a state of perplexity or uncertainty over what to do in a difficult situation.
Yep. Definitely a quandary. You get that sometimes with “niche” products. And it seems very much to me that this is a niche product with the caveat that it really depends on how you want to use it.
One of the things I like to do with testing is to see how a product performs outside its niche. That’s where the truly versatile products exist, if something can exceed the conditions in which its niche appears to operate then so much the better. And, if this product does occupy a niche, what is it? Well, being a windproof jersey there are really two direct comparisons namely the Assos Intermediate S7 (and now the Mille variant) and the Gore Xenon Jersey/Jacket/thingy. Essentially a spring/autumn piece with some windproofing stuck on it. Lighter than a jacket, heavier than a jersey type thing. There are others that are close. Frankly it’s bewildering.
But let’s ignore that for a minute. The Brevet range from Rapha is intended to please the audaxer and randonneur. It’s a range which provides that bit more “stuff” for doing the mega miles. So a bit of reflective trim, some more zipped and deeped products, stuff to keep you warm, stuff to keep you happy. And, you know what, it’s a bloody superb range of products. Both the long and short sleeve Brevet jerseys have hung happily in my wardrobe. But the range of jerseys has now increased, short and long sleeve, lightweight, windproof short sleeve and now windproof long sleeve. Does one need quite so many niches?
And therein my quandary. From the description alone you’d be forgiven for thinking that this long sleeve version was the windproof version of the long sleeve. But it is not. It’s essentially the long sleeve version of the short sleeve windproof version. And that’s more than a bit confusing. The description is a little schizophrenic. It’s “The multi tool of cycling jerseys, offering protection and comfort across a huge range of conditions,” but also, “New quick-drying, lightweight merino fabric for comfort in the heat,” and “Wind-resistant polyester panels stitched to front of the jersey and arms for protection on chilly descents.” In addition it “fuses the all-day performance of a merino jersey, with the wind-protection of a gilet.”
Tired yet? This is important because you need to understand what it is before you buy it. Rapha make merino jerseys. The Brevet long sleeve is a merino jersey. You assume from the above that is what this is. It is not. If I were to be super pedantic I’d describe it as a merino base layer with a protective shell. Or, if you like, a lightweight brevet long sleeve windproof jersey. What it resolutely is not is a windproof version of the Brevet long sleeve. So that’s that out of the way.
It’s a nice looking jersey. Rapha get that. The stripes are a useful contrast and will aid getting seen. And that’s important on an Audax. They’re reflective as well, more on that later. The windproof outer extends across the entire face of the jersey. Inside it’s lined with the merino part of the jersey. It’s not a heavy jersey and Rapha’s claim that it will dry overnight ready for the next epic day are certainly true. Despite its light weight it’s still very capable of keeping you warm depending on the temperature.
That should give you some idea of what the merino on the rest of the jersey is like. And, take a look at this picture of the back below.
It’s here that the jersey becomes a quandary. I get that there’s a place for it but, for me, it’s not really what I signed up for. I expected a normal Rapha brevet with the windproof front. Perhaps that’s my fault because there’s clearly going to be a huge overlap with the much heavier winter jersey. Is that why it’s positioned like this? Is it my expectation that is the issue? Is it fair to identify shortcomings based on my expectations or should I just adjust them?
It works though, it works in a wide range of temperatures. So, down to just about 6 degrees, up to about 15 or so. That’s without a base layer. Add one of those in and it’s potentially good for lower temps as well despite the lightweight nature of the rear merino. It’s certainly not any good in the rain but the front will shrug off a light shower. And, in the spring months, the merino part will dry very quickly indeed. It’s nice, it’s comfy, it’s well made.
But I just couldn’t shake a few issues. The first is the fit. It’s not closely layered to the skin on the arms. Indeed, it’s more than a bit flappy. The front is also quite short which is particularly interesting because I am certainly not tall. Nevertheless, on the bike it’s actually spot on for me. If you’re taller than I then it might not be. And then there’s the look and feel of it. I can’t shake the fact that, well, it’s a bit like wearing a shell suit.
Shell suits get a bit of a bad rap actually. The one thing about them was that they were pretty warm things. On the other side both David Ike and Jimmy Saville were shell suit flag bearers. It’s not rustly though and it does work. It feels very nice when on other than those fit issues I’ve identified above. Adjust your expectations and all is well.
And all of this leads me to the quandary that I outlined at the start. I have no doubt that this will excel at its singular intended purpose, that being an audax jersey that will suit that type of thing. But, for example, the Gore Xenon windstopper jersey will do that and probably a bit more. You can do other things with this, a bit of commuting, the Sunday cafe run in autumn and spring. But there’s nothing that really marks it out as being better than other jerseys in that regard and, given the price, I don’t really know where it fits in. I’d far rather wear the Assos Intermediate or Mille jersey with a base layer and despite their lightweight construction at the sides and rear I think they offer greater protection that the merino used in this product.
And I just can’t help but shake the fact that the perfect combo is the Rapha Brevet long sleeve and gilet. That bundle is now available here.. It’s a more versatile option that you can use in many more scenarios. In fact, in my all time top 5 list of Rapha products that combo is up there. Not quite at the top, but up there. Blue long sleeve, pink gilet. Comfy, visible, versatile with no quandary.
If you’re a committed audaxer prone to sleeping in haystacks and bus shelters then this may well be that spring/autumn/summer night piece you’ve been looking for. For the rest of us it might be a little too niche.