A few weeks back we popped over to Rapha HQ in London to check out their Spring/summer collection. This is Rapha's biggest collection to date and builds on their twin strengths of stylish urban wear and stylish performance wear. Rapha say that this collection is about recognising cycling is a core part of a growing number of people's lives whether racing, training, or commuting so this collection is about making sure that whatever type of cycling you are doing there is a Rapha garment for you to do it in… we're talking lifestyle here then, but with a performance edge.
The new Swift jersey epitomises this perfectly: essentially the cycling jersey re-imagined as a fashion item. The usual Rapha elements are there – it's a classic style (some might say retro), cool and understated, in Sportwool, naturally, the difference here is that the jersey is covered in a flock of flock swifts. Apparently you get a lot of them in Portland which is where this jersey gets its inspiration from. Expect to see a lot of them flocking around London postcodes ending in 1 in the near future.
On paper (or screen) it sounds a bit naff, in the flesh, though, this is one stylish bit of kit – flock is the stuff they used to put logos and the like on old cycling jerseys way back when, back then it used to bobble and sometimes peel or rub away – Graeme, Rapha's designer assured me this won't be happening here. The Swift is a fast £115.
Rapha have also done well over the last few years, and let's remind ourselves the company was only founded in 2003, with their anniversary jerseys – last year they brought out a limited edition offering celebrating Andy Hampsten's ride on the Gavia, this year they celebrate the 60th anniversary of Fausto Coppi becoming the first rider to do the Giro/Tour double with another limited edition merino jersey– it's a Fifties style affair, as you'd expect with the usual story label (as have all their jerseys) and, the touch that I liked best, wooden buttons. Campionissimo jersey, £160.
Club or Country
The Club and Country Jerseys are back too and one of the Country jerseys also has an anniversary to mark. The Giro is 100 this year so buy the Italian country jersey and there's also a set of knee warmers to go with it for £50 (remember the stripes go at the front). And there's also a range of Legend t-shirts each one honouring a legendary rider of the past. Country jersey, £95; Legend t-shirt £30.
Also new for 2009 is a range of tweed pattern caps in addition to Rapha's standard cotton race caps - also made from cotton in a choice of tweed, Prince of Wales check or grey, at £35 if you feel the need for tweed it will set you back £10 more than the standard cap.
Rapha's 'making more of riding every day' is covered by a new range of patterned water bottles (Rapha insist on calling them bidons – well I suppose it sounds cooler than water bottle), plus a larger version of their back pack which will now take a 17in laptop at £125; and some lighweight Bonk bags – the man bag meets the musette for £30.
Rapha's Fixed shirt comes in a new colour for 2009: Navy with Orange detailing – aimed at urban riders who want something smart they can wear on and off the bike, it's made from Dri release odour resistant cotton and has some cycling specific detailing like a dropped seam on the shoulders – to prevent chafing from bag straps and a protective flap over the buttons for much the same reason, and an 'Action back' - basically the back of the shirt has a more generous cut than usual so it's more comfortable to stretch out on the bike. Fixed shirt, £65.
All Rapha's jersey's now come with bigger, stronger, rear pockets with sizing standardised across the range.
Other highlights on the performance side:
The Rapha Lightweight Jersey now has a full zip and is made from a lighter grade of Sportwool – makes sense for what is meant to be a hot weather garment, £125.
Pockets have been added to the Summer Gilet, £105.
Rapha's Softshell jacket is now made in a new material and like the jerseys features the new stronger, standardised rear pockets. £215.
The Pro Team mitt has been added to their range of gloves combining the leather palms and padding from Rapha Grand Tour gloves, with lycra backs for hard core race usage and easier care. Price tba.
Plucked from the obscurity of his London commute back in the mid-Nineties to live in Bath and edit bike mags our man made the jump to the interweb back in 2006 as launch editor of a large cycling website somewhat confusingly named after a piece of navigational equipment. He came up with the idea for road.cc mainly to avoid being told what to do… Oh dear, issues there then. Tony tries to ride his bike every day and if he doesn't he gets grumpy, he likes carbon, but owns steel, and wants titanium. When not on his bike or eating cake Tony spends his time looking for new ways to annoy the road.cc team. He's remarkably good at it.