It is possible to buy a weatherproof (ish) softshell jacket for less. Quite a lot less if you search hard enough. But if you buy on cash terms alone not only will you lose out on performance (though there are exceptions), you’ll miss out on cut and style. You may not prioritise style, you’re getting wet and muddy on a bike after all, but cut is pretty important to all riders.
The Rapha softshell is cut for style and performance, the sleeves are usefully long (without unnecessary bunching or wrinkling) the tail is long and when the ‘spare’ tail ﬂap is deployed, complete with reﬂective Rapha logo, it’s a complete bum shield.
The torso is broad at the shoulder and tapers to the waist without getting overly skinny, so weekday desk jockeys can enjoy it without feeling shrink-wrapped, and the deep triple rear pockets are deep enough to avoid spillage.
Marketing hype aside, it’s clear that Rapha kit is designed and specced by real riders. We wore ours through the worst of last winter’s weather, in the snow to which it was oblivious, and the rain, which took an hour and a half of constant spray to make it feel properly soggy – a fair result for any softshell.
Usually we wore it with a long sleeve base layer underneath and only rarely needed to add a thin jersey. In fact, it worked better when you left a little space for the sweat vapour to wick away. In action it worked much like our other favourite softshells from Gore Bike wear, like its perennially popular Phantom.
The jacket’s also done some après rides to the pub, and earned lots of positive comments on colour (we have a red one) and the ‘versatile cut’, which is polite pub talk for ‘you don’t even look like a bike dork in that’. Even the best from Gore struggle to pull that trick off.
This article was originally published in What Mountain Bike magazine.