The Rapha Winter Jersey is extremely soft, impressively warm, and effectively ventilated by two large zips either side of the chest panel, but the natural weight of its luxurious Sportwool fabric would encourage us to try a size smaller than usual.
Unquestionably the most stylish garment to cross the threshold of RCUK Towers in recent months, Rapha’s Winter Jersey had much to live up to as we rolled out for a series of winter rides in which low temperatures were the common factor: cold and dry, cold and wet, cold and clear, but always cold.
We’re not overstating the case when we describe the fabric as luxurious, and while this is a not unreasonable expectation from a jersey carrying a £160 price tag, we were still impressed. The heavy material was wonderfully insulating and proved its worth on rides begun early in the morning. The deep collar and cuffs played a part here, too. On dry, clear days, it excelled. We’d hesitate to wear it in the wet, but armed with a gilet, we’d be confident of tackling the home leg of a training spin inside it, should rain strike without prior warning.
Sizing provided our only issue with the Rapha Winter Jersey. It was one of a range of garments called in from Rapha, each in medium, but our test pilot, a competitive cyclist of some 25 years standing, reported a ‘goldilocks’ syndrome: some too small, the jersey too large, and others, well, just right. He was quick to point out that in his experience, Rapha is far from the only brand to suffer issues with sizing consistency, and that a ‘try-before-buy’ policy is always an effective remedy.
Given the natural heft of this style of garment, however (it is a jersey for winter, after all, and one Rapha bill as ‘robust’) the larger-than-expected sizing was more apparent than it might have been elsewhere. Each of his measurements (chest, neck, back, and arm length) fell within Rapha’s specified range for a medium jersey, but with hindsight, he’d have chosen a small. If, however, a ‘pro’ fit (something, typically, Rapha does very well) isn’t for you, proceed as normal.
We expressed our concerns about Rapha’s deviation from the ‘ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ configuration of three, equally sized tail pockets in our ‘first look’, and while previous dissatisfaction with similar designs dissuaded our test pilot from more than a trial use of the jersey’s zipped, ‘poacher’s pocket’, its presence effected his use of the ‘open’ pockets below. By placing two pockets in the space usually occupied by three, they were made larger, which allowed their contents (energy gels, mobile phone, keys etc.) to move freely. This phenomena was exacerbated by the sizing issue, our test pilot believes: a smaller jersey with a tighter fit would have held the pockets closer to the body and placed a firmer hold on the contents.
The windproof lining lived up to the billing and when things became too warm, the 30cm zips either side of the chest panel cooled things effectively. With temperatures around eight degrees, and our test pilot clothed in a short-sleeved, merino base layer, and long-sleeved, polyester mid layer, the zips came into their own. Such impressive function provided a neat counterbalance to the immaculate presentation, summarised by our man in the jersey as one “without a thread out of place”. Style and substance? Certainly. But be careful with sizing.
The Rapha Winter Jersey is unquestionably stylish and a garment able to see off the lowest temperatures of the coldest of cold, clear days. The natural weight of the luxurious Sportwool fabric makes it a bulky garment, prevented from the designation ‘jacket’ only by the absence of a ‘hardshell’ face fabric. We’d have preferred a conventional three pocket layout on the tail, and would advise adopting a ‘try before you buy’ policy, or ordering a size smaller than usual.
Size: X-Small to Xx-Large
Colour: grey; bright blue