This is, I think, the 3rd iteration of Rapha’s Pro Team jacket. I owned the first one in orange. Lovely thing. The 2nd iteration was the same, as I recall, but they faffed around with the sizing (essentially making what was a large, extra large). But it was pretty much the same. And now, the 3rd. They’ve added training in there. That’s fair enough. It’s essentially a tempo piece. But I think it’s worth a bit of history about how we got here.
Once upon a time Rapha stuck to being classical. That meant wool, some nylon (etc) rain and wind jackets and a bloody fabulous winter softshell. Then, they innovated, expanded, and introduced many many new product lines. And the Pro Team line was, well, it’s fairly self explanatory.
And it was a success because, all Rapha jokes aside, they do understand their market and they do make great stuff. I didn’t care for the windstopper Brevet jersey but I can see that there will be people who do. I loved the Rapha hardshell. It is, in my view, one of the great all weather jackets produced by anyone, period. Seriously, one of the best jackets, amazing. Rapha’s innovation is our gain. But, sometimes, there’s no need to innovate, it doesn’t necessarily produce a better product. Because, in my view, as good as this jacket is, it’s not quite as great as the old one I had. Not quite.
The original Pro Team jacket was the first, as I recall, Rapha product to dabble with using Polartec softshell panels. Hell, it might have been the first cycling product (#innovation). And what it was, was a supremely comfortable all day, cool to cold weather lightweight jacket. Indeed, it was actually fairly magical. Witchcraft even. To get that warmth and comfort out of something so light was incredibly clever. In fact I’d go as far to say that the old one was one of the great cycling jackets of all time. I’ve had a few. I once wore the original on a 100 mile ride from Cardiff to Tenby. All conditions, cold, sun, wind, damp. It was just superb. I never once thought about it during the ride. It just did everything I needed it to.
The new one is essentially the same. Same looks, same overall design, same ethos. But where there was once Polartec there is now simply polyster and nylon. That’s what Polartec is, but the percentages have changed. And where before the ‘super roubaix’ panels were 85% polyamide there’s now more polyester thrown into the mix. And, once again, I find myself in a bit of a quandary. But, more of that later. One thing I would say, sometimes a product looks a different colour on the Rapha website, this blue is a bit lighter, a bit more washed out than pictured. And quite hard to photograph properly.
The version on test today is a large. Rapha say that’s good for 39-42 inch chest. It’s not. Not really. My chest is 39″ as we speak. The chest measurement of the garment is 19 inches, perhaps 19.5. So, without stretching it that’s good for 39 inches dead on. The waist band measures 18 inches and it’s just over 20 inches drop from the collar to the front waist. That’s pretty race fit but, kudos to Rapha, it’s also fairly proportional and nothing like the silliness we saw with the Castelli Perfetto. It’s worth sizing up if you’re towards the upper margins. You can see above that the majority is softshell. The side inserts, back and inner parts of the sleeve are all jersey material and therefore stretchy. Just off to the right hand side of the picture there’s a small zip which leads to that door shaped front pocket. It’s a really decent sized and being behind the softshell will be reasonably waterproof. You can fit quite a lot in there but, it being a race fit, you won’t really want to.
Round the back are three very reasonable pockets and one zipped one. The zipped one lives in the striped pocket. It’s a little tricky to get to. In fact I’d say you can only realistically get to it with help or when the jacket is off. It’s somewhere you’d perhaps stick your credit card or house key.
The sleeves have an inner jersey cuff as well providing that bit more something at the end! They’re reasonably lengthy sleeves but, in common with the rest of the sizing, those of longer arms may need to size up as well. There’s nothing particularly striking about the colouring or design during the day, but, at night……
It’s impressive. Good details including some on the arms to help you indicate. As I rode today I wondered about the Rapha sleeve stripe. I mean, that’s where it is. It’s where we expect it to be. But, in terms of its presence as a reflective, for the UK, it’s not perhaps where you’d want it to be. Would it be better being on the right hand sleeve?
This is not a weatherproof jacket. The softshell element will keep rain off and the DWR treatment is outstanding eclipsing the Ale jacket I reviewed earlier this week. But the presence of so many roubaix panels means that it’s something to be worn in the dry or, at the most, damp conditions. If you want to stay dry, take a rain jacket as well.
I’ve been riding in this in a variety of temperatures from a few degrees above freezing to into the low teens. It has an impressive range. Just change your base layer to get more or less warmth. It isn’t an ultra warm jacket, you do need to be doing a bit of pacing to get the most out of it but stop and you can feel how much warmth you are generating. And it’s pretty breathable as well, you’re going fast so inevitably there will be some moisture in the jacket at the end of the ride. In the dry I’d actually say that it’s one of the best tempo jackets out there. There are challengers to that though, the Castelli Alpha jersey is, arguably, just as warm, possibly warmer and certainly a little more comfortable. They’re very similarly priced at RRP and also when on sale (as both are at the moment).
Pricing is fair. £160 RRP with it being currently on sale at £110. That’s as good as most mid range jackets out there let alone the super premium ones.
But, in terms of being the most versatile jacket there is, I have an issue. And that issue is the Mark 1 version. It was, in my view, just as versatile, just as breathable, a bit warmer and, this is the main thing, more comfortable. There’s nothing uncomfortable here. Far from it. It’s just that, in innovating, in making a change, I wonder if there’s just change for change sake? You might disagree and find it better, lighter and softer, but, for me I just loved that old one. So, my note to Rapha is, you don’t always have to innovate, don’t have to improve. Sometimes you just need to stick with what is great. Can you bring back the Polartec one next year? While you’re at it bring back the Classic Softshell as well, and the Hardshell please. That would be lovely, thanks.
FOOTNOTE: In the Q&A section on Rapha’s website a few people ask whether this is still Polartec. Rapha say yes and that they don’t want to mess with anything as perfect as the Pro Team Jacket. But it’s quite clear that the materials are stated to be different. I’ll let you, dear reader, decide.
Front panels, Polartec®: 70% Polyester 30% Nylon
Rear panels, Super-Roubaix: 85% Polyamide, 15% Elastane
Front panels: 57% polyester, 43% nylon
Rear panels: 51% polyamide, 33% polyester, 16% elastane