Rapha's latest and most technically advanced offering in its Team Sky-derived Pro Team collection is the Aero Suit, a one-piece jersey and shorts outfit developed along similar lines to Castelli's hugely popular San Remo speedsuit.
Like Castelli's offering, the new Rapha Pro Team Aero Suit essentially joins a jersey and pair of shorts together, to create a garment that provides the aerodynamics of a skinsuit but with the practicality of a regular jersey and shorts, with pockets for your food and a front flap for easier toilet stops.
Rapha have taken three years to develop the Aero Suit in conjunction with Team Sky. With aerodynamic clothing now becoming a regular feature in the pro peloton as racers increasingly seek out every possible aero saving, the Aero Suit was a big omission in Rapha's range, as several brands have followed in Castelli's slipstream and developed similar garments.
The front panels of the Aero Suit are constructed from a very stretchy fabric and that, along with the shape and placement of the many panels, ensures it fits beautifully. There are seamless shoulder panels and sleeves, the seams relocated to the back of the shoulders, the idea being to reduce drag across the top of the shoulders. The three rear pockets are designed to sit very flat, so when empty they shouldn't cause any drag.
The full-length zip stops a couple of inches from the bottom of the jersey - unlike the Castelli San Remo Speedsuit which has a zipper extending all the way to the bottom. Rapha's reason for this is to produce a better fit around the waist and avoid excess material bunching up. While it does enhance the fit, I didn't find it really prevented the bottom of the jersey bunching up when crouched low over the drops.
The side and rear panels and pocket interiors are made from a mesh material to ensure good breathability, and help excess heat escape. The whole jersey is also treated with ColdBlack which reflects the heat, and means you can wear the all-black suit on hot days and not unduly suffer.
Fit is critical with a product designed to be aerodynamic; the Aero Suit basically needs to be skintight. I normally wear a size small jersey and medium shorts in Rapha's range, so I first tried a medium Aero Suit. The fit wasn't that great around the top of the shorts, though, it was strangely baggy.
Going down a size remedied the fit issue, and thankfully there was no restriction elsewhere as a consequence of downsizing. It's a downside of the one-piece approach but, provided it works for you, the benefits are improved aerodynamics. It would be nice to see Rapha offer a wider range of sizes for people who fall between sizes.
Inside the shorts is the same padded insert that Rapha use in their other bib shorts. It's a very comfortable insert to place between yourself and the saddle, good for the longest rides, and it stays reasonably dry on hot and sweaty rides. The leg openings are hemmed with a wide elasticated band with a grippy material that keeps the shorts in place without causing any irritation. It's a similar design at the sleeves, which are long, as is the trend these days.
With the sizing issue taken care of, the Aero Suit offers an exceptionally good fit everywhere. It's as good as the Castelli San Remo, the benchmark in this category, and testing both garments side-by-side there is very little to split the two. The Aero Suit is snug but the stretchy fabric and smart panel shaping mean no areas of restriction at all.
With no wind-tunnel on standby, testing a product designed to reduce drag is difficult. Rapha also don't publish any aero data for the Aero Suit, so we can't verify the aero improvement compared with a regular jersey and shorts outfit.
One benefit of the one-piece design I can comfortably vouch for is comfort. I've been wearing the Aero Suit as much as possible for the past couple of months, from lazy Sunday rides to fast-paced evening chain gangs and my local 10-mile time trial. It's been impressively comfortable every single time.
The biggest advantage is the removal of the bib straps, so it's more comfortable on the shoulders, along with improved comfort around the waist, as here there are no shorts gripping your midriff. Another benefit, particularly when hunched over the bar, is that the jersey can't ride up.
The Rapha Aero Suit is similarly priced to Castelli's range-topping Sanremo 3.0 Speed Suit, but the Italian company does offer more affordable versions of the Sanremo. You can pick one up, with an online discount, for nearly half the price of the Aero Suit, which does make the Rapha harder to justify.
The Aero Suit is a very well designed outfit and is extremely comfortable on all fronts, from the chamois to the fit. If you have any interest in aerodynamics it makes a lot of sense to ensure that the body, which accounts for about 80 per cent of the overall air resistance when cycling, is covered in a slippery tight-fitting outfit, and Rapha's Aero Suit meets those requirements.
The Rapha Aero Suit is available in just two colours, black or the opinion-dividing Data Print, and in six sizes.
Superbly comfortable aerodynamic skinsuit
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Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Aero Suit
Size tested: Small
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?
Rapha say: "A product developed in collaboration with Team Sky, where the brief was to deliver the aerodynamic savings of a skinsuit whilst retaining the versatility and functionality of a jersey. Created for streamlined efficiency in race conditions, the Pro Team Aero Suit combines the Aero Jersey and Pro Team Lightweight Bib Shorts to form a weight-saving and aerodynamic all-in-one.
"In many situations, the Pro Team Aero Suit has replaced a traditional jersey and shorts combination. Team Sky riders have used the Aero Suit in everything from short-course criteriums to stages of the world's most important stage race. The top half has specially configured shoulder seams and pockets – the two main contributors to aerodynamic drag. A new high-stretch performance fabric has allowed the seams to be moved behind the shoulders, creating a smooth plane across the back of the jersey. The refashioned pockets fit flush against the torso when empty to continue this plane down the back. The resulting garment has become the go-to racing garment for Team Sky.
"Mesh side panels and tail provide breathability, and cable loops hold headphone or race radio cables. The fabric is treated with Coldblack™ technology, encouraging the diffusion of heat. The suit also has a front flap for nature stops.
"Also available in a data print design – a graphical representation of performance data collected from a Team Sky rider at one of the biggest races."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
High-stretch performance fabric
High quality construction as you would hope at this price.
We'd love to see some data for its aerodynamics, but based on my own testing it's clear it's a very fast garment. It provides an exceptionally good fit, and comfort for short and long rides is up there with the best.
I've been wearing this thing as much as possible over the last few months and it's not showing any signs of wear and tear.
It's pretty light and does save a bit of weight as there's less material than jersey and shorts separates.
While it's hard to prove the aerodynamics, it's impressively comfortable. The fit is really good, nice use of materials and well placed panels, and the padded insert is up to the task of cushioning your nether regions.
It's cheaper than buying the Aero jersey and bib shorts on their own, and it's the same price as a similar Castelli Sanremo speed suit, but the Italian company does offer more affordable versions of its speed suit now.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For riding fast, this is my go-to outfit, and even when I'm not racing the clock or Strava I still go for the Aero Suit simply because it's so comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Once I'd downsized to a size small, the fit is really good and it's comfortable next to the skin. Nice fit at the sleeves and leg openings as well. The jersey pockets don't sag when loaded up either, but doing that does impact the aerodynamics.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
I'd like to see Rapha offer a wider range of sizes for those people who fall between sizes.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
A top quality outfit that is cheaper than buying a separate jersey and bib shorts combo, and is more comfortable as well. And it's probably going to save you time against the clock or Strava.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
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.