Review: Rapha Pro Team Jersey

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Buy 2! First off, buy the one you would like to fit into, and then buy the next size up. It’s race fit, which is jargon for tight!

One you are settled into the larger sized jersey one of the first things you will notice is the longer than usual sleeves, on me they come a full 3 inches further down my arm than standard, so be prepared for two-tone tan lines on your arms, until of course you take the plunge and buy another one just to keep the tan sharp!

The sleeves themselves are, like a microcosm for the rest of the jersey, quite delightful; tight fitting without being constrictive, cool in both temperature (you can thank coldblack® for that) and aesthetics with just the Rapha stripe on one arm as decoration.

With mesh panels down the sides the jersey is a lightweight treat, supremely well ventilated and fast wicking, keeping the wearer cool in hot conditions, I wore the jersey for about half of my Transcontinental race and really found it to be super comfy, despite wearing the black and pink colour way I never felt I was being cooked in the Italian sun, the coldblack® fabric treatment apparently help keep the temperature up to 9 degrees lower – and this seemed fair as I didn’t boil up at all.

For me, one of the revelations about the jersey were the pockets and their load-carrying ability. For many lighter-weight, and predominantly lycra, tops, load-carrying is dreadful, with the 3 pockets being there out of a sense of duty. Not so the Rapha Pro Team jersey, I was able to put food, clothes, smartphones etc into the jersey without having it sag down at the very first item, granted it’s not able to defeat gravity in its entirety but it can certainly hold your ride essentials without covering your bottom.

Paired with a Rapha merino vest base layer I was able to stay comfortable in temps around the mid 30’s without suffering excessively, the vest and jersey working nicely together to keep me cool in the high temps. I also found the longer sleeves helped keep me warmer in the evenings, paired up with arm warmers and a thin gilet I was comfy down to 14 degrees without really feeling it.

The Rapha pro team jersey comes with such extras a race radio cable loops, a name label for laundry, and it features a SPF (sun protection factor) of 50 so no need to worry about sun burn through the material.

For hot days, or for high intensity riding this is probably the nicest jersey I’ve worn. At £140 it’s by no means cheap, but having worn it whenever it was clean (and sometimes when it wasn’t) it’s soon recouped its value for me! Pair it up with the merino vest base layer and you’ve got a fantastical versatile combination that will be comfortable from 14 to 35 degrees!

Review: Rapha Race Cape (complete with arms cut off!)

The Rapha Race Cape (sans sleeves) offers rain protection & venting  for tempo riding & racing without overheating!

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Things I like:

  • being dry, but also having the feeling of the elements against my bare arms

Things I don’t like:

  • being wet
  • overheating
  • clammy, sweaty, arms rubbing the insides of rain jackets

It’s not a big list, but clearly it bears note that there are some similarities going on right there!

One of the issues with cycling jackets in general, and  rain jackets in particular, is the issue of venting, it’s so easy to overheat and increase sweating, thereby overloading the breathability of the jacket, invariably getting clammy on the inside.

Rapha, at the behest of Team Sky riders, developed the Race Cape. No pockets (none, not one!), a zip and really nothing else to it, except one very cool feature; the upper sleeves feature a 1cm line of tape that is hemmed at either side, allowing you to cut the sleeve off aiding cooling in race or tempo training conditions.

cape 2

Yes, I did say cut, it’s a binary measure, there are no zips or velcro involved here, just a drastic use of scissors (or craft knife) to cut off the sleeve.

cape detail

 

Lets be clear about this, it’s a £230 jacket, and they want you to cut the sleeves off!

If you’ve read my review of Rapha’s oversocks you will know how nerve-wracking it is to simply put an incision into the socks, imagine how much my hands were shaking as I contemplated cutting this bad boy!

But of course I had to do it, how could I possibly review an item and not test it thoroughly?

As a father of three kids, I recall how nerve-wracking it was to hold a new-born baby. My hands were every bit as nervous as I got my faithful craft-knife out to cut this beauty (sorry, but it’s true).

Using a steady hand I trimmed the middle of the tape, only going slightly wrong once, to create a short-sleeved race cape. And some bright yellow Chartreuse, calf warmers keeper-dryers!

Cape sleeves mirror

So how is the jacket now?

Well it was a grand rain jacket before, supremely light, packable, and more than capable as a rain jacket, now its a little lighter as we’ve shed both the arms and the zips around the cuffs, not as waterproof (obviously as the arms are now bare), but much cooler and more suited to high tempo riding.

cape 4

Having spent about a month with the arms off I must say I’m smitten!

If it’s chilly I wear arm-warmers, which is a much nicer feeling than bare arms on jacket inners, and if it’s hot I no longer overheat (it’s really that simple!). There’s less of a need to have the front zip of the jacket open to cool you down, increasing drag as well it must be said, and this also stops the rain coming in from the front!

cape 6

Altogether it’s much nice to ride like this, wind, rain, and sun on bare skin. Admittedly it’s a high price to pay, but if you can stomach the idea of cutting into a £230 jacket, and it may well make you feel nauseous, then it’s a price worth paying!

Note to Rapha, I get why there are no pockets, but surely even the Pro’s want just a single pocket in which to stuff a banana?

Garmin announce Forerunner 920XT multisport GPS watch

When your company name becomes a noun seemingly dominating the rest of the industry then you know that you’ve done something right! Garmin is, I think, one of those companies that have done just that – especially in the swim/bike/run field. Their devices are considered, rightly or wrongly, the de-facto standards, so when new tech from them comes out, it’s both eagerly anticipated and much coveted!

 

I bring you the Garmin Forerunner 920XT mulitsport GPS watch (and a whole mess of coveting going on right here!)

Forerunner920XT_HR_9452.8

Ideal or swim/bike/run folks, including ultra-runners (with a battery life up to 40 hours) it offers a whole mess of features and metrics for your own personal nerd-gasm, to aid and abet performance. It features a metronome, with vibration and audible alerts, to guide cadence training, a race predictor based on VO2 max for running, and a recovery advisor indicating how long a runner should rest before attempting another hard effort ( I would hazard a guess that these features would also come in handy if you were engaging in a kayak based activity!)

garmin-forerunner-920xt-triathlon-watch-2014

Look out for a review in the coming months!

ashmei launching cycle range

If you are into running then you will almost certainly have heard about ashmei, a UK-based company making performance running apparel. Now ashmei are moving into the cycling market, using their garment expertise and sticking with their 3 watch-words of  Performance, Quality, and Style.

I’m heading down to London town November 6th for the full range launch, but until then, here’s a few sneak-peeks of what’s coming… (p.s it looks pretty tasty!)

 

 

 

Review: Rapha Classic Mitt

Takes some time to break them in, but worth persevering through, they look set to last for many years!

I didn’t get off to a great start with the Rapha Classic Mitts, having to size up from a medium despite having relatively small man-hands. Even after the size up they still took some time to adjust to me, but once suitably stretched and broken-in everything was groovy.

mitts

For me the Gold-standard of road mitts are Rapha’s Grand Tour gloves, these supple leather mitts are glorious and hard wearing, but being leather they don’t cope massively well with wetness or 12 hour days, as they will stretch and deform in that time, if that’s your style of riding they are an expensive luxury, possibly only lasting for 1 season (when your season is 10,000 miles however I guess it’s not all that bad!).

mitt in use

The Classic Mitt is an altogether simpler, and more value-orientated, glove for riding. With a leather palm and lycra back it’s pared-down and simple.

Thumb wipes alternate between sweat and snot on either hand, just remember which is which ;-)

The lycra back means that there is stretch for the hand and it will reshape nicely, I found however that it offers less venting than a normal glove back with no air-flow on the hand – this is to some extent negated by the knuckle holes, but it was certainly warmer than my normal mitts.

mitts2

The biggest issue I found with the gloves was, by far, the initial comfort levels that they provided. It took the best part of 500 miles to really break them in properly. With fingers being far too tight for my liking (even with delicately small hands), and seam imprints being visible on all over the hands.

Once they are broken in they are certainly comfortable, with a good level of military-grade,padding on the palms and a good range of movement for the fingers.

I didn’t take them on the Transcontinental race, but did were them for the Deloitte Ride Across Britain, where they coped admirably with multiple century rides, at the end of which there were no negative side-effects. In fact at the end of the RAB i was really pleased with how well they performed! At £70 they are expensive without being stratospheric ( Grand Tour gloves I’m looking at you!), and having done about 2,000 miles and 50 hours in the gym with them there’s no sign of any breakages or damage to them, suggesting that these will last a long time!

mitt logo

 

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