The Rapha Pro Team Light weight Shadow Jacket is a very impressive piece of kit for wind protection, waterproofing, packability and breathability, and though it comes at a hefty price it's still cheaper than some rivals.
I tested out the last iteration of the Rapha Shadow kit and I was really impressed with how it held up, but one slight negative was that the material was very thick and meant it tended to crease to strange shapes. I was really interested in seeing how Rapha had fared using the fabric to create a lightweight jacket.
Well, what was fairly thick is now paper thin. I was initially a little worried about its ruggedness, but after dozens of rides and stuffing it in pockets it still looks as good as when I first took it out of the packet.
Luckily Rapha has managed to reduce the thickness of the material without reducing its effectiveness, and the jacket took everything that the weather could throw at it.
Waterproofing comes from using yarns that have already been given a durable water repellent (DWR) treatment, before the entire jacket is treated again once it has been made. Rapha doesn't claim that it's completely waterproof, and only strategic seams have been taped, but I found that it kept everything out regardless of the intensity of the rain. I even used it during a thunderstorm and although the rest of me was drenched, my top half stayed perfectly dry.
Obviously a key element of a packable jacket is the windproofing, and the jacket is similarly impressive in this area. On several days when the mercury was refusing to rise I used the jacket to keep the bite off and it did it very effectively. Similarly, it was great to pull out of a jersey pocket and put on as I reached the top of a climb to protect me on the descent.
Talking of packability, the jacket folds down small enough to fit into a jersey pocket easily, and there were several rides where it was off and on more than Nigel Farage's political career. It was simple to get on, although the zip is slightly fiddly as it's a two-way design so you have to align the two zip pulls first, making it a little more tricky to do while riding than others.
Breathability is superb, helped by how thin the material is, and I would go as far as saying that this is the most breathable jacket I have ever tested – and I've owned or reviewed 40 or more similar products. (Ashia found the women's version less so in her testing – she thought the breathability was good, but not as impressive as a Sportful windproof).
Rapha has included some nice features on the jacket too, such as reflective elements on the back and front – something that the previous Shadow kit missed.
There is also a wind guard/baffle behind the zip, in addition to a zip garage, which kept out wind and rain. On the collar a softer cotton material helps prevent any discomfort on the neck.
With an RRP of £200, it's an expensive jacket. However, when you consider how light but also how waterproof and windproof it is, it goes some way to justifying it. It compares favourably to the 7mesh Rebellion Jacket, for example, which comes in a full £80 more. That is made with Gore-Tex Active, but there's barely anything in it when it comes to waterproofing.
You could also compared it to the Endura Pro SL Shell Jacket II that Jack looked at a couple of months ago. The Endura is £35 cheaper, but the Rapha is as waterproof and trumps it for both packability and breathability.
Overall, the Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Shadow Jacket is a great garment; there is no getting around the price, but it's easily one of the best lightweight jackets I have tested. Its breathability combined with weatherproofing is a real indication of the thought put in by Rapha's designers. The price will be higher than many will be prepared to pay, and the zip can be a bit fiddly, but these are minor gripes considering how good this jacket is.
A fantastic lightweight jacket with impressive breathability
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Lightweight Shadow Jacket
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the jacket 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 high performance lightweight jacket designed for serious cyclists or road racers.
Rapha says, 'An extremely lightweight, packable layer for wet-weather protection when riding and racing.'
In my opinion this doesn't really do it full justice as Rapha doesn't even mention the breathability!
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Taped seams in key areas for water resistance
Collar lined with breathable mesh
Grosgrain hanger loop for quick drying
Reflective detailing on the rear
Wrap around reflective armband
Elasticated hem and cuffs
Very well made – thin jackets can sometimes be awkward, with things like zips getting caught or seams stretching, but there is no hint of that here.
Fantastic performance; I couldn't ask for any more in terms of weatherproofing or breathability.
I used this almost every day and it didn't get damaged at all, but it is a thin jacket so it warrants a little extra care, and I'd be surprised if it survived a crash.
Rapha claims this is not completely waterproof, but in the real world there was nothing that got through; unless you're trying to scuba dive in it you should be fine.
Rapha doesn't give a rating for breathability, but this is the most breathable lightweight jacket I have used.
Plenty of stretch in the fabric means that it sits nicely when riding.
The medium size I tested fitted as I would expect.
It's not Gore Shakedry light (127g), but it's possibly a bit more durable for it, and 188g for a jacket is still impressive for how weatherproof the jacket is.
Nice comfort features like elasticated cuffs, a zip barrier, and a soft material around the collar.
It's expensive, you can't get around it, but it's £80 less than the 7Mesh and performs just as well.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy, I put it through a wash at 30 degrees a couple of times without it losing its waterproofing or looks.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, I was incredibly impressed with how it performed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The breathability is fantastic.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The two-way zip can be a little fiddly to join while riding.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It compares favourably to the 7mesh Rebellion Jacket which comes in a full £80 more expensive. That uses Gore-Tex Active fabric, but I would argue that there's barely anything in it when it comes to waterproofing. The Endura Pro SL Shell Jacket II that Jack looked at a couple of months ago is £35 cheaper, but the Rapha trumps it for both packability and breathability.
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
An excellent jacket that does everything you need a lightweight jacket to. It keeps out the weather, has excellent breathability and packs down small enough to fit easily in a jersey pocket. It's even cheaper than some rivals, too.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cinelli Gazzetta My best bike is: Cannondale Supersix Evo
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking
George spends his days flitting between writing about data, running business magazines and writing about sports technology. The latter gave him the impetus (excuse) to get even further into the cycling world before taking the dive and starting his own cycling sites and writing for Road.cc.
When he is not writing about cycling, he is either out on his bike cursing not living in the countryside or boring anybody who will listen about the latest pro peloton/cycling tech/cycling infrastructure projects.