This one is predestined to get the usual Rapha critics all hot under the collar, so as they’ll be toasty warm enough already they don’t need to read any further. For the rest of you the Rapha Winter Collar is a wool mix tubey-scarf thing (yes, there's brand-name avoidance going on here) to protect the neck from the wind and provide a layer of warmth that a standard jersey or jacket collar can't provide.
An insulated neck means a warmer cyclist, there's some pretty major blood highways running up and down the neck close to the skin and exposing them to a chill wind will cool the blood and therefore the body down, so keeping them covered and cosy will keep a whole body warm.
The Winter Collar is a versatile and easily portable way of carrying an extra bit of lagging around on a ride, like an arm-warmer for the, erm, neck, good for the chilly start of a commute or the last ten miles of a training ride, or worn all the time for the worst of the Winter where it can just be worn low to stop draughts whistling between the jersey and neck gap and then pulled up onto the chin or nose for freezing descents or worn high for the whole ride if it's proper nippy out. And the small but significant psychological effect of being totally wrapped up and snuggy sealed against the elements can't be ignored.
The Rapha Collar's 93% merino wool and 7% Spandex composition makes it both warm and a little bit stretchy. The stretchy bit means you can get it over your head easily and once it's there hook it on your chin to form a wind-free barrier or even higher over the ears if it's really cold, the wool bit means it has all those nice qualities of natural fibre, it feels soft against the skin, it’s warm, it wicks well and it doesn’t need to be washed all the time. This one’s been worn lots, got a bit snotty, kept in a sweaty and muddy pocket for too many rides and snuffled about in the bottom of a courier-bag for long enough and it’s still refusing to smell like a man-made fabric would do after such careless treatment. Although the crusty edge means it could probably do with a wash now.
Rather than just being a simple tube of cloth cut to length like other such garments the Rapha Collar is made from (count 'em) two pieces of material, the seams are flat-locked and the open ends are tidily hemmed and the whole thing is tailored to fit with a longer front to extend warmth further down the chest, you can tell it’s the front as there’s a discreet Rapha logo there.
At £25 this might seem the perfect candidate for your standard knee-jerk Rapha Rip-Off Whinge but as other similar types of clothing cost around £10 for what is essentially a basic tube of printed lycra the price for these items seems suspiciously high anyway, and the Rapha Collar is only slightly more than comparable wool-based offerings but has a better level of finish and added tailoring, although the latter means it's less versatile as an adaptable piece of headwear than the generic neck tubes.
Colours - Red, pink and black.
The Rapha Winter Collar is one of those items that might seem expensive initially but thanks to it's quality construction, warm wooly goodness and the fact that it's likely to get used for most rides between October and March for years to come it will make you wonder how you ever did without it.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Winter Collar
Size tested: One size, pink
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?
"Made from a rich merino wool blend, the Rapha Winter Collar is a versatile product which is ideal for both winter training and city cycling. An extension of Rapha’s base layer system, the merino fabric provides excellent protection against the cold and is highly breathable. Available in black, red, and pink, the stretch in the fabric means it can be pulled over the head for extra protection on particularly cold days."
We'd agree with all that, a versatile little cuff of material that we've used for both proper cycle rides and just trips to the shops to keep warm. And even as a little post-race num-num comfort-blanket for the neck.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Durable Merino stretch fabric, ergonomic design, off set and flat locked seams for comfort. Subtle Rapha branding.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
The Rapha Winter Collar did its neck warming job perfectly, and it made us smile at the same time, because it's a nice thing.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The non-smelly soft woolliness and the pink.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? I'd still gulp a tiny little bit at the price, but yes. The quality will be remembered long after price has been forgotten and all that.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, I'd also recommend it to anyone if they were after cyclist's gift ideas.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
It’s a snood, a wool snood. In pink if you want.
About the tester
I usually ride: It varies as to the season. My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time
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: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun