Rapha Classic Vest II review

Lightweight, packable, and chock full of features

Apparel
Rapha Classic Vest II

Rapha has packed a lot of function into this lightweight and easily packable package.

What is it

Designed for mild weather, the updated version of Rapha’s popular vest (or “gilet” if you live in the UK) is designed for cool mornings, chilly descents, or anytime you need a little extra protection from the elements. Its lightweight stretch nylon fabric is water resistant and windproof on the front, has strategically placed venting on the back and underarms, and is lighter and packs down smaller than its predecessor.

Other top line features of this made in Vietnam-vest include a zippered chest pocket ideal for stashing an ID, cash, and/or a credit card, and two angled easy-to-access rear pockets that avail ample room for snacks, a phone, or other ride essentials. Bonded seams and hems provide additional weight savings, and they create a clean and aero-enhancing aesthetic. Available colors include chartreuse (tested), black, orange, navy, and burgundy. Sizes are XS to XXL.

Rapha Classic Vest II

Fleece lining at the back of the neck lessens the chance for irritation.

Pros
  • Low weight (77g size medium)
  • Packs down very small (think size of baseball)
  • Partially vented back and underarms
  • Durable material and stitching
  • Easy to access angled rear pockets
  • Reflective hits for enhanced safety
  • Elasticized armpits reduce billowing
  • Water resistant and windproof
  • Zippered chest pocket
  • Full-length offset chest zipper
  • Snug, no-flap fit
  • Robust zipper
  • No-itch collar
  • Long tail protects from road spray
Cons
  • Mesh panel down middle of back lets water in
  • Could be tighter around waist
  • A tad short in front
  • Expensive
Rapha Classic Vest II

Elastic around the arm holes helps keep the vest from billowing.

RoadBikeReview’s Take

Full disclosure: I’m a big fan of cycling vests. For my money, they offer the best combination of function and form. They pack down smaller than a jacket, but by keeping your core protected, offer nearly the same performance benefits. And when it comes to lightweight cycling vests, you’ll be hard pressed to find one better (or more expensive) than Rapha’s Classic II.

On the surface it’s just a vest. But this reworked version of the original Rapha Classic has a litany of small but critical details that really make it stand out. No. 1 is its packablity. The best vests are there when you need them, forgotten when you don’t. At 77g size medium, the Rapha Classic II is easily swallowed up by a standard jersey pocket when not in use. But pull it out and you have a great piece of cool weather defense. The front of the vest is water repellant and windproof, while the underarms and center of the back are mesh for enhanced ventilation.

Rapha Classic Vest II

Features include a dropped tail and vented mesh down the center of the back.

Fit is snug without being overly tight, meaning you don’t feel like you’re stuffed in a sausage casing, but aren’t flapping in the wind either. This is especially true of the elasticized arm holes, which help keep the jacket from billowing during long descents. I also really appreciated the angled rear pockets, which make is easier for us less-flexible folks to reach inside.

Up front is a small zippered pocket that provides a worry-free stash spot for an ID, cash, or a credit card. It’s not, however, big enough for most smartphones.

The bright chartreuse color of our test vest along with a few small reflective hits enhance rider safety, while the fleece lining at the back of the neck and the zipper cover up front reduce the chance of irritation.

My only real beef was with the waist area, which had a tendency to ride up a touch in the front and could be a little snugger in the rear. But neither of these issues was terribly troublesome when riding. Instead, the Rapha Classic Vest II has become an indispensable piece of my cool weather riding arsenal.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5 4.5 stars
Price: $160
More Info: www.rapha.cc

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)
About the author: Jason Sumner

An avid cyclist, Jason Sumner has been writing about two-wheeled pursuits of all kinds since 1999. He’s covered the Tour de France, the Olympic Games, and dozens of other international cycling events. He also likes to throw himself into the fray, penning first-person accounts of cycling adventures all over the globe. Sumner, who joined the RoadBikeReview.com / Mtbr.com staff in 2013, has also done extensive gear testing and is the author of the cycling guide book "75 Classic Rides: Colorado." When not writing or riding, the native Coloradoan can be found enjoying time with his wife Lisa and daughter Cora.


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