The Bike List

Rapha Hardshell Jacket £260

Tested by Nik Cook, tester for The Bike List

I'm going to grab the nettle straight away, talk about the £260 price tag and why I've still given this jacket five stars for value. If you look at high end waterproof jackets in the outdoors and climbing markets, you'll see that £300 plus price tags aren't uncommon. If you're up a mountain, you want a jacket that keeps you warm and dry and don't mind spending a bit extra to guarantee that. Why shouldn't the same apply to cycling?

I've been at the top of the Cat and Fiddle in mid-winter and its been on a par with anything I've experienced in some of the harshest environments on the planet. If I'm heading out into sleet and freezing rain for a 6-hour ride, I want to know I'll stay comfortable, won't soak through from sweat and I'm more than happy to pay for that.

Next, as well as being aesthetically sublime, my experience of Rapha kit is that it lasts and lasts. I've got 3/4 length, full tights and bib shorts that have logged thousands of on and off road kilometres, a softshell jacket that's still going strong and looking great after four hard winters and leather track mitts that are at least eight years old. In short, you pay a chunk more but your only pay once. Also, don't forget the free repair service that Rapha offer. Whether crash damage, failure, even if not down to a manufacturing fault and outside of the 90 day return window, they'll sort it out. You don't get that with an Aldi special.

So, with the spend justified, what can you expect from this jacket?

The first thing to realise is that this is a jacket that's for those days when it's hammering down when you wake up, still raining when you roll off and doesn't ease until you're drying your bike down back at home. At 408 g for a Men's Large, it's no lightweight and certainly won't pack down into a jersey pocket. It's for grim rides that only get grimmer.

The fit is absolutely spot on. Plenty long enough in the arms, not too long at the front so it bunches when you're on the drops but with enough length at the back to provide protection for your bum and lower back. The cut is definitely racy but with enough give for a base layer and jersey underneath. What's great for a waterproof is that there's no billowing and no flapping. You still feel sleek and that you're punching an efficient hole through the wind.

There's none of the plasticky crisp bag feel of cheaper jackets. The inside is pleasantly soft and the actual hardshell laminate is more fabric than plastic to the touch. There's a pseudo-softshell feel to it and, being fully windproof and noticeably more insulating than other hardshells, it'd serve on cold dry days too. It's in the rain that it thrives though. It's DWR coated to repel water but that's only the first line of defence. The laminate is fully waterproof and all seams are taped. The beading of water on it during a storm is frankly miraculous to witness and none, even in a prolonged downpour, manages to wheedle its way through.

Waterproof is easy, a bin bag will do that, but breathable and waterproof is a whole different matter. You've got to be realistic in your expectations and even top laminate boffins will admit that, above a certain effort and sweat level, you'll start to get damp from the inside. The Rapha Hardshell is no miracle product, you couldn't climb at 100% intensity while fully togged up and not get a bit damp, but it's certainly up there with the best laminates on the market. Be sensible with your base and mid layer, start rides feeling slightly cool, don't put the hammer down too hard and you'll stay impressively dry. Perfect for long and steady winter base work.

The main zip is baffled to protect this area of potential weakness to the elements and is offset. This means you can zip it right up, encasing your neck in pleasingly luxurious soft fleece, without any annoying or painful zip rubbing against your Adam's apple. At the wrists, another common water and wind ingression point, are snug elasticated seals. A drawstring hem allows you to cinch in the bottom of the jacket too.

If you're going to be wearing a jacket for the entirety of a ride, you need pockets. Having to hitch your jacket up to access snacks or take it off to get to spares and tools, is annoying, and, on really foul days, depressingly chilling as all that warm air underneath is allowed to escape. Fortunately the Rapha Hardshell has three massive cargo pockets, with drainage holes, a zipped pocket for valuables, with a nice little story about Charly Gaul's heroics on the infamous 1956 Giro stitched in to inspire you, and, if you feel the need, an additional zipped pocket with internal cable routing for an MP3 player. A typically understated reflective decal finishes off the jacket and, although some might prefer a bit more hi-viz, the orange colour of our sample is surprisingly visible in the rain and the dark.

Personally I can't find any fault with the jacket and, on wet autumn rides ranging from 4-15C, have stayed wonderfully comfortable and dry. I'm almost looking forward to the mercury plummeting and am 100% confident that this jacket will cope with the worst that a Peak District winter can throw at it. So, British winter, bring it on.

At a glance

Verdict If you want to keep riding no matter what this winter, this winter workhorse of a jacket more than justifies its price tag.
Value
Performance

Rapha says:

The Rapha Hardshell Jacket has been designed for total protection in the harshest conditions. It is waterproof and windproof and is made from a new fabric developed in Japan exclusively for Rapha. The fabric has a breathable, laminate membrane, so it will perform on high-intensity training rides and slower-paced spins.

The Rapha Hardshell is a more stripped-back jacket than the Classic Softshell with emphasis on absolute protection against the elements. With a utilitarian design and cutting-edge fabric the Hardshell is the ultimate winter workhorse.

For wet, windy and cold conditions when a robust outer layer is crucial.

Key features:

  • Waterproof
  • Taped seams
  • Windproof
  • Reflective logos
  • Three cargo pockets