The Rapha Core Lightweight jersey performs impressively well in high temperatures. Its two ultralight fabrics supply great ventilation, build quality is impressive and it has Rapha's distinctive look and feel – but compared to the close cut of the rest of the jersey, the sleeves could be tightened up slightly.
Rapha's Core range, launched in 2016, was billed as more affordable but featuring the same Rapha quality. The new 2020 Core jersey – there's a standard Core and this Lightweight Core summer version – is £15 cheaper than the original Core and nudges the price-to-performance slider up even further. It's great news for label-conscious riders who are also budget conscious and, since this jersey actually does feature the same Rapha quality as the more expensive jerseys, Rapha gets to keep its reputation as a status brand.
Other summer jerseys I've reviewed recently, such as the Le Col Sport II and the Shimano Climbers Jersey, have more relaxed rather than aero fits for comfortable, all-day riding. The Rapha Lightweight Core jersey is closer fitting than those two (all three tested in size medium) except for the sleeves, which don't have the tightness or the silicone grippers to stop them from riding up when in the bike position.
Nick Cox found a similar scenario with the Rapha Men's Pro Team Training jersey, saying that he found the sleeves 'very slightly baggy, not helped by the silky elastic material of the cuff, which doesn't have any element of grip to it'. Possibly Rapha cuts its jerseys for riders with bigger guns than road.cc's reviewers, so it's worth checking that out if you can, or maybe we just need to shut up and pump more iron.
I was happy with the close but flattering fit of the torso (I am 178cm and 68kg, not me in the pics), the neck was exactly right zipped up to the top and the pockets were at the right height, so I was certain with the medium I had the correct size.
The construction of the jersey is just right for the long, hot, midsummer riding it's designed for. Two lightweight fabrics – a mesh front and sleeves for efficient ventilation, with a slightly denser knit on the back for UV protection, according to Rapha – do a great job of simultaneously letting in the airflow and not holding onto moisture. I wore it in the hottest days of the June heatwave without a baselayer and felt comfortable riding hard, never overheating. Although it excels above 20°C, I would also argue that you could wear it in temperatures in the high teens with a baselayer if you were worried about getting enough use out of it.
It comes in five colours, all of them familiar Rapha shades including black, all with the trademark white armband.
Despite the fabric being very lightweight, there's no danger of pocket sag. The three rear pockets are well supported thanks to the good fit of the jersey's torso; the 100% polyester fabric (with no elastane component) is bulge resistant and a double row of stitching at the bottom of each pocket (the gusset) ensures sleek lines even when loaded.
As I mentioned, the pockets are at the right height and deep enough. Some might criticise them for not having a zipped valuables compartment but I prefer to use the Velopac PhonePac which means I don't have to worry about whether I've remembered to do up a zip pocket.
And finally, at the bottom of the jersey, a really nice, wide band with a silicone gripper holds the jersey securely at the waist. If the sleeves had been designed like that, this jersey might have been looking at a perfect score.
There's no doubting the great value for money the Rapha Core Lightweight jersey offers. Scrolling down the list of jerseys we reviewed recently, only Altura and dhb undercut it. Both the Shimano Climbers Jersey and the Le Col Sport II mentioned above are priced higher, and there are no obvious compromises made to bring it in at such a low price point.
You could argue that we don't get enough hot, humid days in the UK to warrant a special, very light summer jersey and it's true the standard Rapha Core jersey is probably more of an all-rounder – but for midsummer heatwave-type riding or riding abroad in the mountains, the Core Lightweight does exactly what it's designed to do. If the sleeves fit you, you're quids in.
Great-performing, lightweight summer jersey, but check the fit of the sleeves
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Core Lightweight Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says: "Our Core Jersey is the trusted choice of cyclists around the world for any kind of riding. But for the hottest days, we've created a lighter, brighter cousin: the Core Lightweight Jersey. With the fit and features of the original, we've introduced two ultralight fabrics to bring Core comfort and performance to sweltering rides in hot and humid conditions.
"The front makes use of a highly breathable, lightweight mesh to promote airflow and regulate body temperature, with a denser knit fabric on the back for protection from the sun. Throughout, the same signature finishing touches that define the Core collection are present, with three gusseted pockets that expand to carry all your riding essentials, subtle logos and a signature armband. The lighter weight fabrics dry quickly so you'll never catch a chill, the full-length zip adds on-the-go adjustability, and a wide elastic gripper to keep your jersey secure."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
From Rapha's website:
Mesh front panel and sleeves for cooling airflow
Dense-knit 105gsm fabric on the back (compared to 125gsm in regular Core)
Super soft collar and cuffs for comfort
Wide and secure elastic gripper on lower
Gusseted lower pockets expand to carry your essentials
Full-length, easy-glide zip for ventilation
Very neatly stitched (in Vietnam).
The very lightweight mesh fabric is not designed for durability – it's aiming for low weight and breathability – so needs be treated with respect, but the pockets are sturdy and the zip robust.
The Core range uses Rapha's Regular Fit for all-day riding (the other one is the Pro Fit for training and racing) and is designed with a "close but relaxed fit". I found the fit was nice and close on the torso and neck but the sleeves could be a little tighter and longer.
The size medium was as expected from Rapha – at the small end of medium except for the sleeves, which are made for someone with bulkier biceps.
A good, light, summer weight.
Full marks for comfort.
Scores very well here against rivals, and in the price-to-performance ratio.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problems at all here. No running colours and I was pleased to see that the Rapha transfers on the chest and central rear pocket are not cracking or peeling after a few machine wash cycles.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
In the hot, humid conditions it was designed for, it works extremely well.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great performance in hot weather, nice cut and flattering fit, classic Rapha style, great value for money.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Only the way the sleeves were slightly loose on me.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
The other summer jerseys I've tested this year are all more expensive than the Rapha Core Lightweight. The Le Col Sport II goes for £95 and the Shimano Climbers Jersey £75. Even the latest La Passione PSN jersey (review to come) at £80, which I really rate and is good value for money thanks to its direct sales business model, is £20 more.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Absolutely
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Most definitely.
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Rapha Core Lightweight jersey performs faultlessly in the hot weather it was designed for, is stylish and practical and costs considerably less than you'd normally expect to pay for a Rapha jersey, with no obvious compromises to bring it in at such a relatively low price point. I accept that the sleeves might fit someone else better, but having reviewed a lot of cycling jerseys I still maintain that Rapha could tighten things up a bit in this area, so it's almost but not quite full marks.
About the tester
I usually ride: Racer Rosa custom alu My best bike is: Colnago Master Olympic
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: time trialling, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, School run on a tandem
Simon finished his Masters in online journalism back in 2003 when the internet wasn't very exciting or popular yet. So he got a job as a sub editor on Britain's biggest weekly cycling magazine, where as well as taking out commas and putting them back in again he got to review a lot of bikes and kit.
As a keen time triallist he has spent many hours riding up and down dual carriageways early in the morning and has a national medal, a 19-minute 10 and a few open wins in his palmarès.
He and his seven-year-old son do the school run on a tandem, beating the traffic in car-choked Reigate and getting a great workout at the same time (for one of them).