If most Rapha kit is an old convertible Jag left in the garage and enjoyed only on a sunny weekend, then the entry-level Core jersey is the Honda you drive to work every day. The value propositions are similar.
However, while the Core bib shorts are adored (they are in some ways even better than a pair of $500 Assos shorts), the relationship with the jersey is slightly less affectionate.
The fabric is luxurious compared to most jerseys of the same price, but luxuriousness is not necessarily what you want when slogging up a hot climb. The look and feel is wonderful, but it’s a bit hot. Fabric thickness is targeted, I would guess, more toward Rapha’s frequently damp British clientele.
The fabric is also less stretchy than Rapha’s pricier options, which seems to have forced Rapha to have cut the jersey bit looser that its pricier gear of the same size.
Or perhaps Rapha fell into the same trap as so many other companies and cut their cheaper gear for more rotund riders, as if only the rich can afford to stay fit. This makes no sense. I will assume best intentions and blame the slightly looser fit on the less-stretchy fabric.
The little ribs at the collar and cuffs are a classy touch. Three big pockets are well placed and can take a rolled up rain jacket without issue. A fourth smaller, zippered pocket that fits or phone or wallet is sewn into the right side pocket for easy access. Vertical stretch is kept under control so there’s no saggy pocket syndrome. The zipper strikes a good balance between dependability and concealment. If you don’t plan to ride in very hot places, Core is a perfectly lovely jersey option.
Durability is excellent. Like the bib shorts, a summer of hard use left the Core jersey looking untouched.
Like the shorts, the jersey is subtly branded. There is a classic Rapha armband stripe, but the usual contrasting color is on the inside of the jersey. Yes, the inside. Only the stitching is visible from the outside.
I understand that the concept is one of refined subtlety, but it feels a bit rude to so conspicuously rob the proletariat of its beloved stripe. It’s there, but you can’t see it. “Oh, you want the see it? That costs extra,” it seems to say. “You’re in the Honda not the Jag, remember?”