The recent warm weather yet strong winds provided the perfect conditions to test the Rapha Women's Classic Gilet II. Rapha says it is designed for milder weather and it certainly proved the perfect extra layer to keep out the wind chill, just as it intended.
The gilet feels incredibly light and the material thin, which initially left me concerned about how windproof it would be. I need not have worried – the front panels keep the wind chill out nicely, while three mesh panels on the rear help to prevent any unwanted flapping or ballooning in the wind and add plenty of breathability.
The gilet has also survived some light drizzle, but it's only claimed to be water resistant so, as expected, it did little to keep the rain out. The lightweight fabric packs away tightly and can be easily stuffed into a jersey pocket if the need arises.
Although it's slim fitting, the gilet is not a full race cut, and it fitted well over my full jersey pockets on longer rides. According to Rapha it has been designed with a new stretch fabric, but while the mesh panels featured on the rear and sides of the gilet do have an element of stretch to them, the remainder of the material certainly doesn't. I didn't find this to be a problem, though, and the gilet wasn't at all restrictive, but if you are stuck between two sizes I would recommend sizing up.
What Rapha calls the 'soft fleece chin guard' is neither especially soft nor fleecy, but I didn't find any issues with comfort or chafing around the chin or neck. The layered fabric around the neck certainly gave a little extra warmth on a chilly day.
A small, zip-up valuables pocket on the front of the jersey is the perfect size for your keys and a few coins for the cafe stop. In addition, the gilet features two large rear pockets which are easy to access and leave plenty of room for food, tools and extra layers should you wish.
All this does come at a price, as you would expect from Rapha. You can find a wide range of windproof and even waterproof gilets for less than half this price from brands such as dhb or Endura. However, you can't argue with the fit, comfort and performance on offer here, and if you can afford the Classic Gilet you certainly won't be disappointed.
The only limiting factor – other than price – is that it only comes in this turquoise colour. Personally I love it, and it goes well with a lot of my kit, but we all know that looking good on the bike makes you faster, and this isn't guaranteed to match all of your favourite jerseys as a more neutral or subtle colour might.
If you are only an occasional cyclist and don't mind a bit of flapping in the wind, a cheaper option is probably all you need, but for those who ride frequently and for whom a light gilet is an absolute essential, this is the ideal extra layer on a mild spring or summer day – provided you can stomach the price tag.
Light, windproof layer ideal for spring and summer, but some other colours would be nice
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Classic Gilet II
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 says: "Designed specifically for milder weather, this completely overhauled version of our popular gilet is perfect for cool starts and even cooler descents. An essential on any all-day ride through changeable weather."
I would certainly agree and found the gilet to be ideal on a warm yet windy summer's day.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Reduced weight and bulk (25gsm/m2 lighter than previously)
Easily packs into a jersey pocket
Long-cut back for protection from road spray
Reflective elements and logos for safety
Elasticated rear cargo pockets for secure storage
Mesh back panel for added breathability
Full-length zip with lockdown puller to prevent rattles
Soft chin guard prevents rubbing
Friction locks for easy drawcord adjustment
Off-set front zip
Bonded chest pocket
Zipped valuables pocket
Bonded seams and hems are very neat and save weight.
Light, comfortable, kept the wind out (and it was very windy) and easy to stuff in a jersey pocket.
Seems well made and no sign of any issues with stitching or bonded seams so far.
Fits very well with no excess material left to flap in the wind yet plenty of room to move.
I usually wear an 8-10 and wore a small which Rapha says is equivalent to a UK 10. There is little stretch to the fabric so if you're stuck between sizes it's probably best to size up.
Incredibly light and packs up nice and small into any of my jersey pockets.
No issues with chafing and generally very comfortable.
At £100 it is well into the pricey end of things, but does the job exceedingly well and worth it if you will use it regularly.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No issues so far on a 30-degree wash. The gilet label says you shouldn't tumble dry or iron it, but according to Rapha's website it can take a cool dry and iron. I tested it in the dryer and it has come out fine so far, although generally I wouldn't tumble dry sports kit if I can help it.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very windproof and a comfortable fit with no annoying flapping.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The secure valuables pocket on the front is great and the whole thing is really lightweight.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Nothing major, though a range of colour options would be nice.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes – if I had the money.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
All round a well-fitting, well-performing jersey that does what it's designed to do and has been a really useful piece of kit recently, but it comes at a high price and lacks colour options.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman Team Carbon My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, commuting, club rides, track
Ashia is a Maths student at the University of Bath and has been riding and racing bikes for the past 6 years after a track taster session at her local velodrome had her hooked. Most weekends, she can be found out racing, be it track, road, criteriums, time trials, triathlons, or cyclocross. Whilst she is fiercely competitive and loves to race, she is still on the look out for anyone hiring a "full time cafe rider" when she graduates.