First Look: Rapha Pro Team Fall/Winter Kit
Talk to anyone who considers themselves "in the know" regarding road cycling, and they're sure to have an opinion on Rapha. Rapha fancies themselves as more than a brand, but a lifestyle. Their clothes tell a story of pain and suffering of the pro peloton while referencing cycling’s history. I myself have been known to be a critic of such evocation in regards to Rapha, but there is no denying that they make a top-notch bit of kit. Here are my initial thoughts on what I'm wearing heading into the Winter riding season. PRO TEAM TRAINING JACKET Many companies make you dig a bit to find out what kind of kit pro riders are wearing. Rapha doesn't, and if anything it plays into the feeling that Rapha is worn by the very best. All Pro Team pieces are made for the WorldTour, and this Rapha Pro Team Training Jacket is maybe the most pro-feeling winter jacket I've tried on. What do I mean by pro-feeling? I'm not talking build quality (though this is phenomenally well-built), but by how it fits. More on that later. You can (and should) expect Rapha to pay attention to the little things. The zipper pull tab is curved in to make unzipping the jacket smoother. The jacket is double cuffed to block cold air from getting in the jacket, while the collar fits is snug enough to prevent wind from entering while riding without being constrictive. Further, the rear zipper pocket is perfectly matched for a small wallet, with surprisingly deep pockets to match. Small potatoes when taken in pieces, but it really feels polished when put together. The front of the jacket where most of your protection is needed features a windproof material in the name of keeping your core warm. Out back is a stretch fabric they call Thermoroubaix that lets body heat out; it sounds counterintuitive initially but works well in practice. This jacket uses Polartec Powershield insulation. I appreciate the warmth down to about 35 degrees Fahrenheit (with a baselayer in tow). A black jacket definitely needs reflectivity, and the reflective piping around the rear pockets, the white band on the left arm, and a small Rapha logo on the collar help to brighten it up. It is a sharp-looking jacket, or at least that's what people tell me when I wear it. With great power(shield) comes great responsibility, everyone knows that. And every time I go out for a long ride, I can tell people I'm on a power trip. You have full permission from me to groan. PRO TEAM WINTER TIGHTS WITH PAD II Before Rapha sent this kit, they made me say "Pro Team Winter Tights with Pad II" five times fast. It took me a few tries but they took pity on me and now I get to wear them. I'll take pity bib tights from Rapha every time. Like the Training Jacket, these tights use a DWR on all front-facing panels to keep the cold out and moisture from soaking in. The back is a bit stretchier and uses a lighter material, which helps with fit while regulating body temperatures. The material around the saddle is also reinforced for warmth, while the inside of the tights uses a brushed fleece material. Requisite reflective material is tastefully placed all over the bib short, and the Rapha logo is a restrained black-on-black. There's a size-specific chamois from CyTech, the same company that makes a chamois for tons of top-shelf brands. It's all good stuff and feels great in the saddle. And like the Training Jacket above, there are plenty of reflective elements that avoid looking like an afterthought. The six-bar element makes an appearance here on the back of each leg. Big safety points there; it draws in the eye when lit up. Just don't ask me to say what Rapha calls these bib tights. PRO TEAM THERMAL BASE LAYER - LONG SLEEVE This is the most "Rapha" thing here. Heritage-inspired stuff written in French for authenticity? Check. An integrated neck gaiter that seems at first inexplicable? Of course. Product copy that says it's ready to "drop the hammer" whenever? Yes. This is Rapha of course. And unsurprisingly, it works really well. The main material in the base layer is polyester. It has a ribbed, "slightly bobbled" as they say, or slightly knit feel to it. Fortunately, it is soft on the skin and keeps the air you're heating from your ride close to you. The integrated neck gaiter keeps your neck warm and is long enough that you can cover your ears and mouth. Rapha's six-bar pattern comes up around the collarbone here as well as a reflective piece. A Pro Team piece is always going to be form-fitting, and this is no exception; I rocked a size small and it fit nicely. On the Bike You get what you pay for, and in this case, it is a lot (in both instances). Rapha may have only opened up shop in 2005, but their kit feels like the product of decades of maturation. As said, the attention to detail is superb and that makes for real-world differences in feel. I particularly like that just about every piece of Pro Team kit has a little tag on the inside of them, with space for a name and race number. It is my kit, and if I give ever end up passing the jacket on to someone else they are sure to know that I had it first. Perhaps the most impressive piece here is the Pro Team Training Jacket. The fit is slim enough that it blurs the line between a long-sleeve jersey and a jacket. I think of it as a reinforced jersey; there's hardly space for anything other than a base layer. As such, the fit lifts up nice and high like a jersey such that it doesn't bunch up even when in an aggressive aero position. The close fit means I was warm riding 40 mph down Millcreek Canyon on a 40-degree day, though I wouldn't go much colder than that without considering a vest or gilet addition to block out wind chill. Size small fits me nicely. And that baselayer? It plain works well. It has a substantial feel to it contrary to other baselayers that sometimes feel featherweight. Warmth abounds and it is definitely soft against the skin. Size small is good, though I could probably size down and feel good. Truth be told, I've never met a bib tight that fit quite like these Rapha bib tights. The outside of the bib is almost like a softshell, and it does a good job of keeping out windchill on cool morning descents. This material is a bit thicker and less stretchy than anything I've felt on a bib tight. It carries a DWR treatment; I haven't been able to test them in rain but I was nice and dry under mild snowfall. Again, I was able to ride with these no problem well into 40-degree temperatures. There is plenty of compression to be found here, contrary to a lot of other bib tights I've used in the past. I'm antsy to get out on them on something more than a sixty miler, but I felt supported and comfortable. A size small fits me nicely at 5'6" and 130 lbs, though the thickness of the material is such that it folds in a non-visually-appealing way. The first time I wore the whole kit, one coworker said, "Man, Alvin looks good!" Who doesn't like to hear that they look good? Certainly not me. I love that cycling is intertwining of man and machine in every pedal stroke, I love the camaraderie, and I love the bicycle in its purest form is a promise of freedom. But I really love serving looks and rolling around in Rapha makes it easier than ever. A little bit of vanity hasn't hurt anyone. Winter riding seems to beat down on kit a bit more than spring or summer riding, so this winter-specific Pro Team kit needs to be durable. The kit also needs to thermoregulate on 60-degree climbs and freezing down 30-degree descents on the same day; so far so good. I am excited to see how this whole setup lasts in the winter, but first impressions are so far positive. Getting ready for Fall or Winter riding? 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