Rapha's Women's Winter Jersey is a lovely garment to pull on when there's a chill in the air, with noticeably thicker fabric than the original Classic, but on really cold days you'll still need an extra layer above or below – there's no windproofing to the front like you get with the men's. You'll need to get in quick to buy one though (currently at a discounted price of £80), and only if you're an M or XL...
Other than the fabric, it's very similar in style and design to the Classic Long Sleeve Jersey that Lara tested a couple of years ago. Both it and the Short Sleeve, reviewed in 2010, were made with Sportwool, in a 52/48% (LS) and 40/60% (SS) merino/polyester mix, but the Winter Jersey ups the cold comfort levels with a fleecy inner to its 'heavy duty' Sportwool in a 25/71% merino/polyester blend (and 4% elastane), and it's noticeably warmer.
The jersey's Roubaix-like inner means it's very soft and comfortable against the skin, though you're quite likely to be wearing it over a baselayer. It fits to your contours without being overly clingy, and wearing layers underneath isn't a problem. It's not bulky either, so you can pull on a windproof over the top without it feeling restrictive in any way. (In Rapha's research, it found women prefer the versatility of a gilet rather than extra windproofing, and it does mean you won't overheat on warmer days.)
The sleeves are a generous length – on the long side when you're off the bike, with slanted cuffs that keep your wrists covered while riding. I'd go longer rather than shorter any day, but especially on cold ones. The cuffs aren't ribbed but they do fit quite tightly, and do a good job of keeping out draughts as well as slipping under gloves easily.
The overall cut is virtually identical to the Classic – kind of classic, really: longer at the back, held in place by a thin strip of silicone gripper (and a drawstring if you need to tighten it), and not too short at the front. It works and feels great, on and off the bike.
Other details? The YKK zip has a baffle behind and a garage at the top to protect your neck, but the zip tab is quite small and can be difficult to get hold of in full winter gloves.
There are the usual three pockets in a row on the back, plus a zipped one for valuables on one side. The outer two pockets are cut straight across rather than slanted, like the Classic, but they're still easy to access. They're a little deeper because the tops aren't angled, so a bit more secure too.
Unlike the Classic, there's no strip of reflective below one pocket – instead, the signature Rapha arm band does that job, reflecting brightly in headlights. In fact, the whole of the jersey has quite a sheen to it; it's not too disco, but it definitely has a shimmer, which you might or might not like... (The 'blue' is also a very purply-blue... though there is raspberry too.)
Unlike the Classic jerseys, there's no eyelet cut in any pocket for cables – headphone wearers beware. But unlike the Classic Jerseys, it does have a handy hanging loop.
It's all beautifully made (in Lithuania), with mostly flatlock stitching, and nothing to suggest anything's going to go wrong. And as with any Rapha product, if it does get damaged or fails outside of the warranty period, it can be returned for free repairs.
And that just leaves price... Rapha products don't come cheap, but they are very good quality. If you object to paying this kind of money for a cycling top, don't. If you're happy to accept that high quality garments tend to come with higher prices, it's not bad value. And at the time of writing the Winter Jersey is discounted to £80.
Beautifully designed winter-weight jersey, though you'll need extra layers for really blowy days
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Winter Jersey
Size tested: Medium, Blue
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: "Designed for cold to freezing riding conditions from a heavy-duty, soft brushed back Sportwool™.
"Designed for riding adventures in cold conditions, the Women's Winter Jersey offers a brilliant balance of insulation and breathability.
"This jersey is ideal on top of a base layer for off-season training rides, or with a windproof shell for tough winter cycling. Made from a brushed-back Sportwool™, a breathable and insulating merino blend, it functions well in a wide range of temperatures, while remaining odour-free.
"The full-length zip helps regulate body temperature and a zip guard prevents chafing. The jersey has three main cargo pockets and a discreet zipped pocket to keep valuables secure."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Brushed back Sportwool™
Valuables pocket with concealed zip
Vey well made.
Very good. It's not windproof though – on really cold, blowy days you'll want a gilet or windproof. Or arm warmers under the sleeves.
No reason to suspect it won't stand the test of time.
Fits well, if not as stretchy as some tops, probably due to the thicker nature of the fabric.
Spot on. (The photos make it look tighter fitting than it is, believe me.)
Looks heavier than it is...
Very comfortable and cosy.
Rapha products don't come cheap, but they're well made and well designed. High quality products tend to demand high prices.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well – noticeably warmer than the original Classic Long Sleeve.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Not so keen on the shiny sheen.
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
Beautifully designed, well made, warm – it's very good.
About the tester
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
Tass is our production pedant, who boldly goes hunting for split infinitives, rogue apostrophes and other things up with which she will not put. She's ridden off-road but much prefers on, hasn't done half the touring she'd like to, and loves paper maps.