Rapha have introduced a new collection of clothing designed for racing in cold and wet conditions.
Rapha launched the Pro Team Softshell Jacket in 2014 and the range has now been expanded to include a base layer, arm warmers, knee warmers, gloves and overshoes.
The expanded range subscribes to the trend in recent years – started by the Castelli Gabba jersey – towards weatherproof, race-focused clothing which provides protection from the elements without compromising on fit and breathability.
The Pro Team Soft Shell Base Layer (£80) is, on the face of it, the most interesting of the new products. It is, in essence, a water resistant base layer designed to enable the rider to continue to wear their short sleeve club or team jersey during a race, regardless of the conditions.
The base layer is constructed from two fabrics: a high-stretch, three-ply membrane for the front and rear panels, and a lighter fabric under the arms. Rapha say the weave is looser than that of the Pro Team Softshell Jacket, making the fabric lighter, while a lightweight cotton has been used in key parts of the base layer to improve breathability.
The seams are taped along the shoulders and sleeves to help prevent water penetration and the base layer, which also has a Durable Water Repellent finish, has an aggressive cut tailored for riding on the drops.
Rapha say the base layer was tested by UK elite rider Rhys Howells, who finished 23rd at the 2014 Lincoln Grand Prix in tough conditions.
“That day proved perfect for testing the base layer as it was developed for tough racing conditions, for spring Classics-type days,” said Howells.
“A lot of teams can’t use a softshell jacket or jersey without covering up sponsors’ logos and team colours, which is technically illegal. Wearing a Pro Team Softshell Base Layer means you don’t have to worry about any of that, or having to remove a gilet or jacket. The longer arm length is great as it’s like an air lock, and your core remains warm. The close fit is also great because, in reality, most team jerseys aren’t cut that well, so end up just being decorative rags in the wet.
“I like that it’s a little bit industrial in construction because it’s for a really specific purpose. It’s a purely functional piece. You can stand on the start line in the rain feeling comfortable and know that, in 10 minutes, you’ll be drilling it in the wet and feeling perfectly warm.”
Meanwhile, the Pro Team Softshell Arm Warmers (£50) and Knee Warmers (£55, available from mid-February) use the same windproof, water repellent fabric on the front panels, while the rear panels are made from a more breathable material. Both the arm warmers and knee warmers have flatlock seams and are finished with reflective detailing.
Moving on and the Pro Team Rain Overshoes (£65, available from mid-February) are a response to neoprene overshoes, which Rapha say are ill-suited to racing as a result of their weight, bulky fit, and lack of breathability. Instead, the overshoes, available in black, red or green, are made from a softshell fabric, with an ‘aerodynamic fit’ and water resistant zip.
Finally, the new Pro Team Gloves (£70, available from mid-February) have also been designed with the demands of racing in mind, so that means they have a low-profile construction to aid control of the bike in bad weather, and to make food easier to access from pockets. Again, the gloves are made from a softshell fabric and the fingertips are compatible with touchscreen devices. The gloves are finished with reflective logos and brushed-back snot wipes on the tops of the thumbs.
Rapha Team Sky Training gets bolder
Away from the Pro Team Softshell collection and, for 2015, Rapha’s Team Sky Training collection is set to include a number of products reinterpreted to improve their visibility.
The Team Sky Winter Jersey (£160) is the first to get the treatment. The jersey, made from a brushed-back, Merino-blend fabric with front and shoulder panels, has a bold Team Sky colourway, with a reflective armband and stripe. The two large cargo pockets at the rear are designed to stow the essentials for a long winter ride.
We’ve picked out more highlights from Rapha’s 2015 Team Sky collection in this wide-screen photo gallery.