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The Rapha Men's Explore Lightweight Gilet is good at keeping the wind off, fits very comfortably, and scrunches down so well you never need ride without it. The big, loose armholes can flap noisily at speed, though, and the price is high.
This gilet is really nicely made – the stitching is extremely neat, the zips are quality metal YKK ones running on lightweight plastic teeth, and though very light the whole garment feels strong. I typically just scrunch it into a jersey, but it can zip into its own little pocket and be hung from a small paracord loop.
My chest measurement matches Rapha's recommendation for size medium exactly – 100cm – and the medium gives a surprisingly relaxed fit. There's plenty of room for layers beneath this, and it reaches my waist properly too.
The hem cinches with elastic cord, but I never bothered and it never rode up or felt draughty.
It's a very comfortable fit, but this light and unstretchy fabric is just too loose around the arm holes. At speed they flap, flutter and snap noisily; it sounds like you're being chased by a yacht club. It's not baggy anywhere else, but it's otherwise roomy enough to make me wonder if I could size down for less spinnaker action on descents.
Light rain or spray beads off the DWR fabric very well, and while proper rain soaks through, the fabric doesn't get heavy or hold much water.
While it isn't as breathable as some, it's good enough not to be a problem 95 per cent of the time – just a touch clammy or stuffy for the rest.
I personally really like this colour – it's called mustard but looks more autumn leaves to me – but there's a more reserved navy alternative too. The Rapha logos are all reflective.
At £85 the Explore is certainly not the spendiest gilet, but there are plenty that do the same thing for less.
The Rivelo Lanterne is £75 and very effective, for instance – if not as glow in the dark as it's supposed to be. The Stolen Goat Men's Palace Bodyline is £65 and doesn't flap, though it's also bulkier and around twice the weight of the Rapha. It's on the wilder side of 'stylish,' too.
The Explore gilet is an effective and useful wind barrier, but while the relaxed cut fits the 'explore' name well, it's hard to see why even very casual riders need such loose armholes. Meanwhile, determined ones may not like the flapping or slight lack of breathability. It's well made and effective, if just slightly disappointing for the price.
Effective, comfortable and very light, but loose fit around the arm holes can flap noisily
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Men's Explore Lightweight Gilet
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says: "When riding longer distances, a packable outer layer is crucial to tackling changing conditions. The Explore Lightweight Gilet provides protection from the elements when you need it, and stows away neatly when you don't. Made from a lightweight 25gsm fabric, it's one of the lightest outer layers we make. Providing breathable protection, the gilet aids temperature regulation in a range of conditions with a durable water repellency (DWR) treatment for water resistance on wet days."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Reflective logo on chest and lower back
Available in seasonal colours
Contrast hem panel
No pullers on hem cord
Side pocket to pack garment into
Hanger loop on the back
Inner pocket pull loops for attaching to bike or luggage
Smaller front zip placket
It's very well shaped except around the armholes, which are big and loose enough to flap at speed.
My recommended size gives a good length and a relaxed fit.
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's comfortable, effective and very easy to carry with you, but the flappy armholes can irritate.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Good length, effective, light, stylish.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Arm holes are big and loose enough to flap noisily.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's quite expensive – there are other gilets that do a similar job for £65-£75.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Maybe – if the size down would fit me.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Potentially
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a very well made gilet with a comfortable fit and good performance – it keeps the wind and spray off for hardly any weight penalty. If the flappy arm holes were tightened up it would be easier to forgive its slight lack of breathability and high price, and the score would be higher. It's still good though, and a 7.
About the tester
I usually ride: Vitus Zenium SL VR Disc My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: general fitness riding, mtb,