I am fortunate enough to have a sister who enjoys road cycling as much as I do, and who has an eye (and a purse) for the nicest gear available. She bought me my first pair of Assos F1 Uno bib shorts and converted me overnight to the Swiss brand. She bought me my first Giro Atmos helmet, which I wore and loved for three years before finally (and reluctantly) upgrading to the Ionos earlier this year. But the item that had the biggest impact on me so far was the Rapha Classic jersey she gave to me for my birthday last year.
My sister has been a Rapha enthusiast for several years and has accumulated an enviable collection of jerseys, base layers, gilets, waterproofs and accessories. She dropped the name of the company to me in 2009, and I ended up buying her one of the team jerseys for her birthday. A few months later I was blessed with her gift to me.
I fell in love with it immediately. Rapha clothing is not cheap, but you get what you pay for: beautiful craftsmanship, elegant and well-researched design, ultra high-quality materials, great customer service and a product which you will go back to again and again.
Rapha sells jerseys worldwide, albeit on a small scale and to a select group of cyclists, but the company has its roots in England, where cycling is popular but dominated by a climate that demands versatile clothing. In Sacramento, with its long, dry summer and mild winter, the Classic jersey might seem unnecessarily high-spec, but after a year of exclusive use, there wasn’t a single occasion in which I regretted wearing the Classic.
Rapha ships the Classic jersey with “free” sleeves. I say “free” because the last time I checked, the Classic was five bucks shy of $200. Plus shipping. Anyway, the sleeves are super nice, fleece-lined, professional grade cycling sleeves which I have used on many of my cool-weather rides here in Sacramento, and elsewhere in Northern California. The sleeves make the jersey the go-to choice for all seasons, as they fold easily into one of the generous, secure pockets when the weather warms up.
I have the black jersey, which is more practical from the point-of-view of remaining clean-looking, but I will admit that it gets a little warm in the 100F heat of high summer. Rapha offers the same jersey in white, which would alleviate some of the heat-sucking qualities of black fabric. In fact, when I was looking at buying my second Rapha jersey earlier this year, I very nearly bought the Classic in white. In the end, I opted for one of the Country jerseys in pale blue, which suits hot rides better than my Classic. The Country jersey is beautiful and feels fantastic, but the Classic just trumps it in features and pure elegance. The Country jersey retails for around $130 dollars.
Some of my favorite features of the Classic: the pink trim under the full-length zipper; the little fabric guard at the chin, to protect against chafing; the zip pocket at the back with the hoop to make opening and closing easier mid-ride; the reflective strip below the zip pocket; the separate mini-pocket in the middle which keeps CO2 pumps upright and secure; the tabs at the waistband with spring-loaded clips to adjust the fit.
Without my sister to keep me in high-end European cycling wear, I could very easily go broke on the Rapha website. However, if you’re flush with cash like her, definitely check out the Rapha Classic jersey.