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The Specialized Women's RBX Expert Long Sleeve Thermal Jersey is a back-to-basics bit of kit that's (mostly) ideal for chilly winter rides. Its low bulk makes it a good midlayer, as well as an outer layer for dry rides. The quality is outstanding, but the cut and pocket placement won't suit everyone – and neither will the limited colour choices.
This is the second piece of Specialized kit which has impressed me for performance, but disappointed in its cut and pockets. The RBX Comp Rain Jacket was particularly short and the pockets were too high for me to reach into on the go, and this RBX jersey is no different.
I tested a medium. It's a great fit around the shoulders and torso but I found it only just long enough in the arms – another centimetre or two certainly wouldn't go amiss – and too short at the rear hem.
The high front is fine on the bike, but it lacks drop at the rear. I couldn't team this with waist shorts or tights.
The fabric is light, soft and unrestrictive, and it holds its shape well as you ride. The waist gripper is deep and supple, and lined with silicone for grip. It stays stable unless the pockets are so packed out they lift it away from your body anyway, but since I had an issue with the pocket placement I resorted to not loading them anyway.
The short body and deep waist band combine to push the pockets significantly higher up your back than usual. I struggled to reach inside while on the go – I could only do it at all by sitting upright with both hands off the bars, and even then it was a fight.
The neck line is quite high and there is no guard at the top. Zipped right up it was fine, but if I had it down just a little the edge of the zip irritated my chin. Unzipped substantially, it falls to the side and stays comfortable. It's a niggle.
This is the sort of top that can be pulled on in a variety of conditions. It doesn't boast windproofing or any kind of water-resisting surface treatment, so it's very breathable, and teamed with a quality base layer – such as Assos' Ultraz Winter LS Skin Layer – it can handle temperatures nearing zero. That's impressive for something so thin.
You will of course need a rain jacket too as it won't keep you dry, but its breathability is great once you do pull that on. Since it's not bulky, getting any kind of cape or rain jacket on is a breeze.
The brushed, soft interior feels great against the skin and manages moisture well too, so you don't have to use a baselayer. You need to be selective here though; cold winds cut through, even if ambient temperatures seem okay (it worked for me on tempo rides around 7-8°C).
I did notice air flowing in at the wrist, which a base will block; there is no real cuff or narrowing at the sleeve end here.
It's disappointing to see only two colour options. It's gunmetal (which I tested) or black, and neither will get you noticed on a dull day.
There are a reflective strips either side of the pocket panel, but it's not really enough to compensate for the blanket of dull colour. While it's a personal choice and these colours will appeal to some, it would be good to see a brighter option as well.
At £80 it's a decent price considering its high quality and performance as a midlayer, and it may well suit you as a jersey in its own right; the short sleeves/tail and high pockets may limit its use for you, though. Liv's Flara Thermal LS Jersey is £79.99 and more generous in length, if not pocket capacity.
If you want to go more upmarket, Le Col's Hors Categorie LS Jersey is worth looking at, although it's more than twice the price of the RBX – and you will still need to check the fit is right.
I can happily rave about the performance, quality and versatility of this jersey, but for me they're overshadowed by the short cut, awkward pockets and lack of bright colours. All this will make it a better midlayer than outer for some riders, but either way it's potentially a solid choice.
Oozing quality and performance, but noticeably short in the arms and torso, and the pockets are awkward
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Specialized Women's RBX Expert Long Sleeve Thermal Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
From Specialized's website: 'Depending on where you ride, you might wear a heavy-duty jacket a few times a year, but a long sleeve jersey like our RBX Expert Long Sleeve Thermal Jersey has the potential to be worn on every ride. It's designed to both insulate and manage moisture build-up, keeping you cozy.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
* Thermal fabrics feature remarkable insulating properties, astounding levels of breathability and moisture management, and a lightweight, brushed back fleece that's soft against the skin.
* Three back expansion pockets provide plenty of storage for your ride essentials and electronics.
While the construction itself is outstanding, the pocket placement is not.
Significantly shorter in the body and arms than many.
It's true to size, but be aware of the above.
Comfortable to ride in, not comfortable to access the pockets.
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
Certainly keeps you warm and is very breathable. The difficult pocket access and short body make it a better midlayer than outer, though.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Decent protection from a low-bulk jersey.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Dull colours, shorter than average in the body, and awkward pockets.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
At £80 it's a decent price considering its high quality and performance as a midlayer, and it may well suit you as a jersey in its own right; the short sleeves/tail and high pockets may limit its use for you, though.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, for its protection
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Possibly
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a great performer in cold, dry conditions and thin enough to use as a midlayer. It's let down somewhat by poor pocket placement though, and it's very short – though the latter won't be an issue for everyone.
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…