Rapha's new Pro Team Thermal Aerosuit is comfortable, weather-beating and better value than buying the jacket and tights that it's based on separately.
The onesie concept, of combining tights and jacket into one garment, isn't new. Castelli was there first with its Sanremo Thermosuit, and Rapha has followed suit with its aim of producing the 'ultimate garment for high-intensity winter riding'. Such a description makes it clear this was developed for professional racers and hardcore training cyclists who don't want to take to the turbo trainer when it's ghastly out.
Like Castelli, Rapha has combined two existing garments, with some obvious modifications. The top half is based on the excellent Pro Team Jacket, and the legs are borrowed from the Pro Team Winter Tights. It's constructed using a three-layer waterproof softshell for the front of the top, body and legs, with a brushed-back fabric for all the rear-facing sections. That means it's a more breathable fabric at the back, where you need less protection, and waterproof on the front, for when you're battling a headwind and horizontal rain.
The collar is tallish to keep out chills, and the main zipper has a chunky pull handle so it's easy to grab when wearing winter gloves. Toilet stops aren't a problem.
Inside the Aerosuit you'll find the same padded insert as used in the regular Rapha Bib Shorts and Pro Team Bib Shorts, and it's a very comfortable thing to sit on.
There are three rear pockets, placed a bit higher than in Castelli's suit where they tend to sit a bit too low for my liking. An additional small zipped pocket on the front is ideal for house keys.
While it's a bit of a struggle to get your arms and legs into the Aerosuit – there are no zippers at the ankles, just straight openings, and no stirrups – once you're in and zipped up, it's noticeably more comfortable than most regular jersey and jacket combinations. There are no bib straps to irritate at the shoulders, no waistband digging into your stomach, and no need to be constantly pulling the jacket down at the back, as can sometimes happen.
Nor is there any restriction or pulling of the fabric when pedalling or moving out of the saddle when climbing. It feels almost like you're not wearing anything. But you are wearing something, and the protection from the elements is good enough to look after you on a drizzly and cold ride. The fabric keeps the wind out and it does a good job of dealing with rain. It's not one hundred per cent waterproof but copes with sustained downpours well. If it's absolutely thundering down, throwing on a waterproof jacket is a prudent choice.
It also copes well with low temperatures, but that's based on you riding at a decent lick – it's designed for high-paced riding, not leisurely trips to a cafe. It's for people who go out and train and ride at a high intensity and generate a lot of body heat. Do this and it's perfectly warm. It's adequately breathable as well – I didn't overheat once during testing. I tested it with a short-sleeve chunky merino baselayer and it proved a good match. There's not a lot of space under the arms for a long-sleeve layer, although maybe a tight fitting one would be fine.
The big downside to buying a one-piece suit is if you need different sized tights and jackets. I typically wear medium size tights and small jerseys and jackets, but, fortunately for me, the small size Aerosuit fitted me really well. It's probably down to the Pro Team part of the name.
It wasn't unduly tight around the legs or tights, and the top was snug, though not tight, in all the right places, with the slight exception that, with the zipper done right up it perhaps needed a bit more length in the front panels for my height. I rarely ride with a zipper fully closed, though, so it wasn't a huge problem.
For versatility, as well as achieving a better fit, buying the jacket and tights separately might be the better option, but for ultimate comfort – if the size is right – you can't really beat buying the Aerosuit. It makes dressing for ghastly days really easy – no deliberating about what jacket to pair with what tights, it's like pulling on a black suit. Easy. Expensive, yes, but a jolly impressive bit of kit that fulfils the brief. It would be nice to see some more reflective details and some more colour options, though.
One-piece winter insulation with incredible comfort and copes well with the worst weather
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Thermal Aerosuit
Size tested: Small, Black
Tell us what the jacket 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: "For riders that demand the utmost in performance from their racewear year round, the Pro Team Thermal Aerosuit is an innovative all-in-one that provides a simple solution to riding in cold weather. With three pockets on the back that sit flat when empty, it is versatile enough for both racing or simply riding fast.
"An antidote to bulky winter clothing, this technical garment combines the best elements of cold-weather gear from across the Pro Team range. The top half is based on the Pro Team Jacket, with a windproof and weather-resistant shell covering the arms and front, and a breathable jersey fabric across the back. This ingenious construction both protects riders from the wind and allows for great temperature regulation, reducing the need to put on or remove gilets and jackets while riding.
"The lower half of the suit is a modified version of the Pro Team Winter Tights, which also employ a combination of fabrics to protect the legs while maintaining breathability. The legs are lined with a 'waffle print' fabric, which has a much higher surface area than a flat-faced fabric. This greater surface area traps heat and is more efficient at wicking sweat away from the skin, preventing clamminess and unwanted cooling. The chamois is the same as in the award-winning Rapha Bib Shorts and Pro Team Bib Shorts.
"The Aerosuit has three pockets, with ample space for all riding essentials, and reflective detailing to improve visibility. The low-friction zip with a thick tab is easy to use when wearing gloves, and the tailored fit gives and broad range of movement with exceptional comfort. The front of the suit has a discreet flap for nature breaks."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Aerodynamic winter skinsuit
Protective softshell panels
A three-layer waterproof fabric on jersey front, body and leg: 53% polyester, 34% polyamide,13% elastane
A brushed back fabric on jersey back, body and leg: 85% nylon, 15% elastane
Does what it says on the tin, or website...
Thoroughly tested through some grotty weather and frequent machine washes, and it still looks like new.
It's good for typical rainy weather, although super-heavy and sustained downpours can expose its limitations – you can always throw a waterproof jacket over the top.
The top does really well with breathability, ideal for fast-paced training rides.
Really very good, although the limitation for people who need different size top and bottoms might be an issue.
Just right for me, but as with fit, there might be an issue for those who need different size top and bottoms.
It's more comfortable than regular tights and jackets because there's no waistband or bib straps.
What can you say, except that it's cheaper than buying the two items it is based upon...
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy, just bung it in the washing machine with everything else.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It laughs in the face of bad weather, though not extreme wet. Even if it's quite pleasant out, it's still comfortable, warm and breathable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Really comfortable fit and bad weather protection.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
No excuses for not riding when it's horrible outside.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Probably
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Yes it's expensive, but it's cheaper than buying the jacket and tights it's based on, and provides excellent bad weather protection.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, mountain biking
David has worked on the road.cc tech team since July 2012. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds.