The Rapha Brevet Long Sleeve Jersey is an undeniably stylish piece, with plenty of storage for long winter rides and a high-viz gilet to match, but there’s no getting away from the price tag.
The Brevet’s design inspiration comes from Paris-Brest-Paris, the 1,200km race from the French capital, to the Brittany coast, and back again, where riders are required to plough on through the night if they are to finish within the 90-hour time limit. With that in mind, Rapha have paid particular attention to visibility and storage.
The jersey is made from the Sportwool fabric which has long been a feature of Rapha’s range. It’s a polyester and merino mix (61 per cent and 39 per cent respectively) and is designed to offer the best properties of both fabrics: the high-wicking and breathability of the former, and the warmth and anti-bacterial qualities of the later – and it works to good effect. We didn’t find ourselves overheating when working hard on climbs, nor did the jersey become overcome by sweat. It’s soft next to the skin, too, and has a luxurious feel compared to an all-polyester jersey.
We think Sportwool is a stylish choice for autumn, winter and spring, used on its own with a base layer (long or short sleeve depending on the temperature, preferably merino) and a gilet during the shoulder seasons and warmer winter days, and as a mid-layer on cold deep-winter rides.
The fabric isn’t windproof but that’s where the gilet comes in. It’s super-light, made from 100 per cent polyester and easily packs down to be stowed in one of the Brevet’s many pocket (more on which below). It’s a featherweight gilet – with large mesh sections at the back to ensure there’s plenty of ventilation to allow heat to escape – and so isn’t the warmest we’ve tried but it takes the edge off the wind, which works just fine in the current temperatures (roughly between seven and 12 degrees), though you’ll likely want something more heavy duty for colder conditions.
It’s also water resistant and does an excellent job at keeping your core dry in a shower, when it’s not raining heavy or persistently enough to warrant pulling on a jacket. Of course, you don’t necessarily need a Rapha gilet to achieve the same affect but we like the fact that the jersey and gilet are designed to work as one.
The two defining features of the Brevet which set it apart are the high-viz colours and storage options. The gilet is the most obvious manifestation of the former and while one riding companion described it as “dull yellow” it’s undoubtedly bright out on the road. On it’s own we wouldn’t say the Brevet is hugely visible considering it’s predominantly grey, though there are two reflective, horizontal stripes on the chest and back (one of which is a slightly brighter high-viz yellow than the gilet), a reflective band on the left arm and reflective tab at the rear of the jersey. The gilet, which has large reflective stripes and a reflective Rapha logo, boosts visibility considerably.
The gilet has an offset zip which Rapha say is to make for “comfortable layering” and, well, we didn’t have any trouble pulling one layer on top of the other, though it’s not necessarily a problem we’ve experienced with straight zips. It does keep the zip away from your chin though.
Rapha market the gilet as being ‘complimentary’ but the Brevet is comfortably the most expensive long sleeve jersey in Rapha’s range, £35 more than the windproof Winter Jersey and £55 more than the bog-standard Long Sleeve Jersey. Even with extra reflective panels and additional pockets, we think it’s fair to assume some of that cost is taken up by the gilet.
On to storage, and the Brevet has plenty of it. In total there are six pockets: the usual arrangement of three rear pockets with an additional zipped pocket, a large horizontal zipped pocket above, and a small waterproof zipped pocket on the chest. We’ve found the horizontal zipped pocket useful for stowing the gilet or a lightweight jacket, though it must be flat-packed and not scrunched up into a ball to ensure it sits comfortably against the back. That frees up the three outer pockets for tools, plenty of food for long rides and additional clothing if needed. It’s certainly an arrangement which gives the rider more options.
The ring pull on the horizontal pocket ensures it’s fairly easy to open on the move, though the other rear zipped pocket only has a small zipper and so it’s less straight forward, particularly if wearing gloves. Chances are, however, that you won’t want to access whatever is in this pocket (a mobile phone or bank card, for example) until you’re at the roadside anyway. Rapha say the front chest pocket is designed to carry a brevet card (the card stamped at control points during an audax), which makes sense given the jersey’s design inspiration, but in reality we found it well-suited for carrying a little cash for the cafe stop or a house key. It’s waterproof and we wish the same could be said for the rear valuables pocket.
The tailoring is excellent. This is not a super-tight piece for racing but the cut is close fitting and assumes the same shape as your body when in the riding position, hunched over the handlebar. That is to say, there’s no bunching of material at the front of the jersey, the tail is generously long and the open cuffs are anatomically shaped to provide a little more coverage over the top of your gloves.
All said there’s a lot to like about the Brevet if the price is right for you. It’s a stylish jersey – though we’ve come to expect that from Rapha – but more importantly it’s well thought out thanks to the additional pockets. Ok, it’s unlikely that you’ll use all of them, all of the time, but it’s a sensible arrangement. The gilet is also a welcome – if pricey – addition given how well the two items work together. Our jersey is grey but Rapha also offer a blue option which comes with a pink gilet.
Colours: Grey with yellow gilet, or blue with pink gilet