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The Rapha Explore Long Sleeve Pullover is a very comfortable and versatile garment. It is great for chilly temperatures, with a relaxed fit that makes it good for more casual rides or even use off the bike. It is available in two colours, and both are dark with little in the way of reflective elements.
Rapha doesn't call this a jersey or a jacket, and one key element is that there are no rear pockets – just the tiny sleeve pocket I'll get to in a bit. The lack of pockets along with the style and fit suggest this is a garment aimed mostly at gravel and adventure riding, where the emphasis is more on comfort than speed and things tend to be carried on the bike rather than the rider.
The pullover uses two main fabrics: a windproof material on the shoulders and down the sleeves, and Polartec Power Grid on the chest and the back.
I used the pullover in a range of temperatures, from zero degrees up to over 10, and found it generally good for keeping me warm, especially when used with other layers such as a windproof baselayer for colder days and windproof gilet if it was changeable.
Without a windproof layer under or on top, it was chilly on faster descents where the lack of windproofing on the chest became a factor. It feels very breathable and I think would easily cope with higher temperatures as spring gets going. When riding at a higher pace up climbs I never felt that I was getting too hot or sticky, including on the shoulders and sleeves where the windproof panels are, although this isn't really an area that produces much body heat.
For colder days or if longer descents are part of a ride plan, I would combine the pullover with a gilet, adding an extra element of warmth to the area without the windproofing.
The fit of the pullover generally is good and what I would expect for this style of top – that is, relaxed but not too loose or overly baggy. I am 168cm with an 88cm chest, and following the Rapha sizing guidelines, XS fitted perfectly on the chest, shoulders and body length; the sleeves were a few centimetres longer than I would prefer, with the material bunching near the wrist, but it didn't affect performance and wasn't particularly uncomfortable.
Rapha offers the pullover in two colours, a dark green and dark blue, with no more colourful or more visible options available. While this may be aimed at off-road riding, there will doubtless be occasions when you'd use it on the road, even just short stretches to access trails, and it could be more visible. It does have some reflective tabs, but some brighter colours would be good.
As mentioned, there are no rear pockets here but there is a single zipped 'essentials' pocket on the sleeve. The zip was quite hard to open on the move, though it may ease up with more use. The pocket is small and I couldn't fit in much more than a bit of food or a small set of keys. It may be that larger sized garments have a bigger pocket, but even on the XS it feels a little smaller than it could be, with more space on the upper arm available. It was too small to fit a fairly standard size smartphone for example.
Both the windproof areas and the main body fabric feel a good thickness, and not thin or fragile. It's held up fine on bridleways and in rougher off-road use.
Washing is quite simple – in the machine at 30 degrees and no tumble drying, in keeping with most cycling garments. One small touch you might appreciate when camping out is a small tab to hang the pullover up to dry, and of course, being Rapha, it's pink.
For your £120 you're getting great fabrics and fit, and though not cheap, the price isn't too wild compared with more traditional high-performance jerseys or jackets. The Stolen Goat Raggamuffin 20 Orkaan, for example, is £5 more, though that does have some water resistance within the fabrics, and Chapeau's Etape Merino jersey is £129.99.
If you want a high-quality, relaxed-fit pullover then Rapha has really got the brief spot on here. On its own or as a mid-layer it is very comfortable, although the sleeves were a little long for my liking; otherwise, it's a great option for more casual rides and adventures.
Good overall fit and excellent breathability in a versatile, relaxed top
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Explore Long Sleeve Pullover
Size tested: XS
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha describes this as: 'an insulating mid-layer made for exploring in milder conditions or, when paired with a jacket, in cold winter conditions. Made with Polartec® Power Grid™ fabric that is insulative yet highly breathable, the top helps to maintain body temperature and features the same relaxed fit as our long-sleeved Technical T-Shirts for complete freedom of movement when navigating technical sections of trail. Windproof panels on the shoulders and arms further aid temperature regulation and guard against damage. A zipped pocket on the upper arm keeps essentials close to hand while the integrated hanger loop makes drying the top easier after the ride.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Articulated sleeves for on-bike comfort
Signature stripes across the chest
Gridded fleece fabric for insulation
Quick-drying and breathable
Very good. The choice and placement of fabrics works well.
Good fabric performance, and the top is great for a wide range of conditions, especially when used with other layers.
Early days, but simple to wash, and the fabric doesn't seem fragile.
Good fit apart from the sleeves, which are longer on me than I'd like.
Following the size guidelines on the website it was accurate.
The simplicity of it makes it reasonably light.
Soft fabrics were great either directly next to the skin or as a second layer.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
No problem at all. Washed several times at 30 degrees, no tumble drying but will dry quickly when aired.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
A versatile top for temperatures from 0 degrees to above 10 degrees. It did need to be used with other layers to make the most of it, but this is no different to similar style garments.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The quality fabrics and the fit, bar the sleeve length.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Long sleeves, no bright or more visible colour option.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Not cheap, but similar to others including the Stolen Goat Ragamuffin Orkaan jersey, Chapeau's Etape Merino jersey, and Pactimo's High Country.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably not, I would prefer a brighter colour.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The pullover was impressive overall, with a few provisos, such as the need for a windproof layer for colder days. It fits well in a relaxed but not overly baggy way, although I found the sleeves longer than I would have preferred. For a mix of drier conditions it proved to be good – so long as you don't rely on rear pockets.
About the tester
I usually ride: My best bike is: Cannondale SystemSix
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, sportives, mtb, Lots of gravel style riding
Matt is an endurance nut who loves big rides and big events. He's a former full-time racer and 24hr event specialist, but now is also happy riding off-road on gravel bikes or XC mountain bikes and exploring the mountains and hills of Mid Wales.