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The Rapha Women's Commuter Lightweight Jacket is exceptionally breathable and comes in two bright colour options, ideal for short, urban commutes where visibility is a priority. It protects against cool winds, but struggles with anything more than the lightest of rain.
The jacket has a loose fit, which allows you to quickly pull it on over bulky layers, without it being so generous that you find yourself inflating when on the move.
It's well proportioned throughout, with enough length in both body and sleeves and doesn't fall short at the rear like some. There's no drawstring at the lower hem, but it is lightly elasticated at the rear and this does a good job of preventing flapping in breezy weather.
The hood is intended to fit under the helmet and is cut well enough not to obscure vision. When not needed, or if a hood isn't your thing, it can be rolled up and secured with a couple of poppers.
The fabric is exceptionally lightweight and breathable, with a mesh panel over the shoulders to help too – it works particularly well if you carry a rucksack.
Everything about the jacket is minimal: the cuffs are a simple, lightly elasticated affair; zippers are smooth and easy to locate; and two easily accessible front pockets accommodate essentials.
All this makes for very little bulk and the jacket packs down into its own integrated pouch when not needed.
Rapha has included an elasticated hook for convenience, and kindly placed the wash label on the side seam – there's nothing worse than an irritating label at the neck.
It's been in and out of bags and panniers a lot, and despite feeling very flimsy and fragile, it's withstood all of this. You're unlikely to be throwing yourself at bramble bushes on an urban commute, so I'd say it's fit for purpose where durability is concerned.
Breathability and visibility outperform any other feature of the Commuter Lightweight Jacket. It's not a rain jacket – you shouldn't wait for the rain to pull it on – it's more a shell to protect against changeable elements, cold winds and squally showers at worst. It does this well without letting you overheat while riding.
The jacket's vivid colour (it's also available in 'Dark Yellow') is just the start where visibility is concerned. On the back there is a reflective pixel print and a 'commuter dot'. When light falls on these, they are impressive. Even better, they sit low so if you do use a rucksack they can still be seen. The pixels are much more inconspicuous in daylight; the jacket doesn't scream 'cyclist' when worn off the bike.
There's also reflective stitching on the elasticated portion of the cuff, intended to be visible if you are signalling, though it's not as bold as the detail on the rear. The same reflective stitching is used on the rear hem and the side, elasticated hood hem.
If you don't zip up fully, which I rarely do, a reflective tab/zip guard is also visible.
Rapha claims that the jacket is water resistant, and this really is as far as it goes. After three or four minutes in light rain, the water seeps through. You are trading any kind of protection in rainy conditions for exceptional breathability, though, so you certainly won't be boiling in a bag if you are in a rush.
The jacket packs down exceptionally well. If in doubt, Rapha demonstrates how to do it on its website. If time is short, it does just scrunch up to something about the size of a drinks can.
However you opt to fold it, you're unlikely to notice the weight it adds to a jersey pocket or bag – 140g is nothing.
While there are plenty of packable windproof jackets for road riding to choose from, and numerous waterproof/resistant 'casual' style jackets for commuting, with front pockets, hoods and so on, the Rapha seems to have few comparisons as a casual commuting-style windproof. It's certainly the most breathable jacket of this style that I've used, but every other one I've worn has offered more protection from the rain.
It's a lot cheaper than Rapha's Classic Wind Jacket, at £145, but that's a rather different proposition. It's also £20 cheaper than Rapha's 'standard' Commuter Jacket, which does feature a waterproof membrane and waterproof zip, although Matt wasn't impressed with its breathability when he reviewed the men's one last year.
For more rain protection, Liv's Energize Off-Road Rain Jacket performs well but it'll cost you £124.99, and lacks the Rapha's visibility. Findra's Stroma Technical Jacket offers even more protection against the elements, but is double the price of the Rapha.
Proviz's Reflect360 tops the Rapha for visibility, for £89.99, but I can't comment on its breathability.
The Commuter Lightweight Jacket is ideal for urban commuters wanting to stand out on the roads but not stand out when off the bike, and not work themselves up into a sweaty mess while getting to their work place. It handles wind and chills well – just bear in mind that it isn't really up to much more than a bit of drizzle where rain is concerned.
Good option if visibility and breathability are priorities – just don't expect to stay dry for long
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Commuter Lightweight 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, 'The working week is a whirlwind of meetings and deadlines, early mornings and late nights. Our versatile Women's Lightweight Commuter Jacket helps you take all in your pedal stroke, with a new fabric that will keep you cool in a rush, and dry in a rain shower. Cut looser than our racewear and designed to be worn with a t-shirt or jumper, the fit is identical to that of our original Commuter Jacket. The new fabric is exceptionally breathable and combines with a mesh panel over the shoulders to prevent overheating even when you're wearing a backpack. There's ample space for supplies in the two front pockets and a storm hood which fits beneath your helmet and folds down neatly. Inconspicuous off the bike, the jacket packs down into an integrated stuff sack to fit easily inside any bag, but it stands out on the street. A reflective pixel print pattern and oversized dot on the lower back have been carefully placed to sit beneath a backpack and in drivers' line of sight while reflective cuffs help with signalling.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
Rapha lists these details:
-Integrated stuff sack on the inside of the front pocket bag
-Reflective on the cuffs, hood and hem
-Reflective pixel print and commuter dot on rear
-Two concealed pockets with zips with stay-down pullers
-Reflective grosgrain on the inner placket
-Roll-down hood can be worn beneath a helmet
-Mesh yoke around shoulders for breathability
-Integrated hanger loop
-Windproof and water-resistant
Rapha claims it'll keep you 'dry in a rain shower' – but I'd say only if the rain shower is no more than three or four minutes.
Unscathed from test period, but fabric does feel quite delicate.
Only tolerates the very lightest of rain, and not for long.
Size down if if you want a snug fit, but this is intended to be a generous jacket.
Finding direct comparisons is tricky – you can pay more (a lot more) for similar style jackets that offer more rain protection, while packable windproof jackets tend to be a more roadie cut.
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Wash it as advised and its performance isn't compromised; there's no waterproofing to deteriorate.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Excellent breathability and protection from wind chills, but doesn't stand up to much rain at all. Good for urban commutes where visibility is a priority, easy to transport and pack away.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Lack of protection in anything more than a little drizzle.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? No
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Possibly
Use this box to explain your overall score
The Commuter Lightweight Jacket is an unusual option – a casual-style packable windproof cycling jacket that offers very little protection from the rain. Its breathability is excellent, as is its visibility, so for dry urban commutes it could be ideal – on rainy days you'll be reaching for something else.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
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: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…