The Rapha Commuter Lightweight Jacket is a good shell that fits well over normal clothing, offering some protection from the elements. Lightweight and decently breathable, it does a decent job in showery conditions as long as you take care of it.
Rapha is well known for producing clothing for that person over there. It's made a bit of a habit of identifying little nooks and crannies of a niche with its ever-growing ranges, and the Commuter Lightweight Jacket is another example of this. As the name suggests, it's designed as a lightweight option for commuters (as opposed to the standard version) and comes in at just 160g in a size medium, which, although not that light compared with some specialist shells out there, is pretty featherweight for a commuter not wearing cycling kit.
The thinness of the technical fabric means the jacket is nicely packable, folding down into a compact stuff bag that takes up minimal space inside a rucksack if you were to carry it with you, expecting showers later in the day.
When the weather does turn, it's quite capable too. While not a patch on Gore-Tex Active-level fabrics for waterproofness, showers do bead off well from new, while over the past couple of months it's remained usably water resistant in light showers.
Periodically, I wash my technical jackets in a tech wash to maintain water resistance, and that would definitely be a good idea with this one because it definitely isn't the most waterproof material out there.
The thin outer fabric and mesh-like ones interspersed throughout result in really impressive breathable performance. Even in the humid, stormy conditions that landed on the UK in August there wasn't a hint of 'boil in the bag'. In cooler conditions, when being lightly active – gentle pedalling or even brisk walking – it's become a real go-to outer layer for that bit of protection without actually feeling like I'm wearing an insulation layer.
For me, it's a really top performer as a changeable weather shell that doesn't add much weight and minimises the chances of overheating when you're on the move. Urban riders, rejoice!
However, this lightweight performance comes with a recognition that you need to take care of it. I realised this when an over-the-door metal coat rack was accidentally knocked off the back of the door, with the jacket hanging off it. Landing on the floor, the sharp(ish) metal somehow cut a small v-shaped serration into the thin arm fabric.
A bit of a freak accident, certainly, but I was a little surprised that the fabric hadn't withstood something as seemingly innocuous as that. It hasn't frayed more since then, though, so I've been able to keep on using it regardless (hoping that no one notices that there's this small hole on the arm).
The cut is nicely considered – the sleeves are long enough to reach forward to the handlebar without pulling up (I have a reasonably long wingspan), and there's an elongated tail too. But, as soon as you hop off the bike and walk somewhere in it, the front is cut low enough that it fits almost like an ordinary sports-style jacket – also thanks to its slim but not restrictive fit. In essence, it walks the line between a specialist and everyday jacket really nicely.
Added features? The thin hood fits under a helmet if you need it to…
…while there are zipped pockets on the front sides, though no pocket on the rear.
The wrist cuffs and waist hem are lightly elasticated too, helping to stop water sneaking up, and fans of Rapha will appreciate the subtle relief of an arm cuff on the right arm.
There's also a pretty cool reflective tab on the back that shows either 'Rapha' branding or a 'made you look' phrase depending on which way you're looking at it. The rear section also includes some small polka dots too, but these aren't reflective.
Value? For £80 you can do a whole lot worse, and if you consider that (at time of writing) the Rapha sale has the orange, dark olive and yellow versions at a reduced price (black, pink and dark navy colours are also available), it's a nice usable piece to own without breaking the bank. (There's also a 'print' version for £95.)
While you can buy packable windproof jackets for less (and for more), few are casual-commuting-style hooded options. The Rapha's closest rival is probably the non-lightweight Rapha Commuter – slightly heavier (obvs), £20 more, and more waterproof but, Matt found in his review of it last year, not as breathable.
Other casual style options include the Chrome Storm Signal jacket – at £140 it makes the Rapha Lightweight look like reasonable value, especially as the Chrome isn't the most breathable, and the Showers Pass Transit CC jacket is £160, but you do get exceptional, hardier all-round performance.
It's also worth pointing out that we've also reviewed the women's version of this jacket too, where my experience largely mirrors that of fellow tester Emma.
All in all, if you want a bit of Rapha in your everyday life (on and off the bike), the Commuter Lightweight Jacket is a competent piece. Don't rely upon it in heavier rainfall, treat it well, and it should do a solid job for you.
Decent shower-resistant shell – light, packable and really breathable, but look elsewhere for true waterproofness
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Men's Commuter Lightweight Jacket
Size tested: Medium
Tell us what the jacket is for and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Rapha says: "The working week is a whirlwind of meetings and deadlines, early mornings and late nights. Our versatile Lightweight Commuter Jacket helps you take all in your pedal stroke, with a new fabric that will keep you cool in a rush, and dry in a rain shower. Cut looser than our racewear and designed to be worn with a t-shirt or jumper, the fit is identical to that of our original Commuter Jacket.
"The new fabric is exceptionally breathable and combines with a mesh panel over the shoulders to prevent overheating even when you're wearing a backpack. There's ample space for supplies in the two front pockets and a storm hood which fits beneath your helmet and folds down neatly. Inconspicuous off the bike, the jacket packs down into an integrated stuff sack to fit easily inside any bag, but it stands out on the street. A reflective pixel print pattern and oversized dot on the lower back have been carefully placed to sit beneath a backpack and in drivers' line of sight while reflective cuffs help with signalling."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
- Integrated stuff sack on the inside of the front pocket bag
- Reflective on the cuffs, hood and hem
- Reflective pixel print and commuter dot on rear
- Two concealed pockets with zips with stay-down pullers
- Reflective grosgrain on the inner placket
- Roll-down hood can be worn beneath a helmet
- Mesh yoke around shoulders for breathability
- Integrated hanger loop
- Windproof and water-resistant
- 100% polyester
Seams and joins all look strongly made.
The jacket isn't waterproof (but doesn't claim to be), water resistance is just about enough to be acceptable in a jacket of this type. Otherwise, breathability is really excellent. Windproofness adequate.
It's well made but not the most robust fabric, so needs looking after.
Doesn't claim to be waterproof, but water resistant. It is, but it's not that high up the scale.
Breathability is pretty great, to be fair. Not even slightly boil in the bag.
It's a really nice compromise of slim fit without looking like a cycling jacket off the bike.
Sizes slightly big, with a medium fitting me surprisingly well. Normally I opt for a large size garment. We're talking half sizes here though.
160g is nice and light.
You can feel the elastic cuffs on your wrists but they're not exactly uncomfortable. The fabric is nice, light and soft against the skin.
There are plenty of high costing commuter jackets out there, as I've alluded to in the review. I think that this is an ok price if you just need that little bit of protection without opting for a full waterproof – although yes, slightly on the 'Rapha expensive' side. Currently reduced in certain colours...
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
The jacket washed through well; I used a tech wash.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
It performed well, all-in-all (accepting that it isn't designed to be a true waterproof).
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
Lightweight, fits well on bike and off bike, breathable.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
Only lightly water resistant, quite delicate.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It looks like reasonable value compared with the Chrome Storm Signal jacket at £140, especially as that jacket isn't the most breathable, while the Showers Pass Transit CC jacket is twice the price at £160, but you do get exceptional, hardier all-round performance.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Yes
Would you consider buying the jacket? Maybe, if I knew that I'd have another option for full rainy conditions.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes, depending on their specific needs.
Use this box to explain your overall score
I've enjoyed using the Rapha Commuter Lightweight Jacket. It's very competent in warmer weather when light showers are about. Just, it's a bit delicate and you can't rely upon it in 'wet' weather.
About the tester
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I've been riding for: I ride: I would class myself as:
I regularly do the following types of riding: