Rapha’s Pro Team Insulated Gore-Tex jacket is a well-made foul-weather insulated cycling jacket that excels in truly awful conditions, but it has such a narrow-use case, as well as a few design niggles, that I would struggle to recommend it to all but the most dedicated of winter riders.
Rapha Pro Team Insulated Gore-Tex jacket design and construction
Shakedry is totally impervious to rain. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
As with all ShakeDry jackets, the outer face of the jacket is impermeable.
ShakeDry switches the usual waterproof-jacket arrangement, with the waterproof membrane sitting on the outside face of the jacket. This also means there is no wind-chill effect that can be caused by a DWR-coated layer (which allows water to bead on a conventional jacket) wetting out.
The cuffs, tail of the jacket and hood are made with Gore-Tex Stretch. This fully waterproof material has a puckered texture and offers lots of stretch along one axis, and limited give along the perpendicular axis.
The jacket is lined with Polartec Alpha. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The inside of the jacket is lined with Polartec Alpha. This loose fibre pile is hydrophobic and, despite its low bulk, adds an impressive level of insulation. It is not bonded to the inside face of the jacket.
The overall construction is impressive. The bonding and taping between each type of fabric is neat, and there are no pronounced ridges or bumps anywhere inside the jacket.
I am just shy of 6ft (around 182cm) tall and have a fairly average 70kg build with a 38in (98cm) chest. I tested a medium jacket and found the fit to be spot-on.
As should be apparent, when the time came to review this jacket, I went over every single inch with a fine-tooth comb. This was when I noticed a panel bearing a naff passage from Alex Howes stitched to the inside.
Rapha, please stop doing this.
This might just be the most Rapha thing to happen ever, and I was so offended by its over-sincerity that I was momentarily tempted to knock off a full half star…
Rapha Pro Team Insulated Gore-Tex jacket performance
Donning this jacket is a bit of an event. Before you’ve even put it on, careful consideration must be given to how you choose to layer beneath it.
While undoubtedly breathable, ShakeDry isn’t a magic catch-all solution and it has a moderate insulating effect of its own that must be taken into account alongside the Polartec insulation.
For a sweaty Scotsman like me that runs hot at the best of times, this caused more angst than is probably reasonable.
My most memorable testing day was… very memorable. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
In the end, for my most memorable testing day – which featured a mix of 50mph winds, sleet, heavy snow, rain and temperatures around the 0°C mark – I opted for a Brynje string base layer, an older Rapha Core Winter jacket and the jacket in question. I completed the AW2020 look with a pair of winter gauntlets and Sportful’s Total Comfort bibtights.
For me, this was just about right for the conditions. Beyond stripping down to my keks, seemingly nothing can stop me from overheating on climbs, but for everywhere else, and particularly on extended descents, I was impressively cosy.
The fit of the jacket is generous enough – without being overly baggy – that you would be able to fit more layers beneath if you run cold. If you go for a lighter outfit, the structure provided by the insulating layer and form-fitting cut also stops the jacket from flapping wildly on descents.
The adjustable cuffs on the sleeves do an excellent job of sealing the elements out and they are long enough to cover the cuffs of gloves fully.
The cuffs do a great job of sealing out the elements but the zips have an annoying tendency to catch on the Gore-Tex Stretch membrane. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
The zips on these cuffs have a tendency to get caught up and jam on the GoreTex Stretch membrane. This is annoying if you’re trying to put a glove back on while riding after taking a sweet Instagram snap…
Even if they don’t jam, the zips are stiff and, with bulky winter gauntlets, you’ll almost certainly have to use your teeth to cinch it all the way down.
The zips on the rear access ports, which also act as vents, suffer from the same problem.
Your movement is already restricted inside your ShakeDry cave and reaching around and fumbling behind your back trying to find the puller is quite awkward.
Big, obvious cord-pullers would make it much easier to grab, and while adding these would be an easy modification to do yourself, it feels like an obvious oversight on a £320 jacket.
Fussiness aside, these two ports are genuinely useful and make it easier to access the jersey pockets than simply unzipping the bottom of the main zipper. They also act as an effective vent on climbs.
However, depending on what layer you’re wearing beneath, the vents may not line up well with the pockets on your jersey. If the zips extended a couple of inches higher, this would be less of an issue.
The form-fitting hood was, without a doubt, my standout feature of the jacket. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
Despite its aesthetics (which everyone delighted in likening to that scene from Pulp Fiction), the hood is my favourite feature of this jacket.
I hate the bulky feeling of riding with a cycling cap on under a helmet (sacrilege, I know) and I was worried the hood would present similar issues.
However, thanks to the form-fitting cut and thin Gore-Tex Stretch material, the hood is – beyond feeling cosy, dry and comfortable – barely noticeable under a helmet.
A peak, similar to a cycling cap, extends from the front and helps to stop driving rain hitting your shades. I used the hood with some clear-lensed Smith Wildcat glasses. These have relatively slender arms and didn’t cause any discomfort when worn beneath the hood.
With these large shades and the hood zipped all of the way up, next to no skin on my face was exposed to the elements. This was very welcome when riding in the hail and snow during testing.
Riding with the jacket zipped all of the way up can feel a bit claustrophobic. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
While cosy, riding with the hood zipped all of the way up can also feel a bit hypoxic.
No one is doubting Gore-Tex’s breathability, but it’s not as if my wheezing breath on a climb can actually pass through it (it wouldn’t be a very good windproof jacket if it could).
If you are climbing and want to be able to breath, it is possible to unzip the jacket a small amount so it hooks under your chin, but your helmet strap will limit how far it can go.
If you’re really overheating, it is, of course, possible to stop, remove your helmet, fully unzip the jacket and run it without the hood.
This feels and looks a bit weird, and there is no easy or neat place to stash the hood once it’s been taken off.
Rapha Pro Team Insulated Gore-Tex jacket conclusion
This sounds much worse than it means to, but to use this jacket, you have to be comfortable with a moderate level of discomfort – it’s tight in weird places, it’s a fiddle to get on and off and the hood feels restrictive when breathing hard.
In conditions like these, I can’t think of something I would rather have been wearing. Jack Luke / Immediate Media
However, in the midst of a squally miserable wet snowy day on the side of a bleak Scottish moor, I cannot think of something I would rather have been wearing.
Wrapped up in my wearable Polartec-lined performance comfort blanket, I felt completely isolated from the elements and far more comfortable than I would have had I been wearing just about anything else.
However, herein lies the problem with the jacket. While it excels in properly grim, wet and cold conditions, how often do you find yourself riding this sort of weather? Indeed do you really want to be out riding in this weather?
The jacket is so bulky that you couldn’t really take it with you as a just-in-case spare-layer unless you can stuff it into a cavernous saddle or handlebar bag. You could easily replicate the functionality of the jacket with a thick long-sleeve jersey, an insulated gilet, a standard Shake-Dry shell and waterproof cycling cap.
If you were canny, you could likely buy all the above for the same price as this jacket. And this setup would offer far more year-round versatility.
With everything in mind, it’s really challenging to come up with an overall conclusion for the jacket. It has a few annoying quirks that mean it would always be shy of a full-score, but it still excels and impresses in a very narrow range of conditions.
If these are the sort of conditions you enjoy riding in regularly (and I count myself in this) the jacket could be a useful addition to your riding wardrobe. However, for everyone else, I think £320 could be better spent elsewhere.