Unless it's really, really cold or really, really wet, I tend to favour a gilet and arm warmers over a full windproof jacket. They're just so much more versatile for changeable days, cold starts and warm finishes, and Rapha's Women’s Gilet has been my favourite for quite a few years. It's been updated – always a worry – but to my mind it's now even better.
First off, it still fits me perfectly. There's a bit of shaping around the bust so it's snug but not too tight, the armholes are the right size/cut, the length front and back is perfect, and the neck sits at just the right height.
It also has all the details I need: a bit of stretch in the fabric, pockets big enough to be useful (I don't get not having pockets in a gilet, like some of Rapha's other designs – I don't want to have to scrabble under my gilet to get into a jersey pocket for half an energy bar), plus that handy little key pocket on the front, a comfortably lined neck, and baffle/guard behind the (stylishly offset) zip.
In fact, at first glance, apart from a minor change in the reflective piping on the rear, not a lot else appears to be different. But Rapha told me this updated design uses a new fabric, and it certainly feels stiffer than the old one (I'd have put that down to age and the number of wash cycles it's been through).
It certainly keeps cold morning chills out – I know because they're still getting through to my shoulders and knees. Both old and new labels say 'Main fabric 100% nylon', but the old one was 80% nylon, 20% Spandex, while the new one is 75% nylon, 25% elastane. So even though it feels stiffer there's more elastic in it... which could explain how the windproofing has been improved without losing the comfortable stretch.
What I'm also pleased with are the colour choices; when I last looked it was white or black. This bright red is much more noticeable on the road, while still being attractive (and won't get as grubby as my old white one), and it comes in blue as well.
Would I recommend forking out £125 for one? Given how much wear I've got out of the old one, most definitely. And it's currently on offer at £106.25...
My favourite cycling gilet has just got a little bit better
Make and model: Rapha Women's Gilet
Size tested: Medium, Red
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Rapha says: "Windproof and water-resistant gilet cut for women cyclists
"The Women's Gilet has been designed as a packable outer layer for riding in changeable conditions. It has been tailored specifically for women riders and is made from a totally windproof and highly breathable stretch fabric."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
100% windproof, breathable polyamide
Lightweight (medium size: 115g)
Folds into jersey pocket
Long-cut back for better fit on the bike
Reflective piping and logos
Elasticated rear cargo pockets
Mesh back panel for added breathability
Full-length zip with lockdown puller
Soft fleece chin guard
Friction locks for easy waistcord adjustment
Machine wash cool 30°
Wash dark colours separately
Do not use fabric softeners
Tumble dry cool: 1 dot
Cool iron: 1 dot
Do not bleach
Do not dry clean
Heavier than some lightweight gilets, but it gives back in windproofing.
It's like Rapha designed it just for my torso.
It's not cheap, but for what you get it's worth every penny. And at time of writing it's discounted to £106.25.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Brilliantly. Keeps the wind out, bright enough to stand out when commuting, enough pockets for stuffing ride essentials, and shower resistance means it keeps a bit of moisture out too.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Windproofing, fit, look, colour options.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
If the price was lower I'd give it 10. For me it's a perfect fit and gives excellent performance.
About the tester
Age: 50 Height: 169cm Weight: size 10-12
I usually ride: Vitus Venon My best bike is: Paulus Quiros
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, sportives, general fitness riding