The Rapha Classic Winter Jacket is a high-quality water and wind-resistant jacket that's ideal for tackling any sort of weather you're likely to encounter on a winter ride. It could be the last jacket you'll ever need to buy.
Rapha has employed Polartec's Power Shield Pro fabric to achieve this, blending the performance attributes of its Classic Softshell jacket with the weather resistance of the Hardshell jacket.
The fabric is based on a softshell – it has the same softness – but uses a microporous membrane and a more durable weather repelling exterior to block wind and rain. It's essentially a softshell jacket with added water resistance, making it more versatile for dealing with unpredictable winter weather.
In addition to the water-resistant fabric, Rapha has taped all the seams for added protection from the elements. I've ridden through the rain, both constant drizzle and short, heavy downpours, and it has kept me comfortably dry. It's not as waterproof as Gore's One Active jacket, but it's much more waterproof than a regular softshell or something like Castelli's Gabba.
The Power Shield Pro fabric strikes a really nice balance between weather protection and breathability. The downfall of a hardshell jacket is the compromised breathability, but the Classic Winter Jacket scores very highly here. Because the fabric only blocks 99% of the wind, there's just enough airflow – occasionally detectable through the arms – to ensure breathability is exceptionally good compared to a hardshell jacket, and nearly as good as a normal softshell.
During the long training rides this jacket is designed for, it does an excellent job of regulating your temperature. Wearing it over a long-sleeve baselayer, my temperature remained constant during a long ride with short periods of intense activity.
It never gets too hot, but if you do find it a little warm, two underarm zipped vents are really useful for sucking in some cool air. The jacket provides a reasonable level of insulation, but even worn over a long-sleeve baselayer it isn't as warm as Sportful's R&D Light jacket. There's space to layer up, though, so for really cold rides there's nothing to stop you adding a second layer.
What the Classic Winter Jacket does brilliantly is cope with any winter weather. It can be chucking it down with rain when you start and the jacket will cope just fine; it can be cold, dry and very windy and the jacket will equally meet those demands. Best of all, should the weather change during a longer ride, you're not suddenly caught out in the wrong jacket: the Classic Jacket can handle any foul weather you're likely to ride through at this time of year.
Because the fabric is softer than a hardshell, the fit and shape of the jacket is better. The size small I tested fitted well, nicely shaped around the arms, with good sleeve length and nice elasticated cuffs, and generous in the torso and shoulders. It's certainly not a race fit, though – if you want race fit you're better served by the Pro Team jacket – and it's not as conforming to your body as some other jackets. My only real gripe is that it's not elasticated around the hem to keep it snug against your bib tights, though drawcords do help a little.
Retaining some of the signature details of Rapha's original Classic Softshell, the new Winter Classic has an offset water-resistant zip and shoulder patches. It's designed for long winter rides so you get three rear pockets, though they're annoyingly just that bit too high, making retrieving food while riding unnecessarily tricky. Two small zipped pockets, one at the front and one on the back, are ideal for small change or the house keys.
The jacket is available in three colours, including this high-visibility Chartreuse, and there's a healthy smattering of reflective details on the arms and shoulders. I've become a fan of brightly coloured jackets since moving to the country, and take more measures to stand out on remote country lanes than I used to living in the city.
At the back there's a dropped tail below the three pockets, plus a pink fold-out bum flap for when you're riding on wet roads, adorned with a large reflective Rapha logo for extra visibility. It's neatly zipped away in an internal pocket when not needed.
The Classic Winter Jacket is impressive: versatile, dependable and durable. It takes any weather in its stride, from wind to rain and everything else that winter might throw your way. It makes dressing for a long winter ride really easy – just sling it on over a long-sleeve baselayer and you'll be warm and comfortable for the duration, with the high level of breathability ensuring you never overheat even during harder training efforts or long climbs.
It's pricey, but if it's a choice between buying a softshell and a waterproof jacket for the winter, or just the Classic Winter jacket, I know what I'd go for.
A high quality jacket that can deal with winter weather in all its guises
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Classic Winter Jacket
Size tested: Small
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: "New for 2016, the Classic Winter Jacket has been developed as a do-all outer layer to withstand the harshest cycling conditions, on any kind of ride. The ideal garment for winter base miles, wear it on training rides in the wet, or all-day adventures in the cold. The jacket has ample storage for food and tools with three large pockets on the rear and a separate waterproof pocket for valuables. An adjustable hi-vis shock cord on the hem and elastane inner cuffs keep the jacket sealed, providing extra protection against harsh winter winds.
"Cut from a breathable fabric that transfers moisture vapour away from the skin and with underarm zippers for added ventilation, the Classic Winter Jacket works hard to prevent you overheating even during the hardest efforts. A stowable drop tail has hi-vis detailing for rides in low light, and reflective elements on the shoulders and cuffs offer further visibility."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Polartec® Power Shield Pro® fabric
Highly breathable to regulate temperature during hard efforts
Taped internal seams to keep out the worst of the weather
Water-resistant YKK® AquaGuard zip
Elastane inner cuffs, for better wind protection
Concealed front pocket
Debossed logo on sleeve
Reflective drop tail for visibility
Drainage holes in rear pocket
The quality of the jacket is first class, with lots of nice details.
For dealing with cold, wind and rain and everything else the winter throws at you, this jacket takes it all in its stride. It's not the warmest, but for brisk tempo rides it's ideal, and you can adjust the layers underneath to add more warmth on colder rides.
I've been battering it through the winter grind getting it pasted in mud and slinging it in the washing machine, and it's coped just fine.
It's coped with some very wet weather, and while it's not as waterproof as a pure waterproof jacket, the protection is adequate for most rain you're likely to be riding through.
It's impressively breathable – even during harder efforts it never really gets too steamy – and two zipped underarm vents are useful when the temperature does creep up.
The fit is good on the whole, not as good as a softshell but much more comfortable and relaxed than a hardshell.
I found the sizing spot on
It's not a heavy jacket.
For long winter training rides when the weather is ghastly, this jacket shelters you from the elements.
Yes it's expensive, but it offers the performance of two jackets in one, and if you look at it that way, it's not so bad... It's probably the only jacket you need for 99% of winter riding.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy, on a 30-degree wash.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It delivers on Rapha's claims very well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The protection from the elements and the impressive breathability.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The fit, particularly around the waist, slightly lets it down if I'm being really picky.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A high-quality jacket with a high-end price, but it delivers a high level of performance for winter riding.
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.