The Rapha Women's Lightweight Shadow Jacket has gained me many a compliment from fellow riders while I have been out testing it. It has a simple, classic design and excellent fit and it performs brilliantly... with a price tag to match.
I put the jacket on for the first time to model it for the photos you see in this review, and immediately mentioned what a lovely fit it was. There is room for a jersey and light layer or two underneath on colder days, but no unnecessary flapping or extra material hanging around.
It is surprisingly stretchy for such a water-resistant and windproof layer, which also allows it to fit over well-filled pockets at the start of a long day's riding. In fact, with the right layering underneath, I can see myself wearing this most of the year in the UK.
The wrist cuffs are slightly elasticated but not tight. They sit comfortably around my wrists and keep most of the rain out when necessary, but also help to make the jacket really easy to get on and off while on the move. You could easily slip a pair of gloves over or under the cuffs if you wanted to.
The dropped tail isn't especially long and without a gripper to hold it in place my bum ended up pretty exposed. It is slightly elasticated like the wrist cuffs, though, so it doesn't ride up over your jersey pockets.
One of the more unusual features of the jacket is its two-way zip. Initially, I thought this was a bit of a pointless extra feature – I have never been out riding and thought 'I wish I could unzip my jacket from the bottom'. However, I have actually found myself using it a lot, especially on faster rides when I got too warm and I didn't have a chance (or didn't want to) take the jacket off completely.
It may seem like a minor thing, but the zip is really easy to do up or undo with one hand, which can be a game changer, especially in a race. In this case it helped to make the jacket really easy to get on and off while riding.
The jacket itself is made from what Rapha calls its Shadow fabric, a mixture of nylon and elastane which is coated (twice – before weaving and after) with a durable water repellent treatment. It's not only breathable, windproof and highly water resistant, but is comfortable against my skin too.
I thoroughly enjoyed testing the jacket on a trip to the Brecon Beacons in Wales. It did a fantastic job of keeping out the strong winds at the top of the climbs, and the inside stayed pretty clear of beading sweat while I rode up them too. In his review of the men's version of this jacket, George thought it was one of the most breathable jackets he's ever tested, but I'd have to disagree. My experience is that it wasn't as breathable as the Sportful Fiandre Light Windstopper Jacket – maybe I just run hotter than George – but considering the Rapha's wind and water-resistant properties, it does a very good job. When moisture did start to collect inside the jacket, it dried very fast so I never got cold.
Most, although not all, of the seams are taped to help to keep out the wind and rain. Rapha describes it as water-resistant rather than waterproof, but I have worn waterproof coats that let in more than this jacket. While I was waiting for some rain to test the jacket in, I did a ride on the turbo outside while being sprayed with a garden hose. I tried everything from a light spray to a powerful, directed stream of water from a variety of angles, and it really felt like I was out in a rainstorm! Thankfully, other than a little water trickling down my neck, my jersey remained dry underneath throughout that experience.
Once the rain came, it dealt with persistent light to moderate rain extremely capably, the only fault being a little dampness around the wrists. I did get caught in a couple of more torrential downpours and on stopping to check the damage after about 10 minutes, I found my arm warmers were a little damp in places, but the rest of my body remained dry and warm.
The lack of coverage from the tail of the jacket meant my bum got pretty wet just from spray off the road, so a bit more protection here would have been nice.
Rapha's claim that the jacket will keep out all but the heaviest downpours has held true so far, and I would trust this jacket in any conditions I would willingly train in! Just like the inside, the outside of the jacket dries incredibly fast once the rain stops (or when it comes out the washing machine).
The jacket can be washed in the machine at 30 degrees and after a couple of washes it has remained just as water resistant as when it started. Of course, time will tell how long this lasts as I suspect the hydrophobic coating will eventually start to wear off, but so far so good. The fabric also doesn't seem to trap odours so I went several rides between washes without a lingering smell.
It feels lighter than its 175g to wear, but is noticeably a little bulkier to stuff into a back pocket while riding at speed than your average 'bin bag' style rain jacket. Having said that, I rarely folded or rolled the jacket before stowing it away and still managed to squeeze it into even my smaller jersey pockets.
Personally, I would have loved to see a pocket or two on the jacket for ease of storing the odd gel or shoving in a flapjack wrapper without having to lift it up over my jersey. In addition, a pocket would add another level of versatility to the jacket, helping to make it not only a great choice for training rides and races, but for everyday riding too.
In the past, the cheaper Sportful Fiandre Light Windstopper I mentioned earlier has been a favourite of mine for commuting, training and racing alike, but I think the Rapha trumps it in almost every department. I love the Sportful jacket, but although I often try to force it, it isn't really designed to fit in a pocket and is almost 100g heavier than the Rapha. The Sportful is more stretchy and incredibly breathable, but the Rapha is superior in wind and water resistance and the race fit makes it a better option for racing and training. Just add a couple of rear pockets and a longer tail and I'd say it was nigh-on the perfect all-round jacket.
The only thing that puts me off is the price tag: £195. You certainly couldn't call it great value, but you do get what you pay for and if you can afford it, you won't be disappointed.
If you are looking for something totally waterproof with less of a full race fit, Tass recently tested (and loved) the Gore C7 Women's Gore-Tex Shakedry Viz Jacket. At £239.99 it is pretty pricey though, whereas the dhb Aeron Lab Women's Ultralight Waterproof Jacket (not reviewed on road.cc, but I have heard good things) is significantly cheaper at £150. Alternatively, that Sportful Fiandre Windstopper I keep mentioning (and love) is also cheaper, albeit less waterproof and harder to fit in a back pocket, at £160.
All in all, I have very few bad words to say. Perhaps a pocket or two would be nice and I'd love it if Rapha knocked a healthy chunk off the price, but the Lightweight Shadow Jacket is one of the best there is.
An absolute delight to wear, meeting all of Rapha's claims – if only it wasn't so flipping pricey
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Lightweight Shadow Jacket
Size tested: Small
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?
In short, Rapha says that this is 'A lightweight, packable layer for weather protection on high tempo training rides and races.'
That's pretty much it in a nutshell, and it does a great job.
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
I would happily pack it over my waterproof jacket unless the forecast is really dreadful. In really heavy downpours, my arms got a little damp but in the majority of conditions I stayed bone dry.
Comes up true to the Rapha size guide and my expectations. I have a lot of Rapha kit and wear a small in all of it so I'd say this sizes up just the same.
Pretty light and can be stuffed into a back pocket even if you don't have time to fold it.
For £195 I think you get exactly what you pay for.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
So far, it has washed well at 30 degrees like most kit and maintained its water resistance.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Close to perfect, not much else I can say.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
I love the fit and it was really easy to get on and off while riding fast.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
If I was being picky, perhaps a gripper would help to hold the dropped tail down and protect my bum a little more.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Tass recently tested (and loved) the Gore C7 Womens Gore-Tex Shakedry Viz Jacket, which is more pricey at £239.99 but also more waterproof and a little less race-specific in design. The dhb Aeron Lab Ultralight Waterproof Jacket has a similar spec and is significantly cheaper at £150. The women's version hasn't been reviewed by us at road.cc, but I have heard good things from a friend who owns one.
A personal favourite of mine is the Sportful Fiandre Light Windstopper Jacket which I tested a couple of years ago. It is more breathable than the Rapha, at the expense of some waterproofing, and is less easily packable. That will cost you around £160.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes, a lot. I have worn it pretty much every day for the last month of testing!
Would you consider buying the jacket? Personally, no, but only because it is so expensive.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
I have loved testing this jacket from the moment I first tried it on and marvelled at the fit. I have used it for everything from commuting to training to racing and it has kept me extremely well protected from the elements (and my garden hose).
About the tester
I usually ride: Planet X London Road My best bike is: Bowman Palace:R
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.