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Rapha softshell jacket

It’s that time of year again. I woke up on a Saturday morning a few weeks ago and realised it was a lot colder than usual. I was meeting up with the chain gang and needed to be prepared. So the prospect of putting on an old jacket that had lost its weatherproofing and had a tendancy to make you feel like a portion of boil-in-the-bag cod in parsley sauce is not an inspiring one.

But I’m alone in disliking the idea of riding in the cold November rain and if you are anything like me you either get wet from the rain, or sweat yourself wet keeping up with the chain gang… So this time it was the perfect chance to put the new Softshell jacket from Rapha through its paces.

Rapha are a UK-based company who have realised that UK weather has some specific clothing requirements, they also would like us all to look a little more stylish. The result is a bunch of products that look cool and work. They have spent ages testing and developing these products and the fabrics are the finest available. But is the Softshell jacket more than a pretty face?

Simon from Rapha said I should call him to discuss the features. This was a long call. Subjects varied from specially selected fabrics to a debate on which shoulder you should carry your courier bag on. Rapha have thought of everything. It’s a jacket that has options for drawing in the hem with elasticated cords or dropping down a flap to protect your bum from the rear wheel splashes. It also has an offset zip so your neck doesn’t feel cramped and a set of cuffs that can be retracted or wrapped around your thumbs for extra warmth.

The jacket uses the latest soft shell technology fabric that is soft and flexible. It is 100% windproof and water resistant like other jackets on the market but breathes far better than conventional waterproof fabrics and the added wind protection means that you stay warm.

The pockets are well distributed across your back too. There is a narrow one for a minipump as well as a zipped valuables store and small button holes to pass your walkman/phone/iPod cord through the inside (there are also hooks for ‘cable management’ inside!). The side pockets are angled slightly for easy access and they are generous enough for a day’s worth of spares and food.

The fit is snug certainly, but the arms are still free and the back long enough to keep you warm. The neck is a little loose and this did give a bit of a draft, which I soon sorted by wearing a higher necked undershirt.

Out on the road the first reaction is how comfortable a ‘soft’ jacket is. I usually have several layers on for this weather including a gillet – so I feel, and look, like Bibendum (the Michelin man). So initially I welcome the feeling of no tugging at the shoulders and no flapping of baggy rain coat in the wind. You also wear less under the Rapha jacket so you feel lighter… and black is very flattering.

Then I didn’t get hot. Climbed a hill. Still not even clammy… It works. A shower of rain. No problem. The following day I simply adjusted the weight of my undershirt and the higher neck for the rainy, warmer conditions and stayed warm and dry. Simple.

There are loads of little extras too, like a zip cover at the neck with a ‘bite grip’ next to it for when the going gets really tough. Scotchlite piping in black works really well and although black isn’t the best colour for riding at night it looks great if you have to pop into the pub or cafe.

The judge of a good product is usually ‘would the product reviewer buy one?’ well I’ve tested a lot of jackets in my time and few have provided such comfort, so yes I’d buy one. It costs £175, which is quite a lot, but this jacket has been painstakingly designed and tested.

What I really welcomed was that instant feeling of warmth and unparalleled freedom of movement that is rare in cycle clothing and although it costs a bag of cash, you certainly won’t be boiling in this bag.


Good: Comfortable, warm and stylish


Bad: Nowt… can somebody lend me 175 quid?


Performance:

5/5

Value:
4.5/5

For more on Rapha go: here

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