Think of a brand that manages to divide opinion, garnering both plaudits and put-downs, and you can guarantee that Rapha will be mentioned.
Heck, there is even a spoof website dedicated to taking the mickey out of its ‘Even more seriouser’ image. With its almost achingly self-conscious website and branding, Rapha has been successful in building a business that polarises opinion, from adulation to derision.
Yet it is clearly doing something very right given its stratospheric rise since the first Rapha product, the Classic Jersey, came to the market over ten years ago. I still have one and even though it has long since better days, I still hold it in high regard. I’ve owned and ridden several Rapha products over the years. Some have been terrific. Others, such as the first generation Classic Softshell jacket, which had the water resistance of a tea bag with a fit to match, less so – less GQ looks and more function would not have gone amiss.
So when it came to looking for a lightweight, windproof jacket that could be packed down small for ease of carrying on those in-between days when the weather can’t decide between cold, sunny, windy or wet (or inevitably some strange combination of all of the above), I kept finding myself being drawn to Rapha’s Classic Wind Jacket. While there are many considerably cheaper and no doubt equally as effective windproof jackets on the market, the cut and style of the Rapha product kept calling me. At £140, you’d probably expect it to make you a pre-ride brew in the morning and come supplied with a broom wagon as standard for when your ambition exceeds your legs ability to keep turning the pedals. Cheap it ain’t!
So what do you get for your hard-earned queenie vouchers? According to the not inconsiderable blurb, the Classic Wind Jacket is designed for temperate cycling conditions, cool morning starts, descents and sudden showers. Constructed from a lightweight nylon fabric, my large jacket weighs in at a scant 170g. Despite my initial reservations about the almost ‘waffer theen’ fabric, the jacket has proven to be remarkably robust over the three years that I have used it and even after countless washes, has still retained its appearance with no loose threads nor tell-tale signs of wear to speak of. The offset construction of the full length zip may look a little odd and I have to admit to wondering how easily I could use the zip one-handed but I needn’t have worried. The YKK zip has worked flawlessly throughout the period of the test with one-handed operation a snap.
Cut lower at the back with the obligatory reflective Rapha branding on the tail, the jacket does an excellent job of staying in place without riding up over the course of a ride. It’s a minor detail but one which I appreciate. In terms of overall fit, the cut is close without being constrictive. As a tall and slender type, the jacket can accommodate my long sleeve jersey underneath for cold weather riding, without feeling unduly flappy when combined with a short sleeve cycle jersey when the sun decides to make a welcome appearance. The sleeve length is pretty much spot on for my comedy chimp arms, while the lycra cuffs provide an effective seal against the wind.
Pulling the zip fully up, the lack of a neck draw cord isn’t an issue as the collar provides good protection against the wind and light rain showers. Down each arm, reflective detailing is used which makes you feel a bit like a character from Tron when light is shone directly upon you, while the addition of a small, zipped valuable pocket (i.e. bank card) on the front of the jacket is a neat feature. You can fit a small phone in but that causes the super lightweight jacket to pull down a bit and loose a little of its shape.
Rapha describes the stretch material used in the jacket’s construction as water resistant. For the first few rides it was, but given that this is designed as a wind proof jacket, don’t expect it to keep you dry in anything but the lightest shower. Repeated washes diminished the water resistance but there was always the option to reproof if I had been so inclined. As it was, it was the wind resistance and breathability I wanted the jacket for and on both counts, it performed exceptionally well.
On one particularly wet and clammy ride where downpour was the order of the day, I opted for the jacket over a classic hardshell. Truth be told, it was the only jacket I had so it was a case of Hobson’s Choice for me. Despite being wet, the jacket retained its windproofness and kept me warm for the duration of the ride. No small feat.
One feature that I came to appreciate over all the others was the lack of wind flap, even on long road descents. The bwarrp, bwaaaarp, flappity flap of a poorly cut jacket on the bike has always been a bugbear of mine. I like to enjoy my descents and not be distracted by what sounds like a flag trying to detach from a mast. On this point, the jacket performed flawlessly.
Since taking delivery of the jacket, the colour as tested (black) has been replaced with three new colourways – sage, grey and an eye catching lime green. Given the choice, I would opt for the latter as to my eyes, it looks terrific.
At £140, I can imagine Peter Kay’s Brian Potter character in Phoenix Nights decrying “Sweet baby Jesus and the orphans! How bloody much?!”. It’s a lot of money but given the amount of use that I have had out of it over the test period and how well it has both performed and worn, it has earned my vote. Tight Yorkshire heritage be damned.
|Product:||Classic Wind Jacket|
|Tested:||by CJ for three years|