Designed for training and racing when it's cold out, Rapha's Pro Team Winter Jacket shrugs off the weather while keeping you warm enough to perform. As part of Rapha's premium product range, this jacket commands a premium price, but it's one worth paying.
Anyone familiar with Rapha's Pro Team range won't be surprised by the Winter Jacket's very particular fit. Rapha says it's 'designed to sit close to the skin, with a high stretch fabric that hugs the body'. It's available in six sizes from XS to XXL, covering chest sizes of 34.5 to 46.5in in quite small increments. I tested a medium jacket, which is sized for a 39in chest, 33in waist and 39in hips. I've never measured my hips, but with a 39in chest and 32in waist, it felt spot on. I'm 178cm tall, and the length was also ideal, expectedly short at the front, but sufficiently long enough at the rear. (It's not me in the photos.)
When standing, the high cut front doesn't reach lower than the belly button area. This is the most telling feature of the Pro Team fit, and although it can cause feelings of self-consciousness at first, with the very real possibility of displaying a gap between your jacket and bibs below (this really isn't a good option for non-bib wearers), as soon as you're in the saddle all that is forgotten. Because it is high cut, the snug-fitting waistband is totally imperceptible when deep in the drops, as there's no surplus fabric to fold and bunch up in front of your waist. It's equally comfortable when riding on the hoods too, and gives greater freedom of movement all round on the bike.
The sleeve length is generous, easily covering my relatively long arms and still permitting the soft, flexible cuffs to overlap my gloves. The collar is tall enough to add some useful warmth at the neck, and it completely sealed my 15.5in diameter neck from draughts, although on the coldest days you'll probably want to add some sort of neck and chin protection too. Its chunky YKK zipper is easy to fasten, even with gloves on.
The fabric is a mixture of polyester, nylon and elastane, arranged with complete wind protection on the front half of the torso and arms, and more breathable, thermal fabric behind. It's helpfully stretchy and easy to slip on, although, as with any jacket that has slim sleeves, you'll probably need to hang on to the cuff of any baselayer or jersey you wish to wear beneath it, to prevent it bunching.
Just how you layer the jacket depends on the weather conditions and your personal need for warmth. It is possible to squeeze a short or long-sleeved baselayer and a long-sleeved jersey underneath, although the triple long sleeve arrangement can feel a bit restrictive. It's very comfortable with just a baselayer beneath, and you could always plan to carry a gilet or jersey as well.
With a short-sleeved baselayer and mid-weight long-sleeved jersey beneath, the Winter Jacket kept me plenty warm enough in temperatures that were just below freezing, with wind chill. At the other end of the spectrum, with only a short-sleeved baselayer underneath I was very warm on a hard ride at 12°C.
All of the fabric used is of a reasonably heavy weight, and the inside has a plush, brushed fleecy feel to it, together trapping plenty of warm air, giving you a head start on a cold day. The windproof front prevents onrushing air from whisking your warmth away, allowing the rear thermal panels to expel excess heat, and they do this very well indeed.
When cycling, this process works as intended, with only the odd icy tailwind upsetting the temperature equilibrium. The story can change a little if you stop for too long on a very cold day, though, as once you cease to generate heat, the cooling effect of the rear of the jacket can become the dominant feature, potentially chilling your most likely sweaty layers beneath. This jacket is better used for high tempo rides in cool or cold conditions, rather than swanning around outside a café.
To be honest, the Pro Team Winter Jacket was far warmer than I expected for a jacket that's relatively low in bulk, and I found it extended the range of temperatures I chose to use it in, just amending my layers to suit. Although it's named as a winter jacket, I would happily use it on inclement spring and autumnal days as well, as it breathes very well, shedding heat very effectively.
It is immensely practical, too, with three generous and stretchy rear drop pockets that'll swallow all you might want on a wintry endurance ride.
An added bonus is the Napoleon pocket hidden beneath a flap on the chest, which is zipped for security. It's ideal for a couple of house keys, maybe a bank card and some cash, or a phone. It accepted an iPhone 6 without too much room to spare, although, because of the jacket's figure-hugging nature, its outline is fairly prominent, and anything that large and rigid will be felt against your chest.
Rapha makes no claims for the jacket's water resistance, and its seams aren't taped, but it is treated with a DWR coating which does a decent job of shedding spray and light rain. If the rain persists, you will get wet, so would need to add a rain jacket.
For visibility, the armband, Pro Team stripes and Rapha name are all reflective, which is helpful past lighting up time, but if you like being visible during daylight hours then consider the green or purple colourways instead of black.
The women's Pro Team Winter Jacket comes in sizes from XXS to XL, but lacks the chest pocket.
The quality of the jacket's construction is excellent, and it's been reliably durable throughout a filthy winter, and returned to as-new condition when washed. There's no denying that £180 is a lot of cash in anyone's language, but when considering its direct competition, it sits just above the middle of the pack in price terms.
The Assos Mille GT Winter Jacket Evo, is pricier at £225, but offers genuine waterproofing as well as warmth, while Gore's C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Thermo jacket covers much the same ground for a tenner less than the Rapha.
Although, knocking most out of the park for value has to be Stolen Goat's Mekon Climb & Conquer Winter Jacket for £149, which is seriously warm and weatherproof.
Overall, the Pro Team Winter Jacket combines an excellent race cut with generous warmth, good weather protection and great versatility, all wrapped up in typical Rapha style. It's a slimline jacket, aimed at the committed year-round rider, but does a fine job of making tough rides far more comfortable.
Performance-cut winter jacket that insulates and breathes remarkably well, even at high intensities
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Winter Jacket
Size tested: Medium
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?
Rapha says: "A performance jacket for training and racing in cooler conditions, cut close for comfort at speed."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Insulating jacket for cool-weather racing and training
Strategic fabric placement for optimum temperature regulation
Ample storage space for ride essentials
Reflective elements for low-light visibility
Race fit for an on-bike position
54% Polyester, 32% Nylon, 14% Elastane
55% Nylon, 28% Polyester, 17% Elastane
Surprisingly warm and protective, plus very versatile.
So far, no complaints.
Rapha doesn't make any waterproofing claims, but it shrugs off light rain quite well.
It maintains excellent warmth without cooking you, even on warmer days.
The Pro Team fit isn't for everyone, but when used in its intended way, it works very well.
Snug, but that was to be expected, as it's designed to be low volume and low bulk.
For the performance, comfort and quality on offer, the price isn't unreasonable.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Easy to care for, washed at 30 degrees with everything else, and no problems to report.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well, with greater warmth and comfort than first impressions would have me believe.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Its overall comfort – it felt like wearing a favourite jumper.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
The black colourway, but it's available in green and purple too.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's certainly not the cheapest, but also far from being the most expensive either.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Yes, but in green.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Rapha's Pro Team Winter Jacket is easy to like, and is versatile enough to wear in a wide range of conditions, including the rougher parts of spring and autumn. Its styling focuses its audience somewhat, but for its intended use, it excels.
About the tester
I usually ride: Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL6 with Campagnolo Super Record 12s My best bike is: BMC SLR01
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: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb, Riding with my children, using both a child seat and trailer bike