The Rapha Women's Souplesse Aero Jersey is a lightweight and high performing top designed to save you a few valuable watts on race day, but it's slightly let down by a tight collar and a very high price tag.
- Pros: Tight race fit, easy zip pocket, lightweight and apparently very aerodynamic
- Cons: Slightly tight around the neck, expensive
I had the pleasure of reviewing a previous incarnation of this jersey back in 2017. While overall I have been impressed with the changes that Rapha has made, it still isn't perfect.
The jersey is designed to be incredibly aerodynamic so, as you might expect, it leaves little to the imagination with a tight race cut. I am a UK size 8 and tested a size small, the same as I wear in all Rapha kit. This jersey comes up generally tighter than its predecessor, but still fits well for the most part. If I'm being very picky, there was a little extra material around my shoulders which wasn't noticeable while standing but caught the wind a bit on fast descents.
My only real issue size-wise was with the collar; with the zip fully done up, it was uncomfortably tight around my neck. This isn't a problem I've ever experienced before, and certainly not with the previous version of this jersey I tested, so I don't think I have an unusually large neck. It was slightly more comfortable in a riding position and I got used to it over time, but I did end up riding with the jersey slightly unzipped a lot. I suspect this was pretty counteractive to some of the other aerodynamic gains it gave me.
The front of the jersey is shorter than most that I own, sitting only just below my belly button. This felt a bit odd off the bike, but was absolutely fine once riding.
The longer rear hem features a simple rubber gripper which didn't grip as well as I'd have liked, meaning that the jersey rode up at the back a bit while I was riding.
Rapha says it is its most aerodynamic jersey ever, although it doesn't say exactly how many watts it might save. Without the resources to test this, we will just have to trust Rapha on this one. It went through wind tunnel testing during development and is used by both men's and women's pro teams.
The Aero Jersey features a raised rubber Rapha logo on both the sleeve and back. I am no aerodynamics expert, but I thought this might affect the airflow over the jersey and its aerodynamic properties. I asked Rapha about this, but am still waiting for a response.
Where previously I found the textured, aerodynamic material on the sleeves uncomfortable, the new design is much improved. A selection of textured fabrics are still employed for aerodynamics, but the jersey sits comfortably flush against my skin and I had no issues with rubbing or chafing here.
The three different polyester and elastane fabrics used combine to make a very lightweight, albeit slightly see-through, jersey. The main back panel felt particularly thin, although not fragile, and wicked away sweat really nicely to keep me cool when necessary.
The jersey has three rear pockets with an additional zipped pocket for valuables. The inside of the pockets features a breathable mesh lining to increase ventilation, a feature that I love. Rapha has also updated the zipped pocket with an easy pull zip. It really does do the trick and makes accessing the pocket easy. Size-wise, as smartphones have grown, pockets have not and fitting my phone in was a struggle, but a handful of cash and my keys fitted absolutely fine.
If you like to stand out, this might not be the jersey for you as the latest edition comes in a choice of three fairly subtle tones: Navy, Black or Green Grey. I enjoyed testing the navy version, but preferred the old colour choices, some of which are still available on Rapha's website if you scroll past all the 'new season' kit. There are even some on offer with big discounts!
I don't think I have ever bought, tested, or worn an item of Rapha kit that I have not liked, but the price is usually harder to stomach. The Aero Jersey has an RRP of £140. There's quite a lot out there just below this price point, and not much above it. For example, Emma tested the Alé Women's R-EV1 Summer Jersey (£110) last summer and found it to be a great fit, lightweight and comfortable, albeit perhaps less aerodynamic than the Rapha. Castelli's Aero Pro Women's Jersey and Dhb's Aeron Lab Raceline Jersey are both £110 as well, while Santini's Genio Jersey, its aero offering, is £125.
Unfortunately, I can't tell you whose is the most aero, but all are designed to be close fitting, lightweight and breathable. For many, though, £140 for the Rapha Souplesse Aero jersey will be too high a price to pay while there are better value options offered by other brands.
Designed and optimised for racing, but with a high price tag
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Souplesse Aero jersey
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says: "A jersey that's lightweight and aerodynamic, designed to cut through the air on your fastest rides. Refined in the wind tunnel and made for moving at speed."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Raised rubber italic Rapha logo on sleeve
Raised italic Rapha logo on the back
Smooth fabrics on the front
Textured fabrics on the back and sleeves
Improved valuables pocket with robust, easy-pull zip
Extended placket protects your bibs from the jersey's main zip
It is a little tight around the neck, and (if I'm being very picky) there is a tiny bit of extra material around my shoulders which I could hear catching the wind on fast descents. Otherwise, it is a great fit.
This comes up a bit smaller than other Rapha kit I have worn (including other 'aero' kit), but the small still fit me fine.
As mentioned earlier, I found the neck a little tight, but got used to it after a while and otherwise found it very comfortable.
At £140, this is one of the most expensive aero jerseys on the market.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
A standard 30 degree wash does the job so far without any problems.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Hard to test the aerodynamic claims without a wind tunnel, but ignoring that, it is lightweight, breathable and mostly very comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Its light weight and aerodynamic qualities make it perfect for racing, plus I love the easy zip pocket on the back.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The price! And some minor discomfort from the collar.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
There isn't much on the market that costs more than this, but plenty on offer for £20-£30 less. Emma tested the Alé Women's R-EV1 Summer Jersey (£110) last summer and found it to be a great fit, lightweight and comfortable albeit perhaps less aerodynamic than the Rapha. Castelli's Aero Pro Women's Jersey and Dhb's Aeron Lab Raceline Jersey are both £110 as well.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes – if it was on offer!
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's a very good lightweight, aerodynamic and mostly very comfortable jersey, but the very high price tag is hard to justify.
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.