Since then, we’ve had a month and a half of steadily falling temperatures and more than a little rain in which to test the kit: a light-ish, short-sleeved jersey, lined bibknicks, merino base layer and arm warmers, hat and gloves.
We tested the garments off-road, in short, intense bursts, and on-road on lower intensity efforts of longer duration to test warmth and their suitability for purposes outside of the ‘cross sphere.
Here’s what we found.
Pro Team Cross Jersey
The Pro Team Cross Jersey offered a close, but comfortable fit, very small for the size. It is one to be worn at the start of the cross season and then only for racing, or for hammering around woodland in our case. Rapha have a long-sleeve ‘cross jersey, which is perhaps more suitable than the Pro Team garment tested here for longer, easier efforts in which your core temperature will be lower. That said, on warmer days, (those peaking at the low teens), it worked well paired with the Rapha merino base layer and merino arm warmers (more of which below). The sleeves were cut closely enough not to flap, but not constricting, while the collar was sufficiently low and soft in its construction (elasticated at the back only) to leave things comfortable at the throat. The pockets needed some encouragement to accept even small cargos, but as a garment intended for an hour’s racing, this was always likely to be the case (‘cross racers are likely to be too busy to use mobile phones). The jersey costs £140 and is available in sizes X-Small to XX-Large.
Merino base layer
The fit of a base layer is key, in our experience, and Rapha have the cut and weight of their merino base layer spot on. The knit was fine enough to fulfill the garment’s remit as a foundation over which others will be layered, as well as to prevent overheating, while the nature of the material guaranteed warmth. It was extremely comfortable, to the point where we had to remind ourselves we had it on. First class. The merino base layer costs £60, sizes XX-Small to X-Large
Merino arm warmer
Similar complements can be bestowed upon the arm warmers; our first choice now for cool, dry days with temperatures high enough to justify a short sleeve jersey. Just five per cent of the weave is elastene, the remainder a very fine merino. The shallow cuff held the warmer in place at the wrist without pinching, while the silicone band repeated the trick at the bicep. Only rain would give us pause before pulling these from the drawer, when in such conditions we reach for Castelli’s excellent Nanoflex.
Cross ¾ bib short
The stars of Rapha cyclo-cross collection in our opinion, the Cross ¾ bib short kept us toasty in temperatures too low to have been wearing the Pro Team Cross Jersey. The velvety lining was super soft against the skin and very insulating. Our preference for autumn/early winter leg wear is lined shorts and knee warmers. Securing a garment at the shoulders and the calves, as is the case with bibknicks, isn’t ideal in the opinion of this correspondent, but Rapha’s take on this cycling staple fitted as well as any we’ve tried, although Endura’s Equipe may shade it in the shoulder straps. The Cross ¾ bibshort costs £160 and comes in six sizes from X-Small to X-Large.
Rapha’s Winter Glove was a little too warm when we began testing but has proved a faithful friend in recent weeks when temperatures have steadily plummeted. The small aperture made putting them on a bit of a struggle, but once donned, that same snug opening held them securely, shutting out any opportunity for ingress of wind or water at the wrist. The padded palm was effective in absorbing pressure from the bars and the leather tips on the index and middle fingers gave extra purchase on the STI levers. They Rapha Winter Glove costs £75 and is available in five sizes from X-Small to X-Large.
Rapha Cross Winter Hat
The Winter Hat kept us warm, but on balance its not something we’d choose to ride in. The peak obscured our vision a little, and the thick-ish material made it a feel a little bulky when squeezed under a helmet (we tried it with two: a Giro Atmos and Kask Mojito). It worked with either after some minor strap adjustment, but was hardly more effective than the far less obtrusive ‘helmet liner’/skull cap style headgear we normally don at this time of year. Rapha’s hat is a far better bet off the bike, however; stylish, and without the tendency to make you look like Cardinal Wolsey. The Rapha Cross Winter Hat is available in black and costs £40.