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Apparel & Accessories

First look: Rapha’s 2013 spring/summer collection

Rapha's spring/summer line is out for 2013, so we put five of the new garments to the test

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Rapha is changing the way we dress, as a collective. It may not have changed you, or perhaps you simply don’t want to admit it has, but the British company has been instrumental in bringing a classic style to a sport desperately in need of a better look.

The brand has long been the master of marketing, too, convincing riders to forgo logos and scrambled designs in favor of simplicity and style. Love them or hate them, that much is undisputable.

In its Spring/Summer 2013 line, the brand continues on the same simple, colorfully bold path. Its range is broadly expanded to add a heap of attractive colors, keeping with a theme across both the cycling and fashion worlds, as well as reworked classics, new women’s gear, and better high-performance and hot-weather fabrics (one area where the company was still trailing others). It all falls into five categories, most of which already existed in some form: trade team, with designs based on old school pro jerseys; classic jersey, which doesn’t need much explanation; women’s, a line that has been expanded dramatically; hot weather, a nod to those of us who don’t like riding in thick wool all summer; and Pro Team, a vast improvement on the last collection of the same name, based on the company’s work with Team Sky. It’s all new, but still has the same Rapha look

We’ve had a few select pieces from the new collection in-house for about two weeks. Brief thoughts on five of them lie on the following pages, from the staff who have been riding in each. Keep an eye out for expanded reviews as the days warm up and we spend more time in the new spring/summer line.

The whole look book, including some quintessentially Rapha photography and videography, can be found here.

Randonée jersey — $150

Honestly, this is not something we will ever head out on a road ride in. Pockets on the front? What?

The styling, unsurprisingly, is classic. It’s an old-school randonée jersey, with twin buttons to hold the front pockets closed and a short, chunky, metallic zipper. One small rear pocket holds a phone and a credit card, but not much else.

Absent the handlebar-mounted bag I’d have if I was a true randoneur, which could hold my tube and phone and wallet and all the rest of the things I take on a ride, it’s not all that practical. Probably great for sitting on your top tube outside the coffee shop in your cycling cap, but that’s about it.

Or is it? There is one other side of the sport in which the use of a large bag for holding all your things is commonplace. I have been happily hitting the trails in the Randonée with a hydropack in place, enjoying its wicking qualities and subdued styling. It’s a great mountain bike jersey, and looks great with a pair of dark baggies.

Probably not what Rapha was hoping for, but there you have it.

— Caley Fretz

Club jersey — $160

This is one of the staples of the Rapha line, and for good reason: It’s simple, understated, and smooth. It’s not the most high-performing jersey in the catalogue or on the market, but what’s great about the Club is that it doesn’t try to be. Cut is on the lose side, with a longer front so it can be worn with street clothes.

Its quarter-length zip harkens back to earlier days, and its traditional, clean color ways remind us of a classic kit. It is the new colors, in fact, that mark this as the 2013 version, now available in blue, light blue, black, and fig, with a contrasting bar across the chest.

The pockets on the jersey are ample, and the subtle details that make Rapha, well, Rapha are present, from the zippered pocket for ID and cash to the tidbit of lore on the inside of the right rear pocket (ours is a note on Ramon Hoyos, the brilliant Colombian climber who never made it across the pond but only raced in his native South America.)

Did I climb like Hoyos when I took to the mountain? Absolutely not. Did I at least look decent in my struggle? Perhaps. At its best, a kit can make us look a bit better than we are, and offer a tinge of inspiration. The club jersey delivers on that much.

— Matthew Beaudin

Hooded Top — $220

This is no high-performance jacket; it’s an urban-styled, 100% Merino wool hoody with windproof fabric up front and a stowable windproof hood. I’ve been commuting it in on warmer days, or under an additional jacket on cooler ones, and wearing everywhere from the office to dinner out. Much like Rapha’s other casual jackets, the Hooded Top is at home in most scenarios.

Cut is slim, and the Merino is quite stretchy. Arms are long enough for even the tall and skinny among us, and the cuffs are nice and tight. The hood rolls up and tucks away nicely, but does occasionally unfurl itself.

Be prepared for the occasional quip about the hi-vis pink tabs holding in the roll-up hood and rear pocket flap. But if you’re buying Rapha, you should be prepared for such incidents anyway.

— Caley Fretz

Super Lightweight Jersey — $160

Wafer thin and wispy, the Super Lightweight jersey is meant for the hottest of days. When even the company’s Lightweight Sportwool Jersey is too much, you can wrap yourself in the extremely fine, silky main fabric that will keep you cool, and dry the fastest. Mesh side panels only aid in the pursuit of temperature regulation at the extremes.

As with many of Rapha’s best pieces, the beauty is in the details. With the intensity of the summer heat comes the need for added hydration. A tall center pocket helps you carry a third water bottle without it tipping and turning when you’re hard on the pedals. An anti-bacterial treatment keeps your riding mates from pushing you to the back of the line because of your ripeness. Whether they prod you to the rear of the echelon due to your wobbly, heat-stricken legs is another matter. A reflective rear stripe over a zippered fourth pocket complete the detail work on this minimalist, understated jersey.

— Chris Case

Pro Team Jersey — $210

Cut even tighter and stretchier than the previous version, the latest Pro Team jersey finally hits the performance benchmark set by Rapha’s competing race-gear proprietors. It effectively eliminates flaps and wrinkles for an aerodynamic, comfortable, and race-worthy fit.

Smart features abound. Mesh side panels, collar, and cuffs aid in cooling, as does the Coldblack technology wicking treatment. The collar is cut low so that you can zip all the way up without choking yourself. The three pockets are deep enough without being too high on the back (though they come close). The right rear pocket has an eyelet and the inside of the jersey features small loops, ostensibly to keep a race radio cable in check but, let’s be honest, it’s for your music headphones.

Where the previous iteration may have hid a few extra desserts, the latest Pro Team jersey most certainly does not.

There is little question that in the sea of logos and superfluous lines that make up the rolling billboard of your local criterium, you will stand out. The Pro Team jersey is aesthetically superb, a single solid color with contrasting armband and small highlights that exudes class and refinement.

— Caley Fretz