Rapha Lightweight Softshell jacket £175
RCUK first reviewed the Rapha Lightweight, a slimmed down and more affordable version of the almighty Classic jacket, last year and, for the new 2009 season, Rapha have retained the Lightweight in new colours: striking Navy Blue or Red.
Functionally, the mantra ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ holds true here, with Rapha choosing to make few changes to what already was a near perfect garment. On the outside the Hytrel fabric is just about perfect for much of the UK winter, being totally windproof and adequately waterproof – and when it does rain briefly the material dries out very quickly.
It’s all cut together in a jacket that fits supremely well: enough space around the shoulders, a dropped tail, drawcord waist to tuck it in, a fleece lined high neck and the best cuff arrangement we’ve come across yet. An internal section of lyrca lining the cuffs keeps any cold air from drifting up the arms and is by far the simplest and most effective design out there.
The three cargo pockets out back offer all the carrying capacity needed and I’ve never longed for the extra capacity that the Classic jacket offers. Their layout has clearly been designed by cyclists; I found them excellent on the bike, with one zipped pocket for my phone and house keys and a pump pocket inside the central pocket, and more than enough space for a couple of tubes and energy bars. Digging around for food while on the move was a cinch, as the pockets are just the right depth.
RCUK has put the Lightweight through months of testing in the widest range of conditions possible and on many different rides, from commuting to work everyday to sportives and even the odd long-distance tour, and every time the Lightweight has delivered just what we expected of it. I’d like to see the collar/zip arrangement modified when the zip is fully done up, but that niggle aside you won’t find a nicer jacket. Think of the price as an investment in your enjoyment of cycling…