Rapha's Pro Team Shadow is a close-fitting wind and water-resistant jersey that's made to a very high standard, although the price makes it hard to favour over some of the opposition.
There are a lot of rain/foul weather/classics/weatherproof jerseys (we could really do with a single overarching term for them) out there these days. You know the type of thing: they're wind resistant, water resistant and breathable in a close aero cut, designed for riding in the rain, wind and changeable conditions.
Rapha has taken a different approach from most with its Shadow jersey – developed with and for Team Sky, apparently – in that rather than using a laminate material, it uses a single nylon/elastane layer. The yarn is given a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment before being stretch-woven into fabric. Then a steam-pressure treatment shrinks it by half before another DWR is applied.
The result is a very dense fabric – not thick, but very tightly woven. It's not completely windproof but it is highly wind resistant so not much cold air gets in on cold rides. I'm never going to use a short sleeve jersey when it's below about 12°C outside but you might want to wear the Pro Team Shadow when the temperature is well down into single figures.
Spray from the road just beads up and rolls off the surface and the same goes for fog, drizzle, and light rain. If you're out in prolonged rain, water can gradually seep in, initially through the seams around the arms (not the ones on top of the shoulders or down the sides because they're taped) and any folds in the fabric.
The Shadow's breathability is good, moist air escaping relatively easily, although the difference between this and something like Castelli's Gabba isn't great in this respect. In warmer temperatures – over about 16°C for me – you can start to feel too hot and the atmosphere can feel tropical inside, but for spring/autumn and cooler summer days it'll stop you getting clammy and uncomfortable on the climbs, while keeping the air off your chest on the descents.
I've seen and heard quite a few comments saying the Pro Team Shadow's cut isn't great: it's too tight around the middle and the sleeves don't fit right. Maybe I'm just lucky but it fits me really well (that's not me in the pics, by the way). The fabric has masses of four-way stretch and I found it to be close-fitting and comfortable throughout. Both the collar and sleeves fit me closely so no cool air can slink in there.
Those sleeves are 'three-quarter length', meaning they come right down to your elbows. I'm not sure what's three-quarter length about that but I do like that little bit of extra coverage compared with standard short sleeves. The all-round stretchiness of the fabric also means there are very few folds where water can accumulate when you're riding in the rain.
The back isn't as long as you'll find on some other rain jerseys, and there's no foldaway bumflap either. That's not an issue if you're wearing Rapha's Pro Team Shadow bib shorts (£260) because they're made of exactly the same water resistant fabric, but it means you could get a wet arse if you're in normal shorts.
A chunky puller on the full-length zip allows you a degree of climate control. There's a flap behind that zip, by the way, which helps stop cold air and rainwater getting through.
The inner face of the fabric is brushed so it's comfortable next to your skin (personally, I wear a baselayer whatever the conditions), while the collar has a wicking lining to deal with sweat around your neck.
You get three cargo pockets at the rear, each with an eyelet in the bottom to allow water that gets in to drain out again. Those eyelets are a couple of centimetres up from the bottom of the pockets, though, and quite a bit of water can accumulate below that level (Castelli now puts mesh at the bottom of the Gabba's pockets, which is a more effective solution, in my opinion, if not quite as clean looking). There's a fourth zipped pocket back there for your valuables; you can get an iPhone 5 in there, but not an iPhone 6. I've not had any trouble fitting everything I've wanted to carry on a ride into those pockets, and it has all remained stable and easy enough to access.
A black reflective tab will help get you seen in headlights if you're out in low light conditions but it's pretty small – some rivals have far more reflective trim – and the gripper elastic on the rear hem is embossed with sticky rubber so it really does grip.
All good then? Mainly, although some of the rival jerseys out there include features that you don't get with the Shadow. The Castelli Perfetto that I reviewed recently, for example, has a fold-away flap that stops road spray getting through the back of your shorts to your bum. The Shadow shorts do a similar job, but you have to pay a whopping £260 for them...
Very good wind and weather-resistant jersey, but that price is hard to handle
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Short Sleeve Shadow Jersey
Size tested: Large, Black
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?
It's a weather-resistant jersey in a close, aero cut.
Rapha says, "The Pro Team Shadow Jersey offers a new approach to racing in bad weather. Using a stretch-woven fabric, the form-fitting jersey offers an unprecedented combination of protection against the elements and breathable comfort under duress.
"The fabric used in Rapha's Pro Team Shadow range is a truly revolutionary solution to an age-old problem: even the most expensive rainwear options are made from a plastic-feeling laminate material and are taped at the seams, resulting in a clammy jacket in which it is easy to overheat – not ideal for racing. The Pro Team Shadow Jersey's fabric, however, has a DWR (durable water repellent) finish applied twice during the manufacturing process, making it 'hydrophobic' – water simply rolls off – and yet it is stretch-woven, meaning that tiny gaps of air allow body heat out, despite it compressing for an aero fit. The inner is brushed too, so the short sleeve jersey can be worn comfortably over a base layer, or even straight onto skin.
"The Pro Team Shadow Jersey was developed to provide Team Sky's cyclists with a jersey to race in that would protect them against the elements on changeable days. In frantic races, they can wear it from start to finish, avoiding trips back to the team car to collect or deposit gilets and rain capes. It is truly an all-in-one solution. Team Sky have been racing in jerseys made of the Pro Team Shadow fabric since the start of the 2015 season to great effect, especially during the Belgian Classics.
"The cut of the jersey is streamlined to compact to your body shape in a race fit, and it has 3/4 length sleeves for more protection on the arms. The chunky zip pull with grippy zipper is much easier to use than normal zips, perfect for when time and movement is limited during a race while the Pro Team-embossed gripper elastic on the rear hem keeps the jersey in place even during exertion. Three rear cargo pockets allow for storage while drill holes at the bottom of each one let rainwater roll straight out. There are also taped seams on the jersey's shoulders for rainwater protection where it matters most.
"Aesthetically, the Pro Team Shadow Jersey is jet black, and it has Rapha's Pro Team Convict stripes design printed on the rear-right pocket and on the back of the arms. It looks just like the name would indicate, so that you can remain hidden in the shadows until the time comes to attack the race."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rapha lists these features:
* Stretch-woven fabric that compresses to fit
* 'Hydrophobic' rain protection
* Inner fabric brushed for on-skin comfort
* Wind resistant
* Vizlon zipper with chunky, ergonomic puller
* Three rear cargo pockets
* Taped seams on shoulders
* 3/4 length sleeves
* Reflective stripes on rear arms
* Pro Team 'Convict Stripes' print on rear pocket
* 53% Polyamide/ 47% Elastane
The build quality is very high.
A DWR treatment is applied first to the yarn and then to the finished item. This adds to the durability but it will still eventually wash out.
When you notice that the water stops beading on the surface it's time to re-proof it with some kind of re-proofer.
Well, I got on really well with the fit but I've heard other people having trouble with the neck and waist sections. For me, though, the fit has been great with no issues at all.
Again, I found the sizing about normal for a slim-fit jersey.
The stretchiness makes for a close but not tight fit. Breathability is good.
No two ways about it, this is a lot of money, even for a weather-resistant jersey. You'll find many others that do a similar job considerably cheaper.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
It's simple, you put it in the washing machine at 30°C. You can't use the tumble dryer.
You will have to reproof the fabric as the DWR treatment washes out.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It's very good. Wind and water resistance are good, as is breathability.
However, considerably cheaper weather resistant jerseys put in a similar level of performance.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
I really like the fit. It worked perfectly for me. It provides a good level of weather resistance, especially in combination with the Rapha Pro Team Shadow shorts, although you're talking about a big outlay for that.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
That price. There's no bumflap, although that's not an issue if you buy the matching shorts.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? The price is a major hurdle there.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, although you can get a similar performance at a cheaper price.
Use this box to explain your score
The performance is very good but I wouldn't say it's better than that of other jerseys that are considerably cheaper.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding
Mat has been in cycling media since 1996, on titles including BikeRadar, Total Bike, Total Mountain Bike, What Mountain Bike and Mountain Biking UK, and he has been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. Mat has been road.cc technical editor for over a decade, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer. Now pushing 50, he's riding road and gravel bikes most days for fun and fitness rather than training for competitions.