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Rapha, that Marmite of cycling brands, make the Super Lightweight jersey for the heat of summer. I rode in it on a few hot days in the UK in July and August. With temperatures up to 30°C it handled the conditions it is designed for with aplomb. It feels like a base layer with pockets; light and comfortable, perfect for hard riding on sunny days.
The Rapha Super Lightweight jersey is all one colour, a very bright yellow in this case, with different fabrics used in specific places. Rapha say these are proprietary synthetic fabrics developed exclusively for them. They have treated the fabric with anti-bacterial coating, which means it doesn't start to smell like a plain polyester jersey can do in summer.
The materials are really comfortable and the jersey fit my body well and stayed in place with a decent gripper on the base. The sleeves are a looser cut than I expected and hemmed, rather than being the laser-cut close-fitting fabric of more racy jerseys. The sleeves contribute to the light feel of the jersey and they don't seem to flap noticeably when riding. Under the arms there are large sections of mesh to aid cooling and the jersey is noticeably shorter in the body compared to a regular jersey, which keeps your midriff cooler.
There are the usual three pockets on the back and these are taller than normal pockets, making up for the lightweight nature of the fabric. So a pump is easily contained in the middle pocket without the typical Rapha pump pocket. I found the carrying capacity of the jersey a bit compromised compared to jerseys made from a heavier material. Items in the pockets of any jersey have a tendency to pull it down at the back. The lightness of the fabric exacerbates this and the jersey can pull at the front of the collar, which is quite tight and is quite high compared to a stock summer jersey. There is an unfortunate trade off between having things in your pockets and having the zip done up, but given the hot conditions it is aimed at, this is less of a drawback than expected.
I felt cool and dry wearing this jersey in situations when I know I would normally be feeling hot and bothered. Whether working hard on my own on a hot summer's day in the Essex lanes; pretending I'm in Le Tour; or fast loops at the local road circuit the jersey felt comfortable.
The only real problem is that, because of the mesh construction, the jersey is not rated for sun protection, unlike most jerseys that have an SPF 50 rating. This means that you do need to put on sun screen on your upper body, especially the shoulders and upper arms. Remember those pictures of a sunburned Chris Froome earlier this year? He was using a skinsuit made from a much lighter fabric but there is still a risk of sun burn from the mesh fabric used in this jersey, especially on the bony areas of the shoulders.
The Rapha Super Lightweight jersey is also somewhat see through. I tested the Chartreuse or fluorescent yellow colour, though, which doesn't suffer from this as much as the white version. It's also available in pale blue and there are matching lightweight bib shorts for each colour.
Light and comfortable jersey for hot days
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Make and model: Rapha Super Lightweight Jersey
Size tested: Medium
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?
Very lightweight jersey for hot and humid conditions
With a newly refined pocket construction for more stability and support, the Super-Lightweight is designed for riding in the heat of summer. Made from three synthetic technical fabrics developed exclusively for Rapha, the main body material is comfortable against the skin as you perspire and also fast drying. Mesh side panels add more breathability and soft cuffs and collar maintain comfort.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Extremely lightweight proprietary Fabrics
Rear pockets with reinforced construction
Breathable mesh side panels
Highly breathable with exceptional moisture transfer
Weight of medium size jersey: 125g
Shoulder panels positioned for a better on bike fit
A bit tight around the neck, but comfortable elsewhere, deliberately short in the body
Cool on hot days and stable to ride in, deep pockets for keeping your stuff safe
Washes well and still looks as new, does not seem to pluck or mark
Really quite light at 125g, but not the lightest out there.
Nearly a ten for comfort, just the tightness at the neck knocking a point off for me.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Good jersey for riding in hot days.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Cool feeling of the fabrics against my skin, decent pockets.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of sun protection, tightness at collar.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, looking forward to riding in France wearing it.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Age: 42 Height: 193cm Weight: 70kg
I usually ride: Condor terra-x My best bike is: Cannondale CAAD10
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, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, mtb, Brompton