For 2015 Rapha has expanded its lines of men's and women's gear. BikeRadar has been testing a number of the pieces and here are our initial thoughts — the good, the bad and the ugly.
Rapha has two main styles of jerseys: a casual cut in a merino/polyester blend called Sportwool, and a racier fit in lighter and stretchier polyester. Style of course is a matter of personal preference, but by and large BikeRadar testers have found that while the Sportwool pieces look good, we don't often reach for them in the closet. The thinner jerseys, many of them in the Pro Team family, are the go-to pieces.
Sportwool feels nice to the touch; soft and substantial. You can of course ride long in it - a few testers have done six-hour-plus rides in the Brevet Jersey — but the fabric is noticeable heavier when dry and definitely weightier when damp than polyester. Also, the quarter-zip on some of the Sportwool jerseys can make them pretty lousy for really hot days. Like with any clothing, your intended use determines the merit of the piece, but here the range seems limited.
BikeRadar's Kristen Legan (pictured here) took second place at this year's Dirty Kanza 200, a 200-mile dirt and gravel-road slog through the expanses of Kansas in the US. Her bibs of choice? The Women's Souplesse Bibs. "They are super comfy for long rides," she said. (Aside from the DK200, Legan was one of six women to ride the entire 2012 Tour de France route as part of the women's Rêve Tour team, so she knows a thing or two about long rides.)
The blue Souplesse jersey has earned some high marks for its good fit, functional pockets and stylish looks.
Women's Souplesse Bibs and Jersey with men's Pro Team Jersey and Bibs
The Classic Jersey hasn't been called on for as many rides. It's nice to have a wool women's option but it isn't quite as practical.
We did like the pockets and reflective elements on the Rapha Vests. The fit, of course, is personal. The women's vest flairs out quite a bit at the bottom; this works well for some but ended up like a parachute on others.
The Classic Shorts were a miss. The color wasn't well received with our testers and the fabric is not flattering in any way. "They just look and feel gross," said one tester.
The City Riding Socks have a cool striped design, but they are very thin and wear out quickly. When you're paying US$25 / £15 for a pair of socks, you'd expect them to last a little longer.
The Pro Team Aero Jersey is basically the Pro Team Jersey with a new fabric, a short neck and a close fit. It feels like the upper of a good, thin skinsuit — but with pockets. For short, fast rides this is a great top.
The Pro Team Climber's Jersey, similarly, is the same cut but in a mix of lightweight and waffle-grid fabrics. Watch for this one in a head-to-head BikeRadar Battle with the Castelli Climber's Jersey 2.0.
The Pro Team Jersey range has a few new patterns this year. Our testers are mixed on some of the bolder patterns.
We like the longer sleeves, light weight and close fit of the Pro Team Aero Jersey
The Pro Team Bib Shorts we received for test all have tighter straps than they used to. Both Medium and Large testers found the bibs straps uncomfortably tight. The pad is still the thick, two-piece CyTech chamois, and a coldblack treatment deflects some heat.
The Club Jersey with the 1/4-zip seems better suited for sitting at a coffee shop than riding. The sleeves are cut more for a standing position than a riding position, and being unable to really unzip a jersey on a hot day is annoying. The Brevet Jersey — another Sportwool piece — is more functional with its full zipper, along with three standard pockets, one big internal rear pocket and a zippered chest pocket. For hot summer rides, however, we still would default to the thinner Pro Team jerseys over the Sportwool styles.
Finally, one novel piece is the Pro Team Softshell Base Layer, a DWR water-repellant garment. This is more of a spring or autumn piece, designed to be worn in the rain under a jersey. Think Gabba rain gear — but as an underlayer.