In the Souplesse Thermal Jersey, Rapha has aimed to create a piece that excels in single-digit temperatures, but stays sleek without the bulk that padding can bring. It succeeds: in short, the Thermal Jersey offers superb warmth and comfort in a snug, performance cut.
While Rapha's Souplesse collection features everything from light summer bibs to trademark socks, the Thermal Jersey is geared toward the coldest riding. It has all the softness-meets-stretch you'd expect from the Souplesse collection. But this jersey has a thicker material than previous Souplesse jerseys.
Indeed, the first thing you notice about this jersey is its super-snuggly nature. Its thicker material is combined with a fleecy brushed back inner which is warming against arms, and when worn with a baselayer produces a cosier effect than with a non-fleecy jersey.
The cuffs are doubled-up, providing extra warmth around wrists, and an additional barrier to any wind trying to sneak in up the sleeves. And as with all of this jersey, they're nice and stretchy too, allowing them to slip over a pair of low-bulk gloves, or under a pair of the thickest winter mitts.
I tested the Souplesse Thermal jersey through sub-5°C January weather, and immediately noticed the marked difference that the thicker material and fleecy inner made against the cold mornings and biting winds. Even in the coldest weather, I sweat when I put the effort in, and while there was evidence of darker sweat patches on the jersey after my ride, overall I was impressed. Much of the moisture I emitted wicked away effectively to leave no trace, which helped my core to stay warm. This can probably be attributed to both the fleecy inner and polyester composition – a material that's far better at soaking up sweat than natural alternatives like cotton.
On the outside, though, it's not made for the wet; a light mist of rain did dry off, but anything heavier will soak through.
The fit of the Souplesse is impressive, as I've become used to when it comes to Rapha women's kit. The panelling provides a race-feel fit, and enhances the low-bulk feel for a jersey that's so warm. The sleeves are plenty long enough, too. My favourite part of the fit is the neckline, which feels particularly warm and secure thanks to the double layered material.
The only slight anomaly is the sleeve/torso length ratio. The medium I tested was only just long enough in the body – I certainly wouldn't have wanted it any shorter. In comparison with other medium jerseys, such as Liv's Flara (review to come), it's a good two inches shorter, yet the sleeves are around the same length.
Personally, I prefer jerseys to err on the side of longer for the winter months, because it feels warmer. And I do have a longer than average torso – so I wouldn't say the Rapha Souplesse Jersey comes up too short. There was no riding up, either, with the addition of a grippy strip of material on the rear base seam helping the jersey stay put.
The rear cargo pockets are the most well-finished, robust jersey pockets I have ever seen. Three double-layered pockets, finished with an inner mesh for breathability, sit side-by-side, finished with a wide strip of elastic, slightly ruched for extra security. They are plenty deep enough for my iPhone 8, the material providing additional protection for your snacks and screen. Rapha's trademark stripe adorns the centre, and the logo is printed vertically on the right pocket.
Hidden to the right is a fourth pocket, finished with a zipper to keep valuables secure, like keys and money. It's also bolstered with a headphone port. Cleverly, this means you can stow away your phone inside the pocket and feed the wire up the inside of your jersey. Up the back seam, two tiny headphone loops are sewn in, for perfectly neat in-bike entertainment.
This pocket zip is pleasingly easy to fasten on the bike – as is the main zipper. Tested with a day's worth of food, an inner tube ands gas to boot, they won my heart on functionality, style and feel. When not being used, they sit flush against the jersey, despite being plenty robust. The base of the pockets is finished with a little reflective strip.
The Souplesse Thermal Jersey washed without any sign of shrinkage or deterioration at 40 degrees, and being so stretchy and smooth it looks as good as new on each ride, with no hint of a wrinkle.
Price-wise, it's no bargain, though I'd argue that for the warmth, quality and styling it is a good buy. Santini's Coral Thermal jersey is £90 – still not cheap, but £60 less than the Rapha.
Lastly, there's Rapha's trademark little quote, here from Canyon//SRAM rider Tiffany Cromwell, hidden on a piece of elastic inside the key pocket, which reminded me to not 'focus on the numbers; [but] ride with the instinct and panache that comes from the heart.' A very nice touch.
A warm, sleek winter jersey with excellent attention to detail
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women's Souplesse Thermal Jersey
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the product is for
The Souplesse Thermal Jersey is engineered for superior warmth and racing performance.
Rapha says, "A cold weather training jersey for riders and racers looking to stay aero without freezing.
"The combination of warmth and racing performance is tough to achieve, because insulation usually results in a bulkier garment. The Souplesse Thermal Jersey is both fast and warm. The jersey fabric is slightly thicker than current Souplesse jerseys, and has a fleecy brushed back inner for on-skin comfort. The jersey is cut in our Race fit, and should be reasonably tight to ensure nothing flaps in the wind and slows you down. Designed for winter training when skies darken earlier, there are reflective elements all over the jersey, as well as headphone loops, and an easy-use Vislon zip."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rapha lists these features:
-Made of a high-stretch and breathable performance fabric
-Full length, easy-up VISLON® zipper for one-handed adjustment
-Headphone loops up the back seam
Excellent attention to detail: in particular the pockets, hidden pocket and headphone system.
Retained some sweat, otherwise good wicking, and every bit as warm as described by Rapha.
No sign of any problems, and washed without any sign of shrinkage or deterioration at 40°C.
The race fit felt excellent, though I wouldn't have wanted it any shorter on the body. The sleeves were generous, while the length was just about enough.
The sleeves and length feel ever so slightly disproportionate.
The comfort is a key feature of this jersey: it's very warm and cosy against the skin.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Very easy, no hint of a wrinkle – as good as new after ever wash at 40°C.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Every bit as warm and cosy as Rapha intended. Slightly sweaty under the arms, but when twinned with a wicking baselayer it worked like a dream.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The comfort, around the neck and against the skin in particular... and the hidden messages!
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Needing to pull it down – but I have a long torso.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Top-end, more expensive than many other good thermal jerseys.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, definitely.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Quality is superb and it offers excellent comfort, for not a very low price... To my mind that adds up to 'very good' overall.
About the tester
I usually ride: My Scott Foil My best bike is: Oldie but the goldie, CAAD 8
I've been riding for: Under 5 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Novice
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo-cross, commuting, touring, general fitness riding, triathlon, audax