which meant almost no flapping noises. Again, there is a chest velcro closure but this time it is not redundant as there is only a single zipper. I didn’t cut the sleeves off this jacket as I enjoy the full protection down to the wrists.
Instead of a rear vent, the jacket uses a back fabric that is thinner than the front so it breathes really well. I would still prefer to have a vent, however. The front zipper combines with the wrist zippers to do a great job of dumping any built-up heat and controlling the temperature, but a vent would provide constant airflow. Waterproof performance was very good and has held up well through lots of wet rides. Rapha claims you can carry the jacket in a jersey pocket which is technically true, but it is really too big to carry around in a jersey pocket comfortably.
Pro Team Winter Tights With Pad II – Keep the Cold Out
- Great wind/cold protection up front and breathability out back
- All day comfortable chamois
- Snug, warm, and unrestricted fit
- Lots of reflective bits
The full name is a bit of a mouthful but lets you know these tights come with a chamois. It is the second iteration of this pair of leggings. I don’t know about the first iteration, but I can say that these tights are just about perfect for cold and mildly wet riding. The forward-facing fabric is wind and water resistant (durable water-repellent coating) and lined on the inside with a dense fleece that is grooved to trap warm air against the skin. The DWR coating holds up well under the occasional wheel spray and light sprinkles, but is overwhelmed fairly quickly in real rain.
The fabric on the back of the legs is lighter weight to breathe and let out some heat, but is lined with brushed fleece for some insulation and a soft feel. The different performance of the front and back fabrics is quickly apparent when the cold wind you had not even noticed shifts direction and slices into the back of your legs.
The fit is really great. Wind-blocking fabrics tend to be stiff which can lead to restrictive fit, but this Rapha fabric retains enough suppleness and stretch to move with the legs almost as well as plain lycra. Seams are strategically placed to avoid the knees and I had no issues with irritation. The ankles are simply hemmed and stay in place just fine without any grippers. Without a zipper at the ankles it can be a bit of a struggle to get the tights on, but the trade-off is no zipper to potentially irritate your legs.
A comfortable chamois is included and in a first for me it is not brightly colored but black. I mention this because we all know to wash our cycling bottoms inside out and, at least for me, the colored chamois is the visual indicator of orientation. Except Rapha has played a dirty little trick here and, on several occasions, gotten me half way into these tights before realizing they are still inside out. But once on correctly the chamois is very supportive. It definitely falls on the thick side, but compresses in the right places without bulging in the wrong places. If you are a fan of thin chamois’ this might be too much for you.
Holding everything up are a pair of seamless elastic band bib straps. The front cut is sufficiently high to offer some warmth to the mid-section while still making nature breaks possible without disrobing. There is even a pocket on the rear yoke for your race radio or a small flask. Reflective logos and bars are located at the sides and rear for visibility in the low light conditions of winter. The overall feeling is a snug and supportive fit that allows unrestricted movement and performs great in the cold.
This was my first experience with Rapha and I came away impressed. Rapha makes some real quality kit. The construction is solid, the fit is spot on, and the performance is great. The Pro Team kit comes at a premium price point and with a race cut, but there are other Rapha options designed for more everyday riding that I would expect to perform just as well.