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The Rapha Women's Trail Windblock Jersey is lightweight top that handles a wide range of temperatures well. The design is understated and it's a versatile bit of kit – although its headline act is 'trails' and mountain biking, Rapha says it's optimised for long-distance gravel rides too. At £100 though, it's got some strong competition.
On the road it's not so difficult to ride consistently and maintain a relatively stable body temperature, but off-road it's not so easy. One minute you are making a sweat-inducing, lung-busting effort, while the next you're barrelling downhill into a freezing wind. The Windblock Jersey is designed to cope with it all, combining a windproof front panel with the performance of merino and adding long, protective sleeves.
The main body is Rapha's 'Performance Merino Off Road' wool blend, and it's very smooth and comfortable against the skin. Meanwhile the sleeves are a more durable nylon fabric that's designed to be snag resistant, and while it's rougher and thicker than the main body, it's still comfy and not scratchy. I can confirm it puts up a decent fight against brambles, too...
The neckline is well-judged; snug enough to keep drafts at bay but not so high that it stifles you.
The cuffs are an elasticated, tapered band of silky fabric. They hug rather than cling, and as they have more give than the sleeves they let you shove the sleeves up a bit for cooling if necessary.
According to Rapha's size chart, my chest measurement puts me in a small, my waist a medium. I've been testing the small. It's good fit, if perhaps a little more snug than I'd normally look for in an off-road jersey, and I found both the sleeves and body a bit short by a couple of centimetres. If you are between sizes, going up will give you a better, looser fit for off-roading.
I used the Windblock in a variety of conditions, with a variety of kit and on all my bikes; it's certainly versatile. With temperatures in the mid-teens Centigrade I found it good on its own, and as they sunk towards single figures it worked well over a baselayer. It's light but surprisingly warm, and the windblocking panel doesn't stop it breathing well (in fact, it's the sleeves that breathe the worst, so a short-sleeve base works best).
Nevertheless, I could work hard in this without sweating excessively. In exceptionally cold weather it was also brilliant for long, steady rides on the road or gravel bike.
I wouldn't rule it out of touring or bike packing kit, and the casual style works well off the bike too.
I'll admit to even trying a run in it, but the sleeves/armpits aren't designed for that and it tended to overheat; this is a versatile top, but still most definitely a cycling one.
The Rapha is pretty expensive for what it is; while it personally impressed me, I'm not convinced it justifies its £100 tag. Given it's the company's first venture into off-road kit though, they've done pretty well; not every road-orientated manufacturer can, as Assos showed with its Trail Women's LS Jersey. It certainly didn't impress Rachael on our sister site off.road.cc, either with its fit or its £105 price.
If the Rapha's understated looks don't appeal, something like Hackney GT's LS Jersey could be up your street, especially as it's nearly half the price at £55.
For a more traditional 'mountain bike' look, there's the very warm Scott Women's Trail Storm LS, which also includes a small zipped pocket and a lens wipe... and is still cheaper than the Rapha at £80.
As far I can tell, very few off-road specialists offer a directly comparable top. Mons Royale comes the close with its Tarn Merino Shift Wind Jersey for €100, but while that might undercut Rapha on a conversion (£83 at the time of writing), good luck with the post-Brexit shipping. Unfortunately, UK distributor Tiso doesn't seem to stock the Tarn Merino.
The Trail Windblock is a well-considered bit of clothing that has a lot going for it – but then, Rapha is asking a lot for it too. Thankfully its looks and performance mean it's not limited to just the trails, but while it's good, a lot of cheaper jerseys are too.
Light, warm and versatile casual top with a windblocking front, but the price is very high
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Women Trail Windblock Jersey
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says this is "A long sleeve merino jersey with added wind protection for mountain biking in cool to cold conditions.
"A standard fit, sitting just off the body for freedom of movement and airflow. This fit is optimised for mountain biking and long-distance gravel rides."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
-Main body fabric cut from our new Rapha Performance Merino Off Road wool blend, specially developed for enhanced durability and all day comfort on the trail.
-Windproof and tear-resistant front panel for added protection from wind and cold air.
-Full-length sleeves constructed from a durable, hard-wearing nylon fabric for snag resistance.
-Ergonomic fit and construction for unrestricted freedom of movement.
-Rapha Repair Kit included to remedy sleeve damage and eligible for further Rapha repairs service if needed.
The quality you'd expect for £100.
Thin, lightweight nature belies the protection it offers.
Lacks length at the rear.
Gives a snug, fairly short fit, so consider sizing up if you're on the boundary.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Non-bio liquid at 30 degrees and it comes up fresh every time. Doesn't cling to odours as much as some, so can get a few wears between washes, providing the trails are dry.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Does exactly what it claims; keeps the wind chill off without overheating you.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Simple design and decent performance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Lack of drop at the rear.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Most off-road jerseys don't offer the windblock panel, and many are synthetic too, but even so this is expensive. Assos ventured into off-road kit and pitched theirs similarly at £105, but high-quality offroad kit can be had for much less.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? No, not enough drop for my liking
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
This is a well-designed jersey that performs very well in cool temperatures, and it's good for all sorts of road and on-road cycling. The price is very high though – if it were cheaper and cut a bit longer it would score higher.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road My best bike is: Carbon road.
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Getting to grips with off roading too!
Emma’s first encounters with a road bike were in between swimming and running. Soon after competing for GB in the World Age Group Triathlon Championships in Edmonton in 2001 she saw the light and decided to focus on cycling.
After a couple of half decent UK road seasons racing for Leisure Lakes, she went out to Belgium to sample the racing there and spent two years with Lotto-Belisol Ladies team, racing alongside the likes of Sara Carrigan, Grace Verbeke, Rochelle Gilmore and Lizzie Deignan. Emma moved from Lotto-Belisol to Dutch team Redsun, then a new Belgian team of primarily developing riders, where there was less pressure, an opportunity to share her experience and help build a whole new team; a nice way to spend her final years of professional racing.
Since retiring Emma has returned to teaching. When not coercing kids to do maths, she is invariably out on two wheels. In addition to the daily commute, Emma still enjoys getting out on her road bike and having her legs ripped off on the local club rides and chain gangs. She has also developed an addiction to touring, with destinations including Iceland, Georgia and Albania, to mention just a few. There have also been rare sightings of Emma off-road on a mountain bike…