Made from Gore-Tex Infinium fabric, the Rapha Classic Winter jacket is a premium hardshell garment designed to be worn as part of a layering system in “challenging conditions”, i.e. the harshest weather winter can throw at you.
It’s an expensive option and the fit is relatively casual for roadie cycling kit, but it works remarkably well across a wide range of weather conditions, offering a real performance advantage over less sophisticated jackets thanks to the material used.
Rapha Classic Winter jacket features, sizing and construction
The Classic Winter jacket is made from Gore-Tex Infinium fabric. Infinium is a range rather than a single product and Rapha doesn’t specify exactly which technologies the jacket possesses, but it’s a three-layer construction that gives the appearance of being a single layer, with no visible separate lining.
On the outside it has a non-shiny finish and the fabric feels tough. The inside is softer, with a very fine, flat weave on show.
Interestingly, Infinium products are aimed at applications where absolute waterproofness isn’t the priority, which might seem slightly at odds with the poor-weather intentions of this jacket. More on that later.
Intended as an outer shell rather than an all-in-one jersey replacement, the Classic Winter jacket isn’t loaded with storage. It’s got two rear pockets, plus two chest vents that are backed by mesh, meaning you can, in theory, use them as pockets too.
This jacket isn’t designed to be packable like a wispy rain shell and you’d certainly struggle to fit it in any normal jersey pocket. Clothing weight is largely irrelevant unless you’re packing for a tour. However, if you’re curious, the size XS Classic Winter jacket weighs 316g on my scales.
The jacket’s collar is lined with a snug, fleecy material and the tail of the jacket can be cinched in via two drawstring adjusters hidden inside above the waistline, while the cuffs have an elasticated inner to act as a storm seal.
All of the white details, including the rear stripe, Rapha signature armband and other small sections, are reflective.
The Classic Winter jacket is available in three colours for men and two for women.
With a 33in chest, the men’s XS size fits me well with some layers underneath, although the upper arms are quite roomy.
Rapha Classic Winter jacket on the bike
Despite the generous fit of the sleeves, the Classic Winter jacket doesn’t flap around because its fabric is quite stiff.
In fact there really isn’t much stretch at all. I managed to separate the zip on one occasion (no harm done) when I tried to get to my jersey pockets underneath the jacket, without first undoing it.
If you load your jersey with stuff, the back of the Classic Winter jacket tends to stick out when you’re hunched over on the bike, but cinching down the tail elastic largely prevents this.
What really impressed me is how wide a range of temperatures this jacket feels comfortable at. Layering is personal to an extent, and it depends how hard you’re riding too, but I found that with a single baselayer and a light to medium-weight jersey underneath, the Classic jacket covers the range from about 1 to 10 degrees – and I tested it in conditions ranging from about -3 to 12 degrees centigrade.
I’d recommend it for everything in that range up to around 10 degrees – above that it’s likely to be too warm unless you’re really taking it easy.
With extra insulation underneath in the form of additional baselayers or a padded gilet, the jacket will take you well into sub-zero figures, down to temperatures where the limiting factor becomes other parts of your outfit such as footwear.
The substantial fabric, high collar and close-fitting cuffs give you the cosy, enclosed feeling of a heavy-duty winter shell, but it doesn’t simmer you in your own juices like a more basic outer layer – it does seem genuinely breathable.
The chest vents are also quite effective, but it’s very speed-dependent. At reasonable velocity, they let in a lot of air, but if you’re slogging up a climb at single-digit pace, it doesn’t feel like they’re doing much.
As noted above, Gore doesn’t class Infinium garments as totally waterproof, but in practice the Rapha jacket gives every impression of being just that and indeed all of its seams are fully taped.
While I’ve not worn it in truly atrocious downpours, the Classic jacket kept me completely dry in moderate rain and also didn’t let a drop in when I stood under a shower-head for several minutes, giving the fabric every opportunity to wet-out.
Gore advertises “persistent beading” for some of its Infinium range and the Rapha jacket seems to offer exactly that.
Given that this is the result of the fabric’s actual properties – it includes 26 per cent ePTFE, the polymer that underpins Gore-Tex’s entire range – the effect hopefully shouldn’t wear away in the way that it does with DWR coatings.
Restoring the DWR layer is the hardest part of re-proofing a waterproof jacket, so this bodes well for long-term ownership.
Rapha Classic Winter jacket vs. filth
If there’s a stain on the Classic Winter jacket’s otherwise outstanding performance, it’s exactly that – stains.
I tested the jacket extensively in very muddy conditions riding gravel bikes in the Forest of Dean, and inevitably it got pretty filthy.
That white reflective section on the back is perfectly positioned to collect mud flung off your back wheel and I found it wasn’t coming clean with normal washing afterwards (30 degrees and non-bio washing powder in my case).
I didn’t try washing the jacket with something like NikWax Tech Wash, but Rapha doesn’t explicitly recommend doing this in its washing instructions either, and I have no particular reason to think it would reduce the staining tendency.
The reflective sections have a different texture to the rest of the garment and just seem to be slightly more absorbent.
I raised this with Rapha and sent my original test jacket back to the brand to be examined. The replacement I’ve received is staining in exactly the same way, so it doesn’t appear to be down to a single defective garment.
I haven’t yet been given a definitive answer on how best to care for the jacket and whether it’s possible to treat stains, but Rapha now advises that “mud/road dirt should be wiped off before letting it dry onto the reflective fabric”, which may or may not be wholly practical in day-to-day riding.
Rapha Classic Winter jacket overall
Mud staining aside, the Classic Winter jacket is an outstanding piece of kit for poor-weather riding and I like that it doesn’t rely on a here-today-gone-tomorrow DWR coating to repel water.
I’d have appreciated a dedicated security pocket for house keys and cash, preferably positioned on the front just above the waist (using the chest vents as pockets isn’t ideal), but that’s a minor quibble.
The Classic Winter jacket is also relatively expensive, but it offers versatility across a huge range of temperatures.
With appropriate layering, it’s suited to just about anything you’re likely to encounter in typical European riding conditions through the winter and will likely be useful for much of spring and autumn too.
|Price||AUD $465.00EUR €320.00GBP £270.00USD $370.00|
|Features||Water and wind-resistant Gore-Tex Infinium fabric, 2 rear pockets, 2 chest vents, High-stretch storm cuffs, Adjustable hem, Raised fleece-lined|
|Key features||Reflective , water resistant and zip closure|
|Gender||Men's and women's|