Post by Katy Beveridge
I don’t often get excited about bike clothes. That’s to say they’re often bought with a
sense of begrudging necessity. Bike clothes, especially for women, still find it hard to
know where they stand with us. I almost gagged the other day in a rather trendy bike shop on Upper Street at the sight of a pair of very sturdy looking fingerless mesh racing gloves with pink bows garishly stuck on top. The logic tending to be you take the mens version, stick a bow on it and ta da… it’s now for girls.
So I was thrilled, if not somewhat relieved, to receive the new Rapha Women’s Softshell jacket. It is actually designed for women, not the men’s version haphazardly modified to suit. In Rapha’s trademark style it is beautifully understated. All black, with well hidden pink inside finishes, it cuts a very flattering shape. It doesn’t shout “bike jacket” too loudly and yet has every feature that most would boast about.
And for a London cyclist it’s not the kind of thing that restricts your wardrobe. That is to say that if your bike takes you to the office, to shops and then the pub, your tightest lycra getup can often feel just a bit out of place, well not this time.
The Rapha Women’s Classic Softshell Jacket features three generous back cargo pockets with an extra two smaller zipped pockets for good measure to keep your essentials safe, perfectly sized for a phone, cards, keys and some cash. It also has a very handy, thinner pocket featuring an internal stitched pump sleeve, though beware; any small object accidentally put in this skinny pocket is almost impossible to ever retrieve.
Other essential features include underarm zips, which can be engaged when in need of a bit of added ventilation, and the tucked away storm tail featuring a large reflective Rapha logo. This can be easily deployed to keep your bum dry if the weather turns, or if you’d just like the cyclists left in your wake to know that you’re riding in a very expensive Rapha jacket.
Testament to the subtlety of the design I seemed to keep finding added features with each wear, the bite grip on the collar for easy adjustment on the move (who’d have thought?) and a neatly stitched button hole in the right back pocket to accommodate headphone wires.
There are also thumb grips, though I rarely use them due to the generous length of the sleeves. The length was something I initially found fault with, though they proved an absolute blessing on a freezing cold, gloveless night ride home!
By far my favourite feature of the Rapha Women’s Classic Softshell Jacket is the rubber patch on the left shoulder, which has the texture of suede or soft leather, to keep a shoulder bag from sliding about, which works an absolute treat.
One thing I did note, mainly out of habit, was the zip. With anything that claims it’s built to last I often find it’s the zip that turns out to be the weakest link. In saying that after a month of almost constant wear it’s held strong so cannot find technical fault yet but I would have preferred something a bit more sturdy looking, just for peace of mind.
Softshell jackets are often a bit pricier than their hardshell or fleecy alternatives and Rapha’s Softshell is no exception. However you do get what you pay for, and if you’re thinking of going some distance in it, this jacket is pretty much perfect for any riding weather.
Though it is said to be designed for tough winter cycling, and does hold up very well in
harsh conditions, this certainly isn’t a single season jacket, it’s lightweight material and
breathability make it a worthwhile investment for the spring and summer too.
The Rapha jacket is available from Rapha.cc for £240.
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As seen on The Guardian, BBC and The Independent.