The Bike List

Rapha Pro Team Jacket £220

Tested by Oliver Laverack, tester for The Bike List

We've all been there: halfway through an early weekend ride, the heavens suddenly open, and before you know it you're on the verge of hypothermia and begin wondering why you're not still tucked in bed like the majority of the population.

When it comes to all-weather riding, having the right kit makes the difference between being comfortable and being miserable. The longer your ride, the more important comfort becomes. Veterans of year-round cycling will be all too familiar with the importance of weatherproofing yourself and that's where the Pro Team jacket from Rapha comes in.

Features & Fit

As the name suggests, Rapha's softshell Pro Team jacket is very much designed with racing snakes in mind, but with a generous smattering of comfort-minded features thrown in to make those dark, cold and sometimes testing winter rides that little bit more comfortable.

When I slide my arms through the fleece-lined sleeves and zip up, this race-cut jacket offers a custom fit for my relatively narrow shoulders and slim 6ft 1in frame. It's the same feeling when you find a pair of jeans or shoes that fit you brilliantly, and which you end up wearing all the time. The other immediately noticeable feature is the super-soft, fleece-lined collar and zip cover. The quality of the zip cover was something I only appreciated when I started reviewing Le Col's Sport Winter jacket which despite offering the same feature just isn't as comfortable. It's a small detail that you only notice when it starts to irritate you during a ride.

Although the figure-hugging fit of this jacket pleases me greatly, especially when on the bike, there has been one issue that I feel lets this otherwise excellent jacket down. It's an issue that may not affect everyone but if, like me, you are slim and tall you may find the back of the jacket isn't long enough. The front is cut shorter to offer a snug fit whilst leant over the bike and this worked well with little or no material folding over as I leant forward. The rear however is just an inch or two too short for my relatively tall frame. This problem is partially resolved when you start to load the rear pockets but again accessing the pockets themselves is relatively tricky as they are located a fraction too high on my back, making grabbing a gel or bar difficult. It's a fine balance as fully-loaded rear pockets that are too low could be equally bad and could end up feeling like weights hanging from your back. I'm fairly sure that most riders, regardless of height would happily have an extra inch on the back and fractionally lower rear pockets to make grabbing a mid-ride snack that bit easier.

Other highlights include the elasticated wrists that continue the snug fit theme and help prevent the elements from gaining easy access. A small amount of bobbling has occurred on these areas but the jacket has now seen plenty of use so this is in line with what I'd expect.

A front zipper on the left hand side is perfect for storing your house key(s) and an emergency gel or two, or even your bank card for those coffee rides. For those who like to listen to music whilst riding there's also a handy earphone loop to tidy the cable away and a hole for your earphone jack to slide through.

Personally I'm a big fan of reflective material, even if at the cost of aesthetics. On this jacket Rapha have done well, with the armband being made from a reflective material as well as there being small reflective stripes on the left side and rear right pocket. On the subject of aesthetics, Rapha have a great eye for colour as well as detail and the colour of this jacket really does please me.

Performance

What I like about the Pro Team jacket is its versatility. When the temperature is hovering around the 10-15 degrees mark and it looks like rain and I'm about to head out on a training ride, I'll wear the jacket and just a base layer. This combination means I don't overheat when working hard and should the heavens open the softshell material keeps the rain at bay in all but the heaviest conditions for a good few hourst. The fleece lining also means that when water does get through, or you're sweating, the inside of the fabric retains its heat, unlike some layers that start to sap your body heat once wet.

Temperature control is a tricky balance and if I'm too hot I feel like I'm suffocating. Too cold and I can't get my system to function properly. This jacket has provided me with comfort in a number of situations where I used to really struggle and for that reason has become my default choice when I can't gauge the weather and don't feel like taking a chance. Equally, if it's colder (around 5-10 degrees) I can add layers and I'm still comfortable.

There's no question that £220 is a lot of money but as Bike List tester Nik Cook rightly said in his review of Rapha's Hardshell jacket (which is £40 more) if you look at high-end outdoors jackets you'll see that £300 isn't uncommon for high-quality technical jackets. If you're after a high-performance garment that keeps you comfortable in cold conditions then there is a price to pay for quality and reliability. There are cheaper jackets that will offer the same level of warmth but of the jackets I've tested none offers the same level of fit. For me translates into being better insulated and having no excess material flapping around. A price worth paying if you train and ride regularly all year round. If you fall into this bracket then I wouldn't hesitate to recommend this jacket. The length of the rear and the pockets on the back of this jacket would benefit from being lower, but that wouldn't stop me from recommending it. It would however be great to see a long version in the same way that Rapha offer long Pro Team bib shorts (which I use and find a much better fit than their standard length bibs).

The high collar is another feature of this jacket that works well especially when compared to some of the other jackets I have tested which, despite offering a fleece-lined neck still don't really provide the same level of comfort.

Weight-wise, our test jacket came in at 361g for the medium which was bang in the middle when compared to the other two jackets I'm testing at the moment. The Craft Tech Jacket (£165; size large weighing 322g) and the Le Col Sport Winter Jacket (£170; size large weighing 404g).

While on the subject of sizing you may notice that the Pro Team jacket on test is a size medium whilst the other jackets are a large. Rapha have changed their sizing for 2014 which would make me a large in the current version of the jacket.

At a glance

Verdict Versatile and snug race-cut cold weather jacket with excellent features but could do with being a fraction longer at the rear.
Value
Performance

Rapha says:

Technical outer layer for cold-weather cycling. The Pro Team Jacket is designed for high-tempo interval training in cold weather. When you are riding on the limit in low temperatures, breathability and protection from the elements is essential. Using an innovative windproof Polartec® softshell with a perforated membrane and water-repellent treatment on the leading panels, the rear panels are made using Super-Roubaix for insulation and wicking where it matters. The jacket has a higher-cut waist at the front and lower hem at the back for an 'aero' fit, while the high collar offers greater protection in cold and wet conditions.

Key features:

  • Polartec® softshell membrane on chest, shoulders and arms (exclusive to Rapha).
  • Super-Roubaix rear and underarm panels
  • Race fit with side panels
  • Reflective armband and trims

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