Rapha’s Trail Gore-Tex Infinium jacket isn’t claimed to be waterproof.
Instead, the fashion-focused cycling, and now mountain biking, brand states it’s “extremely water-resistant”.
It costs a whopping £275 / $375 / €325, so needs to be a hit to justify the price.
Rapha Men’s Trail Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket details and specifications
Built from Gore-Tex’s Infinium material, the soft-feeling Rapha Trail isn’t designed to be a waterproof jacket.
Instead, Gore-Tex’s Infinium uses technology to give it “unique water repellency” rather than being backed up by Gore’s ‘stay dry’ promise of its traditional Gore-Tex material.
To do this, Gore’s membrane is used as the jacket’s outer layer, making water and snow bead and roll off, according to Gore.
The outer layer has been durable water repellent (DWR) treated. This coating penetrates the jacket’s fibres, lowering surface tension and helping water bead.
Its seams are taped, further enhancing how impermeable it is.
Add in windproofing – where Gore only classes a material windproof if its air permeability is less than 5l/m2/s (that’s 5 litres of air over a square metre of fabric per second) – and breathability, thanks to “billions of pores that are 900 times larger than water vapour molecules” and it means sweat can escape but air and water can’t get in.
Gore’s C-KNIT Backer Technology also features. This is a soft-to-touch, circular knitted material on the inside layer, and means it should feel soft against skin and slide smoothly over inner layers.
The in-built hood is designed to fit over helmets, while the cinch cord tightens the hood’s fit from the rear but pulls it in around the hood’s whole circumference.
Its peak is reinforced to help it maintain its shape and avoid sagging.
The hood can be rolled down and stowed around the wearer’s neck, secured in place using a small plastic clip on an elastic tether.
A soft-touch microfibre fabric is positioned on the top of the zipper to improve chin comfort, and around the neck’s nape.
While its tail isn’t massively dropped, it does feature dual-sided cinch cords for fit adjustment.
Two breast pockets are present; one internal and one external, and both are big enough for a modern smartphone.
All zips – including the main opening and pockets – have large plasticised, flexible pull cords, and are waterproof.
The jacket’s cuffs are elasticated and, like the arm pits, feature a lighter-weight, flexible, stretchy and permeable nylon material.
This is designed to improve cooling (at the armpits) and provide a flexible fit over your winter cycling gloves (at the cuffs).
Finally, on the left arm is a dot-printed reflective section.
My medium-sized blue/navy test sample weighs 307g.
Rapha Men’s Trail Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket performance
Slip on Rapha’s Trail Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket and you’re greeted with a premium feel; its fabric is meaty enough to exude robustness, but not so cardboard-like it impedes movement or flexibility.
That thickness pays dividends for the collar and hood. With the zip fully done up, or even partially open, the collar remains upright and protective, reducing ingress from water or wind down your neck.
This is great for high-intensity or hot, poor-weather riding. Even with the zip almost three quarters undone to help vent air, sideways wind and rain are stopped from entering the collar.
Although a minor gripe, the rear of the collar consistently contacted the nape of my neck. While not uncomfortable – thanks to the microfibre fabric – it was annoying given its robustness.
Thanks to reinforced portions, the hood maintains its shape well, particularly at the sides.
It’s big enough to go over open and full-face mountain bike helmets, but don’t expect the zip to close entirely with a full-face lid; chin bars stop it from doing so.
Still, there’s plenty of protection even with a full-face lid, where the jacket’s opening can be pulled in tight to the helmet’s sides by closing the zip as far as it will go.
Full closure is possible with open-face helmets, adding to that protected feel.
Even when riding quickly into a headwind, the hood remains put and can be cinched down further to guarantee it won’t come off.
The protection on offer here is brilliant, and peripheral vision isn’t compromised.
Continuing the theme, its fit is also spot-on.
As a 178cm tall guy, weighing 76kg with an athletic build, the medium size was perfect for me.
It’s not as relaxed-fitting as Rapha claims, and if you want to layer up beneath it (beyond a jersey and light mid-layer), then consider sizing up.
If you’re a larger person, it might be worth sizing up too.
Rapha has a free returns policy and plenty of stockists, so trying before you buy – or getting a replacement if you buy the wrong size – isn’t too difficult.
Despite the slightly sportier cut than Rapha claims, at full stretch on the bike it doesn’t tighten across the back or shoulders. The sleeves remain securely in place thanks to plenty of elasticity in the material.
A cinchable lower hem is a neat addition, but I found the dropped tail and opening remain in place better when left un-cinched. Once tightened, the hem rode up while descending, allowing mud and water to splash up inside the jacket.
Given just how water repellent the Trail Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket is, and how much protection it offers, I’m surprised Rapha hasn’t laid it all on the line claiming it’s a true waterproof.
The level of beading on its external surface is impressive and, no matter how heavy the downpour, it doesn’t appear to ever get overwhelmed, leading to saturation.
On the trail, mud and water slide off the jacket’s surface, leaving you looking consistently clean and dry in just about all conditions.
Hose the jacket down post-ride and water bounces off it, washing any remaining mud away.
Only when you point a hose directly at the fabric on full blast does water begin to penetrate the inside.
Of course, to maintain this level of performance, following Rapha’s care instructions to the letter is essential.
The stretchy nylon armpit sections are an Achilles heel to the Infinium fabric’s performance. While riding, water doesn’t usually enter under the armpits, but if you’re stationary in a particularly torrential downpour, dripping – and even running – water tends to flow over the vents, trickling through to the inside.
Although the armpit sections permit some heat loss, they’re not as functional as pit zips, and can’t be closed or opened depending on conditions.
However, when riding you can feel air flowing into the jacket, but not as much as a fully open vent would allow.
In that respect, it’s quite a warm garment to wear and performed best in temperatures at or just below 5°C.
During vigorous exercise in hotter temperatures (anything above 8°C), it was too warm to wear comfortably, and sweat would build up, soaking my inner layers. Arguably, it’s not quite as breathable as Rapha claims.
Fortunately, once your inner layers are soaked in sweat, it preserves your body heat well, especially with the hood up. Thanks to the wind-stopping properties of the Infinium fabric, it takes a long time to get truly chilly.
True to Rapha’s claims, the internal layer of fabric feels soft against the skin, even once you’re wet and cold, unlike a lot of other softshells and hardshells on the market.
The two small pockets aren’t really enough for a trail-ready jacket. It’s possible to squeeze a second pair of mountain bike gloves into one pocket, leaving just enough space for a smartphone in the other.
Additional internal pockets would have enhanced it considerably and I’d have lost the adjustable lower hem, replacing it with enough storage for goggles, glasses or other items.
Rapha Men’s Trail Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket bottom line
Rapha’s Trail Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket is a great garment, far exceeding Rapha’s statement that it’s not waterproof; it provided plenty of steadfast protection out on the trails in the grottiest of weather.
And that’s where it excels; it’s great for colder days when conditions are changeable and you need a dependable shell to keep you warm and dry.
It performs better than lightweight emergency jackets without weighing a significant amount more, and is better than or as good as a lot of dedicated waterproofs on the market.
|Price||EUR €325.00GBP £275.00USD $375.00|
|Weight||307g (Medium) – Medium, blue/navy|
|What we tested||Rapha Men's Trail Gore-Tex Infinium Jacket|
|Features||Made from GORE-TEX Infinium™ – a breathable, windproof, and extremely water-resistant softshell. C-KNIT™ backer for optimal stretch and an incredibly soft next-to-skin feel. Internal and external secure chest pockets to carry essentials. Adjustable hood fits over your helmet for added protection without obscuring vision. Panelled gussets under the armpits allow full range of motion and breathability|
|Key features||Hooded, water resistant, windproof and zip closure|