OK OK. So I bought Rapha, the cycle clothing brand that has more image and stigma attached to it than any other. Normally worn by city boys and flash harrys on their weekend warrior rides into Surrey yeah? Well that’s what I thought, until I tried it on.
On my recent trip to London I tried both Rapha and Cafe du Cycliste side by side. Two leading cycle clothing ranges, and for the first time I saw why investing that little extra money goes a long way in fit and feel. I ended up purchasing the Rapha pro team bib shorts and training jersey.
The short story is I was dead happy with my purchase. Was being the operative word. But I’ll come to that later.
Let’s start with the bibs.
Bibs being the most essential part of a road cyclists get up I feel I must impress how important it is to get these right for you. When you have had a few different brands of short and been through a few incorrect sizes you soon find out why!
The Pro Team bibs are second generation and have updated pad, leg grippers, and shoulder straps over their first incarnation. Rapha have definitely got the fit right (if it’s a racier style of short that you want) in these. The short is quite compressive, with the same fabric being used throughout, and this really helps hold the pad in place. The pad is foam and quite supple, but firm enough for longer rides. I hit a 140km ride in them with no issues, with the pad staying put. A really comfortable short all round.
Now onto the jersey.
The pro team training jersey is exactly that. The jersey that Rapha sponsored cycle teams use when training. Because full aero race just isn’t comfortable all the time! Plus you want the gains for race day. It’s a lightweight aero style jersey that’s a midpoint between full race and all day comfort. It’s cut for the slimmer racier cyclist, so perfect for my personal preference, and the fabric has a great stretch to it giving comfort on both the tops and the hammer position. Especially with the nice low profile cut of the collar. Because the material has a great body fitting stretch to it the jersey has reinforcing straps running internally at the rear to support the pockets. This helps to prevent pocket sag when laden up.
I was sold on both almost immediately, the materials felt great and they were a very comfortable fit. I couldn’t wait to try them out, so chucked them on and got cycling.
After about a month I had covered around 250 miles in the gear with no questions over the comfort, breath ability, or fit. But the lighter weight construction of it all was starting to show some pretty serious signs of wear.
Lower hem of the jersey stitching split.
Lower zip stitching coming away.
Bib shorts inner stitching worn through.
Yep. Pretty disappointing really. That’s just over a months wear, and 250 miles. I had washed strictly to the instructions and looked after them like you would with £300 of kit. So forecasting my cycling year ahead (and also factoring what I believe to be fit for purpose) I decided they weren’t up to scratch, contacted Rapha and a full refund was given. As I purchased them at the Spitalfields clubhouse I had to return them there. This would have meant a two hour drive plus subsequent tube journeys, and would have made for one expensive refund. Simple solution was to post them back.
Rapha were really good about this, accepted full liability and processed without question. This doesn’t takeaway the fact that both items were falling apart after a months use.
Now it’s well published that Rapha are struggling financially at the moment post sale of the business last year. Profitability has been poor and it seems that in a bid to increase the quality could be suffering. I was super happy with the fit, but the longevity really isn’t there.
Would I buy Rapha again? at this moment not without serious thought. Lets hope that this ‘iconic’ cycling brand gets itself back on track.