if you can remember back to my initial announcement of rapha's autumn/winter range, you may remember that michael robertson and myself were hoping to attempt, along with the blogpersons from perren street, the first mexican wave across the interweb and indeed, the atlantic. that historic moment in internet history will have to be shelved for another day due to a couple of inadvertant hiccups. i will say that i'd always had my doubts that this would work, just because it seemed like the sort of cunning plan that was set to go awry from the moment it was thought of.
in order to satisfactorily test waterproofs of any hue, one first needs at least a modicum of rain; anything else is just window dressing and bluster. michael lives in san jose, california where, it will surprise you to know, they haven't experienced much precipitation. or if they have, michael hasn't exactly been sitting on his track mitts waiting to get out in it (which of course, you will know if you're keeping up with velodramatic). i, on the other hand, live off the west coast of scotland, where rain is not entirely unknown, though seemingly so the minute waterproofs are delivered by our nice post lady. in a variation of sod's law, we had three weeks of uninterrupted rain prior to receipt of my review sample of rapha's new rainjacket and overshoes. then the sun shone.
but just to throw an extra spanner in the works, rapha had given both of us to believe that the jacket would not be available until late october or even into november. then perren street sent out their weeky e-mail just the other day announcing the availability of the much anticipated successor to the stowaway. suddenly, all those future weeks of planning disappeared out the window. the magic of the web is at least in part, it's immediacy, and i'm not sure i'd be too chuffed if i'd sent out a review jacket in mid september only to read the review in november. so things have been forcibly brought forward; at least on this side of the atlantic. michael will do the jacket photographic justice in the fullness of time, but i got wet a lot sooner.
during this year's completely dry ride of the falling rain, there was much discussion amongst the peloton regarding rapha's stowaway jacket, a garment that, as the current item at the end of a lengthy development cycle, rapha had got about as right as it's possible to get. despite being constructed of a material thinner than the toilet rolls in our local supermarket, it managed the seemingly impossible task of being not only highly breathable, but undeniably waterproof. and the wispiness of the material made it very easy to fold and stuff in a back pocket. at which point, you really have to wonder how it could ever be improved on.
one of the joys of setting myself up as a reviewer of various types of product, is that it is necessary to take the rough with the smooth. generally i have no problem with being out in the rain, provided it was dry when i went out; much like many a leisure cyclist, the thought of going out when precipitation is already creating puddles on the road is anathema. i have nothing specific to train for, so usually i prefer to wait until it's dry. however, clad in the cream version of the rainjacket, shoes also protected by rapha's new neoprene overshoes, a september saturday morning was spent stopping and starting for photographs, trying to keep the camera dry, before a lengthy ride in varying depths of rain to check out the claims made for both items.
this was the same day finding out how inept an aging cyclist could really be on a 42 tooth inner ring, so climbing the hill at storakaig seemed custom designed to heat up the ailing to the point of breathability threshold, particularly while the rain still came down and just a bit of wind blew from the south. planning ahead is the principal notion here; it's no use wearing a black jersey underneath because it becomes well nigh impossible to check whether there has been water ingress or a sauna effect from the inside. i wore grey.
changes? yes, there are a few visual differences from the stowaway: the debbie pocket is no more. the single pocket has now gone round the back and changed orientation. the taped zip is now vertical, and the space it encloses is considerably larger than before. where the stowaway has a vertical front zip, offset to the right, the rainjacket has a squint zip trailing from bottom right up to the high collar. as i alluded to in my review of the softshell, rapha don't just randomly, or even stylishly, plop a zip on at bizarre angles for fun; the point is to avoid zip overlapping zip, something which works just dinky doo, in my opinion. and while it's a completely trivial point i am very much in favour of the sleeve stripe having disappeared to be replaced with a contrasting hoop on the left sleeve. cuffs are a tight fit in neoprene, so you'd likely need to remove any track mitts to get the jacket off, though it's easy enough to put it on. the cuffs keep the elements at bay.
the rainjacket is constructed of a heavier, lined material than the stowaway, making it a tougher little blighter, but no less packable for all that. to provide the ultimate in waterproofing, neck and shoulder seams are taped, and there are breathable panels under the arms. in practice, i couldn't actually find any fault with the jacket at all. i was out in the pouring rain for well over two hours during photography and cycling for around 50km. naturally there was coffee involved about threequarters the way through this process, at which point i removed the rainjacket to reveal a perfectly dry grey jersey.
that does it for me.
rapha's new rainjacket is available in cream with contrasting grey hoop, or grey with contrasting cream hoop, in sizes extra small through to xxl at a cost of £190 ($295). for the time being at least, the stowaway remains in the range at £165 ($260)
if there were no other reason to praise rapha's new neoprene overshoes, the placement of a storm flap inboard of the zip would be enough for me. i have permanent scarring on the back of each leg where the zips of competitors' products have been scraping away at my skin because short socks are not long enough to protect from such insistent abrasion. pull the raphas over road shoes, zip up the back and close over the velcro tab, and you'd almost believe they weren't there. this stretches to pedalling: a reasonable thickness of neoprene guarantees cosy toes while preventing road spray and rain from soaking those handcrafted italian leather shoes. the soles have reinforced cutouts for cleat and heel, and both seem well prepared to resist the scuffing and scraping of indifferent road surfaces. time will tell. the inside story label is pink screenprinted, declaring 'belgian winter training rule #7: never ride without overshoes'. i wouldn't actually go as far as to say never but i'll bear the principle in mind over this coming autumn and winter.
rapha's overshoes are available in sizes s, m, l, xl at a cost of £50 ($70)
posted thursday 1 october 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................