The Bike List

Rapha Men’s Classic Softshell Jacket £240

Tested by Gav McDonald, tester for The Bike List

Rapha, along with brands like Cervelo, Knog and the singlespeed movement, has become an iconic bike brand in today’s world. Developed in just a few short years, the company is now global, no mean feat for any business, and importantly, they’ve also managed to make cloth cycling caps fashionable in a way that I have never been able to - and I’ve been trying since the early 80’s.

My introduction to Rapha is so far fetched that if I told you, you wouldn’t believe me. I grew up in west Scotland, a place where Lycra is still frowned upon, cyclist’s are still referred to as “devils on wheels” and my riding best included a Peter Storm cagoule. The high performance technical clothing thing kind of passed me by, so I was wearing said battered old Peter Storm cagoule on the Paris-Roubaix Reconnaissance ride with Bernard Hinault when someone from Rapha shouted, “Your jacket’s a disgrace I can’t believe you’re wearing that.” So they gave me the Classic Softshell to review for The Bike List.

Firstly, without a shadow of doubt the Classic Softshell is the best fitting cycling jacket I’ve ever worn - it feels tailor made for my long armed, long backed, broad shouldered, six foot frame. I’ve tried on lots of softshell jackets over the years and none have fitted me like this one. Fit is clearly a personal thing but this is worth bearing in mind.

The Classic Softshell is also packed with practical features that offer real world benefits and promise a long service life - an offset zip (to avoid a chilled neck), a stowable tail flap with a reflective logo for wet / night rides, pit zips for venting, two secure zipped key and cash pockets, three large rear stowage pockets - one incorporating a pump slot, a fleece lined collar for comfort, a high quality YKK zipper, internal cable routing loops for your tunes, a lower elasticated draw cord, glove cuffs (to keep your wrists draft free) and a reinforced left hand shoulder for all you commuters who use a courier bag. Overall, the jacket looks subtle, classy and understated.

Rapha says the fabric used in the Classic Softshell has a "synthetic membrane" which means the jacket’s softshell fabric is highly windproof, water resistant and extremely breathable. All I can say is that it does exactly what it says on the tin and the jacket has performed flawlessly through the late winter and spring. With the right layering I’ve never been cold, never been soaked to the skin and I’ve never been too warm either.

I wore this jacket on a recce ride over the full 112 mile Fred Whitton route last week. It was a warm and windy day and the Classic Softshell, worn over a base layer with the pit vent zips open, was ideal. Rapha class this as a winter jacket, personally, I can see me using it all year round as it’s perfect for the varied British weather.

A high speed tumble off the mountain bike (I know, I know it’s a road biking jacket) tested the Classic Softshell’s sturdiness and I have to say it crashed well. No rips, no tears and no burst seams – I knew that reinforced left shoulder would come in useful. It’s also worth noting that Rapha offer a free repair service, even after “significant usage”, for all garments purchased directly from them. This is a real piece of added value when you’re considering various clothing options and brands.

Rapha garments aren’t cheap but what I can report is that, in my experience, this jacket represents excellent value for money. How often have you bought budget and regretted it? In my opinion Rapha offer genuine value for money when you look at the garment’s high quality, great features and durability.

As well as producing high quality apparel Rapha have also impressed us with the way they give something back to cycling that’s accessible and inclusive to all. The Bike List was really impressed to see the Rapha Cycle Club truck and staff out in force at the recent Roubaix Challenge Sportive, and the next day on the Pro Race when they parked the Rapha truck up and offered live TV coverage of the race free of charge. Of course this is all good PR for the brand, but it’s great for cycling brand to give back to the people who buy from them.

Rapha says:

The ultimate cycling jacket: the latest version of Rapha’s Classic Softshell Jacket is the perfect choice for tough winter cycling. Packed with technical features, a synthetic membrane means the jacket’s softshell fabric is highly windproof, water resistant and extremely breathable.

Rapha’s Classic Softshell has an exceptional fit. Side panels give the jacket a tailored shape and the sleeves have an ergonomic design to increase a rider’s range of movement. A rubberised pad on the left shoulder keeps bag straps stable when riding and seams have been positioned to prevent them from chafing. Both shoulders are edged with reflective grey piping, as have the collar and sleeves.

The full-length zip has a reverse coil for a cleaner finish, a fleece-lined chin guard and a lockdown puller to eliminate rattles. A bite grip on the collar enables easy zip adjustment on the move and discreet zipped vents under both arms help regulate body temperature.

Three large cargo pockets make this an ideal cycling jacket for longer rides and the centre pocket has a pump sleeve stitched inside. The right-hand pocket has a buttonhole for an iPod cable and an additional valuables pocket has a hidden zip for extra security.

When conditions turn nasty, the jacket’s fold-out storm flap has a saddle grip to keep it in place and a reflective Rapha logo to make the rider more visible. Boasting stylish features inside and out, Rapha’s trademark left armband has a black embroidered logo. The inside of the jacket is finished in black with contrast pink details. These include cable routing loops, a drawcord with friction locks and a hanging loop. The jacket also features an exclusive story label.

  • Highly breathable, windproof, water resistant.
  • Ergonomic side panels and three-piece arm construction.
  • Shaped hem.
  • New pocket configuration centres pockets when loaded.
  • Rubberised left shoulder pad.
  • Discreet, zipped arm vents.
  • Reflective piping.
  • Storm flap with saddle grip.
  • Softshell (polyester 81%, spandex 10%, Hytrel® membrane 9%)
  • Sizes - XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL

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At a glance

Verdict A highly breathable, vented, comfy and stylish softshell jacket built to stand the test of time from a brand that gives back to the world of cycling.