The Bike List

Rapha Classic Jersey £130 (includes arm warmers)

Tested by Oliver Laverack, tester for The Bike List

Dating back to 2004, the Rapha Classic Jersey has been part of the line up since the company started and is undoubtedly one of the garments that helped Rapha etch its name into the cycling industry. Impressively that means this jersey has been in service for nearly 10 years. As you'd expect Rapha have made a few refinements over that time but the latest version hasn't strayed a huge amount from the original offering.

Design-wise the jersey is relatively plain with only their signature cream-coloured band around the left arm with Rapha's logo stitched in white thread. A minimally contrasting logo is just the first of many subtle design features making this an item that will appeal to those that like a more understated look and prefer to avoid the more shouty, logo-emblazoned tops.

A full length zipper allows you to open the top completely to let lots of air in on really hot days and also makes the jersey easy to get on and take off. Although this might not seem like the most obvious choice on a hot summers day, being made partly from merino wool, it does make a great all-day jersey on those days when it starts off crisp and cold or you think you might still be out as the sun sets and the temperature drops. The Rapha Arm Warmers also add to the versatility of this top and I've happily used this jersey with a short sleeved baser layer on colder days down to around 5 degrees Celsius when the sun is out and I'm planning a 1-2 hour ride at a brisk-ish pace. The white arm warmers have a rather nice brushed fleece inner and offer a little more insulation than the Rapha Merino Arm Warmers that I have also been testing.

Then there's what Rapha call a 'bite grip' which I didn't really need but it allows the rider to bite the area covered with extra fabric so that they can more easily zip up or unzip the jersey with one hand. Personally I didn't find I needed the grip to operate the zip one-handed but I do like the detail purely from an aesthetic perspective.

On the subject of zipping, your chest is protected from the zip by a grey lining which stops it catching on your base layer or hair if you're a bit of a gorilla underneath!. There's also a small flap of material stopping the top of the zip catching on your neck which is a nice detail. The zip pull itself actually locks in place to stop it sliding down wherever you leave it.

Construction-wise the jersey is made using Sportwool, a 40% merino wool and 60% polyester blend that I find very soft against the skin and a pleasure to wear. The cut of the jersey isn't too racy making it a comfortable fit for virtually all body shapes, although it's worth noting that generally Rapha's kit has a more tailored fit which might mean you'll appreciate it more when bent over the handlebars rather than when standing upright. A silicone gripper on the inside of the bottom hem helps hold the jersey in place against your bibs when on the bike and there's also an adjustable, elasticated hem drawcord to help you find a snug fit.

To the back there are three cargo pockets big enough to carry everything you're likely to need on a ride. If you usually use a saddle bag for spares like inner tubes there there's easily room for another layer such as a thin waterproof. The middle pocket has a little pump-sized sleeve which holds your pump snugly in place - handy if the pockets aren't that full. The right pocket also has an extra waterproof zip pocket with an easy-to-use, finger-sized circle zipper and is ideal for keys and money. Finally there's a white strip on the right zipper pocket which offers a token amount of high-viz fabric to help other road users see you in poor light. It would be nice for there to be a bit more but on a jersey like this, which is likely to be worn when the evenings are long in the summer, there is admittedly less chance of being out in the dark.

At around the same time as testing the Classic Jersey I also started reviewing Rapha's Bordeaux-Paris Jersey, at the same price but without arm warmers. The Bordeaux-Paris jersey is essentially a short sleeved version of Rapha's Brevet jersey, but with a different colour scheme.

Having spent plenty of time in both the Classic and Paris-Bordeaux Jerseys I would recommend considering the Bordeaux-Paris if you regularly go out on longer rides. The latter is a bit heavier (303g as opposed to 224g - both size Med) but includes a few extra features such as deeper cargo pockets on the back and couple of extra zip pockets. One of those extra zip pockets is waterproof, and handily located on the chest, making it really easy to access and conveniently large enough for a smart phone should it start raining. On long haul rides where you need to carry more spares and plenty of chow it's great to know there's space for everything in the Bordeaux-Paris Jersey. There's also considerably more high-viz fabric on the Bordeaux-Paris Jersey which is subtlety incorporated into the grey bands around the chest and arm making it a safer option.

At the time of writing, the Bordeaux-Paris Jersey is out of stock but if discontinued I'd be very surprised if Rapha didn't offer a similar replacement. Of course you don't get the arm warmers as part of the deal but you can still buy those separately for £35 or I'd recommend considering Rapha's highly breathable Merino Arm Warmers which I've also been testing, for just an extra fiver.

One notable feature of all items in the Classics range is that if you're not completely satisfied with them then you can return them within 30 days and get your money back. That's a guarantee you won't find many other companies offering and goes to show how confident Rapha are of their kit.

Price-wise you might be thinking that £130 sounds like a lot for a jersey and you'd be right. If you're reading this review then you're probably a keen cyclist and providing you can put the miles in and get plenty of use out this jersey then the investment is worth it. It's also worth remembering that the Rapha Arm Warmers that normally retail for £35 are also included. Comparing this top to those from competing brands that use similar materials (Vulpine, ShuttVR, Embers Merino, Café du Cycliste, Vélobici) I'd argue the price is fair. Rapha Classic Jersey has been manufactured to a high standard, performs well and looks great. Finally, another great part of Rapha's service is that if you are unfortunate enough to fall off and damage this jersey then Rapha will repair it for you which is good news.

At a glance

Verdict Versatile, subtle detailing and understated looks with all the functionality and performance you’d expect at this price point.
Value
Performance

Rapha says:

For road cyclists, a high-performance jersey is indispensable and performs multiple roles. It protects the rider from the elements, helps to regulate body temperature and stores vital cargo such as food, tools and valuables.

The Rapha Classic Jersey has received numerous plaudits since it was first launched in 2004. The jersey combines functionality and cycling performance with Rapha's trademark styling. It can be worn on its own or as an additional layer.

The jersey has three main cargo pockets and an additional pump sleeve in the middle pocket. The right rear pocket has an eyelet to run headphone cables inside the jersey and an additional zipped, valuables pocket keeps contents secure.

A set of complimentary arm warmers, designed specifically for use with the Classic Jersey, are perfect for cold mornings and feature a brushed fleece inner and contrast piping.

Test ride any of Rapha's Classic products to destruction and if you are not 100% satisfied within 30-days you can return them for a full refund.

Tech Spec

  • Sportwool™ (40% merino 60% polyester)

Features

  • Fully-lined zip with lockdown puller.
  • Large cargo pockets.
  • Pump pocket.
  • Zipped, waterproof valuables pocket.
  • Bite Grip.
  • Gripper at hem.
  • Comes with arm warmers.

Care instructions

  • Machine wash cool: 30°
  • Wash dark colours separately
  • Do not bleach
  • Do not dry clean
  • Do not tumble dry
  • Cool iron: 1 dot

Sizes XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL