Rapha Softshell Gilet £170
Rapha’s most interesting new winter product is the Softshell Gilet. Typically, gilets are reserved for summer use when a little protection is needed for the core, but conversely the same layering approach can be used in the winter.
The Rapha Softshell Gilet is made from exactly the same material as the Classic Softshell Jacket, a long-time RCUK favourite, so we’re off to a flying start already. The polyester fabric ensures it’s windproof and water resistance, with a Hytrel membrane to keep you warm and dry.
Like the jacket, it’s exquisitely designed and every consideration for what the average cyclist will need is catered for. You get a generous five pockets (one zipped) out back for carrying all that food on those long cold winter rides, the cut is excellent with a dropped tail, and the high collar is fleece lined. The fit is so good it’s like it’s been designed bespoke. The dull black of the gilet is adorned with reflective piping running around the arm holes and up and down the front and back, and the Rapha logos on the rear are also reflective. There’s even a rubber light grip on the back.
A winter gilet might then seem an odd prospect, but think about it: how often do you pull on all your layers then find your arms get stiflingly hot? This gilet opens up your layering options considerably, allowing you to ensure your core is kept warm while allowing your arms to run a little cooler, for increased comfort. It’s too bulky to be folded up and stuffed in your midlayer’s pocket however, like you would with a summer gilet, but you’re unlikely to find a warm or unwindy day during the winter when you’ll be too warm in it.
Out on the road the first reaction is to wonder how I ever coped before Rapha released the Softshell Gilet. With a long sleeve base layer and a long sleeve mid layer underneath, and the Gilet keeping the wind and other elements off my core, I found an attire that saw me happy in a range of conditions. And with a jacket (something like Rapha’s Stowaway perhaps) in one of the five pockets, I was prepared in case the rain came along. It’s highly preferable to wearing a heavy, baggy jacket.