With summer on our minds, if not always in the skies, we ordered in some kit from three leading British designers to test in June: Rapha, Shutt, and Velobici.
Here’s a ‘first look’ at Rapha’s offering, which includes the new Pro Team Short, Pro Team Jersey, Pro Team Base Layer, Lightweight Cap, and Arm Screens.
The Pro Team jersey has a fit that lives up to the billing of a garment intended for competitive use: it’s extremely close cut is relieved only slightly by the stretch in the fabric.
Mesh side panels continue under the arm to the hem of the sleeve for cooling on hot days, or in hot races. The sleeve of the left arm contains Rapha’s signature band (white on our test jersey; black on the cream jersey; yellow on the grey jersey).
The rear of the hem is elasticated and lined with a slim silicone gripper, so we’re not expecting it to ride up (an irresistible temptation for a jersey so small).
A low collar is perforated in all but the section against the back of the neck. Three, equally-sized rear pockets are always a reassuring inclusion, and look perfectly serviceable.
A full-length zip is another welcome sight, shielded here from the skin by a thin fabric panel. There’s a laundry label on the inside on which to write your name and number, handy if you’re hoping to get the correct jersey back from the soigneur.
Black, always flattering and easy to match, may seem an ill-considered choice for the hot conditions for which this jersey intended, but Rapha say the fabric is treated with “coldblack” technology, a finish that reduces heat build up from exposure to sunlight, apparently. Should the sun reappear over the UK, we’ll happily test that claim. There’s two other colour options, too.
The Pro Team Jersey is available in black, cream, or grey, and in six sizes from X-Small to XX-Large, and costs £140.
We’ll be wearing the jersey with Rapha’s new Pro Team bib shorts, another black and white garment (white bibs, black-on-black branding on the left leg, white on black on the right) with a cut similarly close to the jersey. The deep hem ends in a thick-ish elasticated band, lined on the inside with short, vertical silicone ‘bars’, arranged in groups of five and spaced at regular intervals, in preference to an unbroken (and sometimes irritating) band of silicone.
The pad is the Cytech unit from their Classic short, Rapha’s modus operandi presumably being one of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. It’s a simpler, less fussy design than some we’ve tested, eschewing numerous profiles and thicknesses in favour of two pads, each forming one half of the classic love heart shape.
Rapha claim a proprietary development of Lycra for this short, whose leg construction is 78 per cent nylon and 22 per cent elastane, and a bib made from a polyester (82 per cent) and elastane (18 per cent) mix.
There are two slim pockets in the rear centre of the bib, intended for race radio, but for most of us likely to prove useful for storing a slim-ish phone. The outer side of the left pocket has a label for your name and race number.
The Pro Team Short comes in six sizes from X-Small to XX-Large and in two lengths (regular and long for taller riders). They cost £160.
The Pro Team sleeveless base layer is very light, with mesh front and rear panels, and solid side and shoulder panels, all from a polyester-polyurethane mix, biased to polyester, especially in the mesh. The chest is emblazoned with the motto, ‘vous êtes des assassins’: Octave Lapize’s swipe at the architects of the 326 kilometre Queen stage of the 1910 Tour de France. A short sleeved version bearing the legend “merci Roubaix” (a nod to Franco Ballerini’s farewell to his l’enfer du Nord) is also available. Both cost £40.
The Lightweight Cap is much as the name suggests. Made from cotton, it’s recommended by Rapha for use on the hottest days, which are surely just around the corner. The underside of the peak on our cream test piece (and on the white equivalent) is finished in black to reduce road glare. It’s available in small, medium, and large, and costs £25.
Finally, we have a pair of arm screens; garments distinguished from arm warmers by their light weight. Made from the same fabric as the Pro Team Jersey, they’re also treated with the “coldblack” finish to repel heat, and offer a claimed UPF rating of 50 (allowing only one fiftieth of the UV radiation falling on the garment to pass through, apparently). They’re noticeably lighter than Roubaix lined arm warmers we’ve tested recently from Vermarc and Castelli, bonded at the seam, and branded with a Rapha logo above the wrist. They cost £40, and come in black or white, in sizes small, medium, and large.
We’ll be out in the Rapha kit in the weeks ahead, and will report our findings in a full review.