Rapha has expanded its Pro Team range with the new Softshell Base Layer, Overshoes, Knee and Arm Warmers, all designed for the specific demands of racing in cold and wet conditions. The new clothing joins the recently launched Pro Team Softshell jacket, which draws on the clothing company's partnership with Team Sky.
The Softshell Base Layer (£80) is the most interesting of the new products. It’s designed to offer rain and cold weather protection, the sort normally achieved from wearing a jacket, with a DWR-coated base layer that you can wear under your race jersey.
It uses a similar softshell fabric as used in the jacket, but with a looser weave so it’s a lighter, and the use of jersey cotton in key places to provide extra breathability. It has a high-stretch 3-ply membrane in the front and rear panels, and a lighter fabric for the side panels. The seams are taped at critical places and placed to prevent water ingress, and it’s “very close fit” says Rapha - it’s unashamedly designed for riding, or should we say racing, in the drops.
Wearing jackets and capes isn’t ideal for racing, they obscure your race numbers and can billow in the wind reducing your aerodynamics. The alternative, and I speak from experience, is to forgo the jacket and shiver on the start line in a jersey until the racing gets underway and you can, hopefully, generate a bit of heat. There are already some base layers that provide wind protection - both Gore and Craft produce windproof base layers that can be worn under a race jersey as a substitute for a wind jacket, ideal when racing. But I can’t think of any waterproof base layers.
The new base layer has been tested in racing. UK Elite racer Rhys Howells was involved in the development and provided feedback for racing. His first race with the new base layer was the 2014 Lincoln Grand Prix, a race run in horrid spring weather. Despite the conditions, he says it was his best ever result, and reckons the base layer proved perfect.
“A lot of teams can’t use a softshell jacket or jersey without covering up sponsors’ logos and team colours, which is technically illegal. Wearing a Pro Team Softshell Base Layer means you don’t have to worry about any of that, or having to remove a gilet or jacket,” says Howells.
“You can stand on the start line in the rain feeling comfortable and know that, in 10 minutes, you’ll be drilling it in the wet and feeling perfectly warm.”
Joining the new base layer is the Pro Team Softshell Knee Warmers (£55) and Arm Warmers (£50). Both are made from the same DWR treated fabric for the front-facing panels, with a soft and more breathable rear panel construction.
Arm and knee warmers treated to keep the rain out have been popular with the likes of the Castelli Nanoflex and Sportful NoRain garments in recent years.
Taking care of hands and feet are the final additions in this newly expanded range, with the new Pro Team Softshell gloves (£70) and Overshoes (£65). Both are also designed for the demands of racing. The full-finger gloves use the same softshell fabric as the jacket with a low-profile construction to provide a good range of dexterity while offering the protection you need if racing in the rain and wind. The palm is padded, the cuffs long and the fingertips are compatible with touchscreen devices
The Softshell Overshoes use the same fabric in an overshoe that is intended to be less bulky than neoprene overshoes. The seams are taped and the zip is water resistant, the sole features a durable panel with pre-cut cleat and heel holes, and there are reflective details.
See the full collection at www.rapha.cc
Also newly launched is the updated Brevet Jersey and Gilet, which joins the brand new Team Sky Training Brevet Jersey launched a little while ago. The Brevet jersey was born when in 2011 some Rapha employees embarked on the 1,200km Paris-Brest-Paris Randonnée, and needed a warm and comfortable jersey that provided high visibility for the long night sections of the non-stop ride.
The Brevet jersey is made from insulating Sportwool and features three large pockets, a zipped ballast pocket and a zipped chest pocket for stowing a brevet card. The twin horizontal stripes on the jersey provide a high degree of visibility, and the accompanying gilet further boosts visibility as well as providing wind resistance. road.cc was very impressed with the Brevet long sleeve jersey and Gilet tested a couple of years ago.
For 2015 the Brevet jersey is available in three new colours, orange/black, grey/bright green and black/white, with many more horizontal stripes on the gilet to increase low light visibility. Check it out here.
Joining the updated Brevet jersey is the new Brevet socks (£15). These are made from merino wool with a reinforced heel and toe section, with a long cuff and available in colours to match the jerseys.
And we end with the new Team Sky Winter Training Jersey (£160). We first spotted this jersey at the Team Sky training camp in Majorca where it was being tested, and it’s now available to buy. It joins Rapha’s Team Sky range and is based on the regular Winter Jersey, which has been a staple of its range for many years, but is available in this fetching light blue.
It’s made from a Merino-blend fabric with windproof front and shoulder panels and vents in the side panels to provide a rush of cooling air when you warm up. The contrast armband and rear stripe are made from a highly reflective dot print. There are two large cargo pockets, a zipped pocket and embroidered logos.
More at www.rapha.cc
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.