Rapha's latest long sleeve jersey uses Smartwool, and its effective moisture-wicking design makes cool-weather rides more bearable.
The US$200 jersey, the long-sleeved version of Rapha's classic club, is more refined than its rivals, including little touches like an additional zippered pocket with inside tabs for an iPod listener to conveniently run the famous white ear bud chords; a rear pump pocket; a distinguishable but subtle white arm band with an embroidered Rapha logo; and a thought-provoking inner pocket patch describing the late Marco Pantani's 1998 victory in France, wearing nothing but a short-sleeve jersey in abhorrently wet and cold weather.
All aesthetics aside, I like Merino wool, and have worn good stuff and bad over the past 13 years. Rapha's cut is somewhat slender as advertised, but the generous width of the Large worked with my wide shoulders. The seams weren't a bother (as they can be on many wool tops), and combined with sleeveless baselayer and bibs, the sleeves extended comfortably in the drops and when reaching around to fumble with a tool or snack in the rear pockets. I especially like the full-length zip, with a chin-and-neck-friendly fabric fold at the collar.
Beyond smart design and high-tech materials, one has to ask if there's value in a US$200 jersey. In this case, it's worth remembering that Merino wool does a far better job trapping the vapours (body heat) and wicking away moisture than any other clothing material, and because it's a natural fibre, doesn't stink after one ride. This in turn means less washing (unless your spouse tells you differently), and less wear and tear on the garment.
Ten years on, my closet holds more wool than Lycra, which reflects the long term value of a more expensive (and durable) jersey. Get the 14.5oz/411g Rapha long sleeve jersey if you prefer smart, comfortable clothing without the gaudy advertisements and less-than-flattering cut; compared to the ill-fitting and scratchy retro wool trainers on the market, the Rapha is almost a bargain.
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