It's time to wrap up warm, and helping you to do just that is the new Rapha Core Winter Jacket, part of the UK company's burgeoning price-conscious range of clothing.
- Pros: Price (relatively speaking), fit, performance
- Cons: It still isn't cheap...
Here's a carefully considered jacket that gets the basics right, with great fit and good insulation and protection against the elements. It's a top pick for winter cycling, and while it's not exactly cheap, it doesn't make the eyes water like the prices elsewhere in Rapha's range.
First things first, Rapha has really nailed the sizing and fit. I tested a size small and it was well proportioned around the shoulders and torso, and the sleeves are long enough to prevent exposed wrists. There's no restriction when you're in the drops or standing at the coffee bar.
To protect against the wind and rain, the front-facing panels have a three-layer water-resistant laminate, while the back panel is made from a breathable and stretchy polyester fabric. The front-facing material works well, standing up to short showers well and a complete barrier to cold air, while the back panel adequately copes when you're producing a lot of heat.
The jacket isn't described as waterproof but it's able to shelter you from short showers adequately, sufficient to put off unrolling that emergency waterproof jacket you might have stuffed in one of the three rear pockets.
A generous dropped tail protects your lower back and bum from rear wheel spray, and the high collar ensures you feel suitably wrapped up against the cold when you first set off down the road. The waist band is elasticated and silicone lined, and forms a snug seal around your body.
It's a warm jacket that is versatile enough to handle mild autumn days as well as bitterly cold winter rides, provided you layer up. Worn over a lightweight short-sleeve baselayer is good for warmer days, a thicker long-sleeve base ups the ante for chillier rides.
Breathability is a real challenge for cycling clothing at this year. We demand that clothing keeps us warm and dry but also lets heat escape. The materials used by Rapha ensure the Core Winter Jacket provides suitable breathability, coping when the road tilts upwards or following an injection of pace from your riding buddies. I never got excessively sweaty on the inside, as can be the Achilles heel of some winter jackets.
You get three main pockets capacious enough for everything you'll need for a long winter training ride. I've found the pockets on some previous Rapha tops too high for easy access when riding, but I'm happy to report these are perfectly positioned and easy to get into when on the bike. There's also a vertical zipped pocket for storing money and house keys.
Other nicely thought out details include the soft chin guard, generous silicone gripper lining the waist band, and reflective details. The cuffs are particularly well finished: an angled ribbed material providing a flush fit around the wrist. The main zip is central rather than off-set like it is on the Classic Winter jacket, and works well when you need to dump some excess heat.
It's not as feature-laden as the Classic, but the fit, comfort and performance are every bit as good, at less than half the price. It doesn't feel like Rapha has cut any corners to hit this lower price point, with the quality as good as I've come to expect from the company over the years. It's a solid rival to other jackets in this price range like Madison's RoadRace Apex Softshell, as well as more expensive ones such as Sportful's Fiandre NoRain, Castelli's Mortirolo 4, and Alé's CP 2.0 Combi Jacket. (dhb's Aeron Hybrid Softshell is worth a look if you want a cheaper option.)
On top of all this, it's a smart looking jacket, whether in this red or the black or navy. Unfortunately, all those colours are currently sold out (except XS in black), so at the moment you can have any colour so long as it's pink. The size range extends from XS to XXL.
A really good winter jacket that is warm and breathable with great fit
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Core Winter Jacket
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the jacket is for
Rapha says: "Eat well, sleep, look after yourself and your bike; get the basics right and everything else falls into place. The foundation of successful cycling is uncomplicated, and that's the ethos we bring to the Core Winter Jacket. The Core range is focussed on doing the basics brilliantly, so the Winter Jacket combines a weather-resistant 3-layer laminate front section with a breathable back to let excess heat escape. The result is a jacket that keeps wind and rain at bay, allowing you to concentrate on laying the foundations for the summer ahead. Available in four colours, it is finished with reflective details on the sleeves to provide additional visibility and a deep cut silicon gripper at the waist to keep everything in place. Three large pockets in the rear provide room for tools, spares and additional clothing, and a zippered valuables pocket keeps cash and keys safe."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
3-layer laminate front to offer wind and water resistance
Stretch fabric rear to allow heat to escape
Three rear pockets provide ample room for tools, spares and food
A zippered pocket provides a safe space for valuables
Subtle Rapha branding is found in the top stitch arm band
A chin guard ensures a close and comfortable fit
It might cost half the price of Rapha's existing range but there's no sign of cost-cutting, the attention to detail is very good.
Very good for fending off the cold and light rain for winter riding.
It's been through lots of miles and through a couple of washing machine cycles, and so far it's looking fine, but I've obviously not endured a full winter with it yet.
The front-facing panels are water resistant; it'll look after you in a short and light shower but it's not a fully waterproof jacket.
Breathability is a tricky thing to test – everyone is different – but I found it really good for managing everything from steady rides to brisk tempo rides with lots of hills.
The small fitted me really well.
A very comfortable jacket with a snug and toasty feeling when you're heading out for a cold winter ride.
It's less than half the price of Rapha's Classic Winter jacket and compares well to other similarly priced jackets.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Goes through a standard washing machine cycle just fine.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Keeps you warm and dry on cold rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Great fit and lovely warmth for cold winter rides.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Isn't really much to find fault with.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's nearly as good as Rapha's top-end clothing but at less than half the price.
About the tester
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.