If what you want for winter cycling is a thermal long sleeve jersey with the cosy insulation and softness of merino wool, backed up by fully windproof front-facing panels for providing a barrier against windchill, then look no further than the Rapha Winter Windblock Jersey. It sure is expensive but it's a superbly made luxurious winter jersey.
It's a very simple jersey, but it's a simplicity that works wonderfully on the bike at this time of year. A long-sleeve merino wool blend provides ample warmth for chilly autumnal/wintry rides while a windproof material is seamlessly stitched to the chest and arms. It's how well it's put together and performs in unpredictable weather at this time of year that marks it out as an excellent choice.
The windblock fabric ensures adequate shielding from sharp cold winds and also a reasonable degree of shower protection, while the non-covered back panels let excess heat escape. I found it managed temperature really well, keeping a steady and comfortable microclimate around my upper body on cold rides with lots of wind and hills.
Of course, what the Windblock jersey does is replicate the old gilet over a jersey combination. There are benefits to the integration of windproof material though, the most notable being that your arms are also covered as well, which a gilet obviously doesn't. So more protection when it's cold and windy.
It's also quieter than a gilet and you can still access your pockets – a good thing on long rides – and there's better heat management because your back is covered only by merino. It just makes dressing before a ride easier and quicker.
As with most Rapha clothing, it's made to a very high standard, which is just as well considering the price. Take the seams: they're pressed and bonded to provide additional protection in these vulnerable areas and feel very comfortable as well. The cuffs are angled and sit nicely around the wrists and work well with the assortment of long-finger gloves I tested the top with.
There's also a high collar for neck warmth and a hole in the rear pocket to thread a headphone cable through with a couple of loops to hold it in place.
There are pockets galore: three regular rear pockets provide ample storage capacity, and are well positioned to make accessing contents easy (I've found the pockets on some Rapha jerseys too high; these are perfect). Then there are two zipped pockets, one on the back and one at the front. Yay for zipped pockets! The rear one has a large O-ring puller so it's easy to use with gloves.
You have a choice of three colours; black, rich burgundy and the chartreuse pictured here. The latter is a good pick for providing extra visibility on gloomy days, though it certainly won't prevent close passes... There's a sprinkling of reflective details for nighttime riding.
The fit and sizing are very good. That's a size small in the photo and it's a looser fit than Rapha's racier Pro Team range and compares well with its other Classic and Core clothing. It's reasonably close fitting, enough that it isn't baggy and the pockets don't sag, but roomy enough for a thicker baselayer and for leisurely ride comfort.
There's an obvious similarity to the Brevet Long Sleeve Windblock jersey, which also combines wind-blocking front panels with a merino-based jersey. The key difference between the two is in the thickness of the merino jersey. The Brevet has a lighter construction, making it better suited to early autumn and late spring. In my testing I found the Windblock jersey was warmer on cold rides, making it a better choice for winter riding.
It's really good for mild to chilly weather as it manages heat and sweat well, and you can play about with your baselayer to straddle a wide range of temperature and weather conditions. It can also perform a mid-layer role and be paired with a hardshell jacket when you need extra protection. I wore it with a waterproof jacket for a very cold and saturated 100km ride recently and I finished warm and dry.
What the Windblock does is provide the protection of a windproof jacket and the warmth of a merino jersey, and is better value than buying each separately, as you certainly could do.
I'd liken the performance, fit, comfort and insulation to the Sportful R&D Strato. The Sportful has the benefit of zipped vents at the front, and the arms are not covered so it's more breathable in warmer weather. Both are very good at providing insulation and wind protection for autumn, winter and spring riding.
At £160 it's really top whack, and £40 more than the Strato, but I love the chartreuse colour for providing extra brightness without melting your retinas, the fit, comfort and quality are of the highest order, and the zipped pockets are definite pros in my book.
A lovely warm and windproof jersey packed with details, just don't look at the price...
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Winter Windblock Jersey
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says: "Protecting against wind chill is the first step for any winter cyclist. Made using a windproof fabric on the chest, shoulders and arm panels, the Classic Winter Windblock Jersey is ideal for those cooler weekend rides and chilly training sessions. All the internal seams are pressed and bonded to provide further protection against the wind, while a breathable merino blend helps to keep your temperature regulated when working hard. A drawcord with adjusters on each side makes the hem of the jersey adjustable to lock in heat, and reflective tabs on the wrists and pockets provide visibility in darker conditions. Classic styling meets winter versatility."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Debossed logo on arm band
Drawcord on hem
Three cargo pockets
Zipped side pocket
Merino wool blend
Extremely well made.
Provides brilliant cold weather warmth and windchill protection. Also works as a mid-layer.
Has been just fine so far.
Fit is perfect.
The merino wool is soft next to the skin and very comfortable.
It's very expensive, even compared with rivals – including Rapha's own Windproof Brevet (though there are differences) – but it's two tops in one, a merino jersey and half a wind jacket...
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy to look after, goes through a regular wash just fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Protects and insulates you on cold winter rides.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfortable, warm, great fit, zipped pockets and bright yellow!
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's expensive compared with other tops that offer similar performance.
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 overall score
The Windblock is a lovely jersey that does everything you want in a winter top. If it wasn't so expensive it would rate a bit higher, but it's hard to ignore the price when there are cheaper tops that work just as well
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.