Rapha's new Core collection brings the aesthetics and design knowhow of the notoriously premium brand to a relatively accessible price point, with a limited-edition range of men's and women's cycling kit in a range of coordinating colours.
The range includes jerseys and shorts for both men and women in classic Rapha colours; starting at £75 / $115 / AU$125 it represents a significant drop in price point for the British brand, and was apparently over two years in the making.
The motivation, according to Rapha, was to create something more "democratic".
"We want to make cycling the most democratic sport in the world," said Kati Jagger, Rapha's UK press officer. "So we wanted to use our experience in design and sourcing and factory relationships, and make something really great at a more accessible price point."
The price isn't however just aimed at enticing new customers into the fold. Rapha found that, while the company had a dedicated following, many customers tended to save their Rapha wear for club rides, races and events, wearing other, cheaper kit for day-to-day riding, training and commuting.
"For the people who already own Rapha, it's meant to be more for everyday wear – athletic basics," Jagger added.
What's on offer?
The Core collection consists of a jersey, available in men's and women's versions and in a range of colours including black, navy, pink and light blue, plus women's shorts and men's bib shorts in black. The colours are chosen based on the those that sell best for Rapha, and coordinate with items in the other ranges. If the Core collection proves successful, autumn/winter products may be added at a later date.
Currently, the least expensive jersey in the Rapha range is the recently updated Classic Jersey at £110 / $170, or the Lightweight jersey in Australia at AU$155. The cheapest men's bib shorts in Classic range are £150 / $195 / AU$275, and the cheapest women's shorts are £130 / $205 / AU$230.
The Core collection jersey will retail at £75 / $115 / AU$125 for both the mens and women's versions, with the women's shorts at £80 / $120 / AU$150 and the men's shorts at £100 / $150 / AU$180. This puts the Core Collection in the region of 30% cheaper than the Classic range. It also puts the range head to head against products by brands such as Castelli, Gore, Sportful and Primal.
It should be noted that this isn't Raphas first foray into lower priced products. The Replica range of men's jerseys and shorts are a similar price to the Core collection, though the colours and patterns are based around the Team Sky livery. There are plans for similar replica kit for the Canyon//SRAM women's team in the near future.
Where the savings come from
Rapha is predictably keen to emphasise that while these products are less expensive than their main ranges, they are no less well designed or thought out.
Savings have been made in various ways. In the shorts, one type of stitching rather than three has been used, with a two-panel construction as opposed to the multiple panels its shorts are usually constructed from. The leg gripper is a cheaper laser-cut band with silicone gripper. The jerseys use a different fabric to the Classic range and have tone-on-tone zips and accents, all of which reduce production costs.
Economy of scale also comes into play. With 12 years of business behind it and significant growth in that time, Rapha has established relationships with the factories that produce its garments and developed manufacturing techniques that mean it can order larger numbers of products with confidence, decreasing the individual cost per item.
While Rapha has opted for certain cheaper design elements to reduce costs, as mentioned above, there are other areas where compromises are absent, including the chamois pad. Both the women's Core shorts and men's Core bib shorts have the same chamois Rapha uses in the Classic and Pro Team ranges.
The Core Collection jersey
Both the men's and women's version of the jersey have the same features, albeit with a different cut. This includes a full length tone-on-tone YKK zipper, three external cargo pockets, one external zipped valuables pocket, a laser cut rear hem with silicone grip dots, and flatlock stitching throughout.
The men's jersey is available in XS to XXL in black, navy, light blue and pink, the women's in XXS to XL in black, navy and hi-vis pink. In our opinion, after an initial try-on, the jerseys size up true, with for example a women's medium equating to a UK12/US8.
We'll be reviewing this kit on BikeRadar, so watch this space for more information.
What do you think of the new Rapha Core Collection? Would you buy it? Let us know in the comments below.