We’ve taken the start of the ‘cross season proper as our inspiration this month.
With off-road action in mind (our own George Scott will make his cyclo-cross debut in the Rapha Super Cross event at Alexandra Palace on October 28) we called in some kit from Rapha’s cyclo-cross collection to try among other offerings this month from Sportful and DHB.
Rapha runs a professional cyclo-cross team in the USA in partnership with FOCUS bikes, and the kit we’re testing can be found on the backs of riders like US cyclo-cross champion, Jeremy Powers.
Let’s take a closer look.
Pro Team Cross Jersey
Earlier this year, we tested the Pro Team summer jersey, and a brief comparison reveals an almost identical cut; that is to say, as close as might be expected from a garment used by pro cyclists (‘cross riders are evidently no more bulky than their road racing brethren). Other shared features include the full length zip, three tail pockets, mesh side panels and an elasticated hem gripper that appears at the rear of the jersey only, lined on the inside with an unbroken band of silicone. The low, soft collar, elasticated at the nape of the neck, is another welcome return.
The fabric is different, however (Rapha claim an exclusive here): shinier on the exterior and somehow ‘heavier’ on the inside, though far from fleecy. It stretches extremely well. The jersey costs £140 and is available in sizes X-Small to XX-Large.
Rapha recommend it for use in mild to warm conditions, for ‘intensive cross racing’ or ‘high-tempo training’; in other words, keep pedaling if you’re wearing this when its cold. We’ll be safeguarding ourselves against falling temperatures by pairing the jersey with Rapha’s short-sleeved merino base layer (£60, sizes XX-Small to X-Large) and merino arm warmers (£40, sizes small, medium and large).
Cross ¾ bibshorts
Another ‘cross-specific garment, this time in the legwear department, the Cross ¾ Short repeats the close fit/candy striped detailing of the jersey. It has the Cytech pad we encountered in the Pro Team bib short tested earlier in the year, stitched to thinner lycra panels than Rapha use in their regular ¾ bib short, presumably to cope with the greater exertion demanded by ‘cross racing than by general spring/autumn usage. We’ll find out how warm they are away from the ‘cross circuit; the soft lining bodes well in this department, as does the full back panel which gives way to mesh only at the shoulders. An early fit suggests little stretch in the straps; not especially comfortable off the bike, but hunched over the bars may tell a different story. We’ll let you know. A zipped pocket on the back closes with an easy-to-locate ring pull. The Cross ¾ bibshort costs £160 and comes in six sizes from X-Small to X-Large.
The Winter Glove is a close-fitting number with an extremely small aperture that grips closely at the wrist and should keep out the cold, wet, and for ‘cross riding, mud. The deep, neoprene cuff extends an inch or so above the wrist. The fit around the fingers is close too. The back is unassuming, with the exception of a wipe panel on the tip of the thumb, but on the underside the palm is padded, lined with a reflective piping on its outer edge, and the index and middle fingers are tipped with leather, presumably for greater lever control. Internally, the tricot lining is soft and may prove insulating. They cost £75 and are available in five sizes from X-Small to X-Large.
Cross Winter Hat
‘Cross can be a chilly business, and so a hat isn’t a bad idea, perhaps as much for spectators as riders. This Merino blend number (25 per cent wool) has a band in the Rapha-FOCUS candy strip that can be folded up to expose the ears or down to cover them, depending on the temperature and the sensitivity of your lugs. It’s pretty stylish on the inside, too, and were it not for the wash label, could conceivably worn inside out. Elsewhere, it’s regulation black with the scrolling ‘hand written’ Rapha logo on the peak in white. We’ve started wearing this hat, well, just around. Rapha say it’s sufficiently slim to wear beneath a helmet. We’ll find out.
Check back soon for a full review.