The fabric blend that Rapha use for their Lightweight Jersey is only 22 percent wool (the rest is polyester) but it’s enough to yield a softer feel on bare skin than most synthetics while the open weave allows for plenty of airflow plus good moisture transfer.
Add in the extra-meshy panel down the centre of the back and the full front zip, and the result is a much cooler feel in sweltering conditions than we would have expected of something that once covered a decidedly furry sheep.
For sure though, the mostly-black (with requisite white armband, of course) colourway of our test sample isn’t the best choice for those residing in more sun-drenched locales as it does absorb quite a lot of heat. Thankfully, Rapha also offer the Lightweight Jersey in white.
Out back, the standard-sized outer pockets have slanted tops for easier access. Standing in for Rapha’s usual narrow ‘pump pocket’ in the middle is a vertical zipper (with a handy pull), behind which is a giant expandable pocket that runs the full width of the jersey.
It can sometimes be difficult to access while rolling along but it’s a gem for bulkier items like rain jackets. In addition, there’s a cheeky ‘pill pocket’ tucked on the inside of the jersey – you know, for ibuprofen and stuff.
The novel pocket arrangement results in a lot of material over your lower back – up to five layers in fact, when you factor in the right side’s additional concealed zippered pocket. This isn’t what you want in hot and humid conditions.
Tailoring is superb as we’ve come to expect from Rapha though, with a perfect form-fit cut that’s neither too tight nor too loose and nary a thread of excess fabric hanging about when you’re in the drops. Soft silicone grippers line the rear inside of the lower hem to further help things stay put.
Durability has proven to be very good regardless of what some would think of the overseas sourcing. Thanks in part to the high polyester content, our test jersey is still looking brand new after well over 20 trips through the washing machine and dryer, with no signs of fabric wear or stitch fraying.
Unfortunately, all of this comes with the usual Rapha price tag. In spite of the Lightweight Jersey’s capable ventilation, well-sorted fit, novel pocket arrangement and solid quality, there’s still a premium to be paid for that trademark colour-contrast armband and embroidered logo. It’s a very good and distinctive looking jersey but at £105 (US$175/€115) you really have to want it.
Rapha lightweight jersey: Marty Caivano