Rapha's Pro Team Long Sleeve Aero Jersey is a slim-fitting top designed for speed freaks riding in cooler temperatures. It's not for racing but for fast training rides, and as well as being aero it's comfortable, breathable and well made.
It's all about aero in the pro peloton these days and nowhere have we seen this influence more than in the design of clothing. We've come a long way from the wool jerseys of yesteryear; today it's something of an aerodynamic arms race with many clothing brands using the sort of tech previously applied to frames and wheels. It makes sense when you consider that the rider causes 80 per cent of the drag, and every other tech stone has been overturned by the rider and team engaged in gaining even the smallest advantage over their rivals.
Rapha has been expanding and refining its line of aero jerseys over the years, helped along by feedback from the various professional teams it has worked with. The Pro Team Long Sleeve Aero Jersey was first introduced in 2016 and has been updated for 2019, retaining a focus on providing enhanced aerodynamics for fast riding in cool to mild weather.
The changes include a new dual-fabric construction. It combines a smooth surface on the front panels that face the wind – the leading edges – while a textured woven fabric with 'umbrella-shaped indents' is used on the back of the arms, the trailing edges. Rapha claims this 'directs air away from the rider to create a low-pressure environment'.
The new sleeve design has been tested by the pros for a couple of years and is said to provide the same 'aero performance as the mesh fabric on the short-sleeved version of the Pro Team Aero Jersey, but offers more stretch for a closer fit all the way down the arms'.
The back panel is made from 'super smooth fabric' with a directional nap (the vertical pile of a fabric that is raised from the surface) that is intended to help air flow smoothly without causing drag. The seams around the shoulders and sleeves are bonded to help reduce drag compared to regular stitched seams.
The jersey works well in a range of temperatures. It's good when it's a bit cool first thing in the morning and continues to work well when the temperature rises above double digits. For warm and hot weather, the short sleeve Pro Team Aero jersey, coupled with optional arm warmers, would be a better choice. But for spring, autumn and cool summer days, the long sleeve version works well.
The fit is really tight. It's tighter than most other long sleeve jerseys I've tested and I even wondered about sizing up. But it's all about aero and the tautness of the fabric over the arms and around the shoulders and torso is key to reducing drag. So you have to suck it up and suck it in!
Once you've squeezed into it and got out on the bike, it's a comfortable jersey. The fabric is soft against the skin and it manages sweat and heat very well, helping to regulate your temperature and keep you dry.
The three pockets are capacious enough for the likely spares and food you'll want for a fast ride, and there's not a hint of sagging if you overload them.
You also get a zipped pocket, something the pros don't need but regular riders can appreciate. I also appreciate the reflective details on the back.
The full-length zipper works smoothly and is easy to operate at speed; it's lockable, and finishes with a low profile collar.
There's a bit of silicone added to the back of the waistband to keep it from sliding about.
Given the aero design of the jersey, it seems a bit odd to have such pronounced raised rubber logos on the sleeve. They also raise a durability alarm bell, but so far they've not tried to make a bid for freedom. I'll continue to keep an eye on this and update if anything changes. There's also a raised rubber logo on the rear.
There's no doubt about it, you feel pretty fast with this jersey on, but validating the aerodynamics of a jersey outside of a wind tunnel is near-impossible (though Dave Atkinson had a good stab at it with a dhb design). It's well-proven and understood that tighter fitting clothing is the best way to reduce drag, and with the rider making up more than 80 per cent of the wind resistance, it's likely to make a bigger impact on your speed than aero bike parts. It's cheaper than an aero frame or wheels, too.
It's not the most versatile jersey – it really has a very singular goal of providing optimum aerodynamics for cool weather. It's neither windproof nor water resistant, which might be factors you want in a long sleeve jersey when the weather is sub-optimal. You can use it with other layers, of course: throwing a gilet or lightweight jacket over the top sees it doing good mid-layer duties.
As well as this colour option, and a few more besides including bright orange, there's a replica EF Education First jersey.
Costing £150 (currently discounted to £105), it's at the top-end of what many people will want to pay for a jersey, even one that's clearly had a lot of investment. If you want the best possible aerodynamic performance, though, you might conclude it's a price worth paying.
The market for long sleeve aero jerseys is small, so it's hard to judge value. Other options you could consider include the Rivelo Weston (£100), Morvelo Merino Pimento (£130) and the Castelli Cielo FZ (£100), but none of these are designed solely with aero in mind. Go short sleeve and your choices include Castelli's Aero Race 6.0 jersey and the aero dhb jersey Dave tested, both £110 at rrp, but you'd need to factor in aero arm warmers.
Good for speedy riding in cooler temperatures, but a lot of cash for limited versatility
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Long Sleeve Aero Jersey
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says, "A long sleeve version of Rapha's fastest jersey, with updated fabrics and design details informed by research and development at the highest level of the sport.
"In developing our Pro Team kit, Rapha's designers and a group of WorldTour riders tested new skinsuit designs in a wind tunnel. They found aero gains with a dual-fabric construction – smooth-faced fabrics on leading panels, and a textured fabric on trailing edges at the back of the sleeves and across the shoulders and these refinements are now incorporated into the Pro Team Long Sleeve Aero Jersey.
"The textured mesh helps air transition from a laminar flow to a turbulent flow – simply put, the low-pressure wake behind a rider is reduced, lowering the overall drag on the rider's body. The form-fitting cut ensures no fabric is caught in the wind, and the main panels are cut from a brushed-back material for insulation in cool weather.
"The jersey's three rear pockets are mesh-lined for ventilation, and the valuables pocket now features a heavy duty Vislon zip. The front zipper's placket is thicker than in previous versions, keeping the hardware at the zip's base from snagging on bib shorts. Raised logos feature on the left sleeve and right rear pocket."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Updated dual-fabric construction
Proven in the wind tunnel
Brushed-back fabric for insulation
Valuables pocket with heavy duty Vislon zip
Mesh-lined rear pockets
Bonded seams on sleeves and front panels
Thicker zip placket
It's near the top-end for a long sleeve jersey, but few offer the aero influenced design this one does, so that needs to be taken into consideration.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed very well, but it's not as versatile as a short sleeve jersey.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Provides optimum aero performance for cool weather riding.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No wind or rain protection. Not as versatile as a short sleeve top.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Probably
Use this box to explain your overall score
The quality and design is first class and the performance is top notch, but it's not as versatile as other options and it's not cheap.
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.