The old adage, 'there's no such thing as bad weather, just insufficient clothing,' is directed at people who skip riding because they don't possess a good multi-purpose shell like the Rapha Women's Softshell Jacket in their wardrobe. There are so many days that are less than perfect, when a bit more protection would make the difference between staying in for fear of getting uncomfortably cold and going out because you know you'll be covered and warm.Rapha, which is headquartered in drizzly, cool, overcast England, knows these days, and this jacket might well be their signature piece. It's practical, stylish, and tough. The stretchy, flexible shell is made of Softshell, a polyester/spandex material that is lined with a Hytrel membrane. The poly/spandex blend makes the jacket comfortable to wear, and the Hytrel makes the jacket windproof and highly water-resistant. Rapha's design imperative gives this jacket a structured shape to better fit the femme geometry. Even the sleeves have been shaped; each is made of three separate panels to make a ...practical, stylish and tough, the Softshell is an excellent jacket with smart details... better, more comfortable curve to the arms. All these general elements make this a good jacket. It's the focus on the details that make the Softshell an excellent jacket.The offset reversed zipper means the jacket fits better when in the riding position and gives the jacket a cleaner look. There's a draft flap behind to keep the zipper from catching any clothing, and the top of the zipper nestles in a dock to prevent the pull from chafing your neck. Also on the collar is a bite grip so you can safely bite the jacket when zipping and un-zipping. The waist has a draw cord with friction locks to customize the fit around your waist, and there are three shaped pockets that are deep enough to carry a fair amount of stuff while still being accessible. The center pocket has a pump sleeve. The right pocket has an exterior zip pocket that can store valuables and an audio player with pink cable loops on the inside to thread headphones into the jacket. There's also a tiny hidden pocket on the right side seam.Best of all, there are some super-smart features that you'll notice when riding. When you're too warm, hidden armpit zippers allow for venting without having to cool your chest with the front zip, but when it's a little too cool and wet, secondary wrist cuffs that go around your hands can be deployed to further seal your arms from the elements. There's a drop-down panel in the back to cover your posterior if you're caught in the rain without a fender -- it even has a reflective Rapha logo on it. The shoulders have reflective piping as well. The left shoulder is rubberized so a messenger bag weighted on this shoulder stays in place.The Rapha Women's Softshell Jacket comes in Black. There's an embroidered Rapha logo in Black on the left arm. Sizes run from XX-Small to X-Large.
Strengths: Highly breathable, large pockets, nice collar
Weaknesses: cost-not waterproof
From a fit perspective this jacket sizes more like a European fit. For the reference I'm 5'9" and weigh about 175-180. My chest size came up fitting in the medium but went with the large for extra room and I'm glad I did. I have broad shoulders and there is plenty of room there but the jacket does narrow down toward the waist. It's also a little shorter than my other jackets but with a bib on this didn't affect me at all. The slim fit cuts down on the drag but I'm not sure I will fit more than 2 thin layers underneath when the weather turns really cold. I was also amazed at how light this jacket is. I was expecting something a little thicker since it's a softshell. So far first impressions are great given the weather I have ridden in. If you want a jacket that will handle a wide variety of temp ranges and weather this is it.
Bike Setup: Lynskey R320 House blend Sram Red- Mavic krysrium SL's
a Road Racer
Date Reviewed: February 8, 2012
Strengths: Durable, functional, well designed
Red colour has good visibility and bright reflective piping
Feels substantial, but not heavy
Warm but breathable
Weaknesses: Serious investment
Fit could be slimmer
This jacket is everything Rapha claims it is, and that's a lot. Using their sizing guide, I ordered a Red large (6'3", 180lbs), which fits well but as a slim guy, I find there's a litte too much material in the front. I don't love that it bunches, but wasn't going for a race fit.
On the bike, it feels great. Pit zips, offset front zipper, thumb loops, waist cinch, are all functional details that make sense and work well. Most importantly, it's very windproof without having too much insulation, and breathes very well. I was very comfortable with just a jersey underneath at 50 degrees on Sunday and never overheated during faster sections of my ride. With an extra layer, I stay warm into the lower 30's. No chance to try it lower yet.... We haven't had much rain, so I can't say how water-resistant it is, but it's kept me dry from moderate winter road spray. It just beads right off. I'm not sure how functional the fold-down flap is, you have to make sure you're sitting on it in the wet, but the reflective logo is bright at night.
This is a Rapha product, so of course it's stylish. Really stylish. And when it works so well and fells so good, I don't even feel slightly guilty about that.
Lastly, if you think about buying this jacket, get it off their website to be sure you have the warranty. On one of my first few rides, I slipped in the wet, went over the bars and cracked my wrist. The jacket took serious abuse, with two holes in the sleeves and a phone silhouette ground into the rear pocket. I sent it off to Oregon and a few weeks later, it showed up patched with softshell material and (nearly) good as new! You just can't beat that.
Strengths: The range of conditions this jacket can be used in. The design of the pockets. Comfort, fits perfectly.
I just used this jacket on "America's Most Beautiful Bike Ride" around lake Tahoe. I was wearing a wool jersey arm warmers and this jacket. I cannot say enough about how fantastic this jacket was. The ride started out with freezing rain and 36 degree weather. The jacket kept the rain out and the rear flap was very helpful from keeping my butt from getting soaked. Around 20 miles in the sun broke out and the rain cleared, I opened up the pit zips and the jacket kept me warm and comfortable. Later in the ride we had hail. On the last climb it was 76 degrees and the rain soaked road was steaming up so much you couldn't see in front of you. I still kept the jacket on and just unzipped the front. This jacket worked like a champ in the most extreme conditions.
Strengths: There's not really anything overlooked in the design. They really thought it through to the nth degree.
Stylish (not a Euro-douche look)
It comes in all black
It's Rapha and everyone will think you're cool.
Did I mention it's all black?
Weaknesses: Rapha's kick ass warranty only come with a purchase from Rapha.
Hip pocket is pointless, but you'll still find a way to use it.
Butt flap doesn't do a lot but say "Rapha" and make you look cool.
Grippy shoulder patch doesn't help anything.
I'm going to try to make this review as comprehensive as possible because there's a lack of good review over this jacket and it's expensive as hell. The previous review was great, but I will elaborate somewhat and basically tell you how it is collar to waist. After wearing it for a winter season (October-March) I have a good grasp on its limitations.
I had three reasons for choosing Rapha: 1, fit, Rapha gives exact measurements of every aspect of the sizing making it easy to figure out how well it fits--something completely ignored by competitors (most simply give chest sizing); 2, style, let's just be honest here, Rapha looks better than any cycling clothier out there and you won't look like a Euro-toolbag wearing it (think Castelli here), you really can pull this thing off for about any occasion if you dress carefully; 3, price, price isn't really that different from the other high end retailers.
As for warmth and comfort, I wore it almost every day this winter and never once had a problem. Wind never cut through and slight rains didn't affect its warmth (not waterproof, but still good). It stays very warm below 20 degrees when layered properly (base layer, wool longsleeve, maybe a wind breaker)and hit its limits around 40-45 degrees.
The pockets on the back are excellent; easy to access, large enough to hold anything, and it has a sweet pump stash that really is as good as Rapha says. A zippered pocket is perfect for all the small things you don't want wet or lost, and it's easy to open with gloves. A hip pocket on the left hand waist is pretty useless, I usually just stash a tire lever and patch kit in there because it's too small for much else. Emergency key, maybe?
Waist cinches are great, but the jacket fits well enough that I never use them.
Thumb loops are great for keeping the sleeves down and in place when I'm riding. A+ you'll love them once you use them. But one thing I am a little bummed about is that the palm side of the thumb loops broke down and the seam came out. Not to fear!Rapha has the best warranty I've yet come across and they offered free repair immediately.
This brings me to a point I think is overlooked by other reviewers: whether to buy from a retailer on sale or full price from Rapha.cc. Here follows is my opinion: buy from Rapha. I picked mine up from Competitive Cyclist at 20% off which was a killer deal and actually made it affordable. The problem is Rapha's guaranteed replacement policy didn't follow over. So if you hit the deck, shred the whole left side and bought it from Rapha, it will be replaced no questions asked. Which is pretty awesome.
It really comes down to asking yourself "should I save some money now?" or "pay full price and never worry again?" If I did it all over, I'd totally buy direct from Rapha. For sure.
And the butt flap is pretty superfluous. In order for it to work and stay in place you have to be sitting on it, which gets hard to do when you're out of the saddle often. Whatever, it's worth it. They did have the forethought to put a velcro protector on it so that it doesn't rub and fray up your jersey.
The shoulder grip for you hipster-ass messenger bag actually makes it harder to utilize the benefits of said hipster-ass messenger bag. It makes it difficult to swing over your back for quick access. But it does not take anything away from the jackets overall performance. Just don't be a hipster and you're fine.