Rapha's Pro Team Softshell Jacket provides impressive wind and rain protection, with decent insulation and plenty of breathability to avoid overheating. It also makes dressing for changeable weather conditions really easy – just pull it on over a base layer and hit the road.
The Softshell Jacket is the latest addition to Rapha's ever-expanding Pro Team collection, which these days draws on feedback and inspiration from its partnership with Team Sky having started out meeting the needs of the Rapha Condor team. Pros race in the most demanding conditions and Rapha seek to meet these demands through their Pro Team collection.
The Pro Team Softshell could be considered an answer to the outstanding popularity of the Castelli Gabba, a jacket that rose to prominence after the 2013 Milan-San Remo a race run in torrid conditions (it had been around for a few years before that - here's our review from 2011). It's a top that offers the protection of a jacket with the fit, comfort and breathability of a jersey, so you can ride at a high tempo in the rain without getting soaked from the outside or inside, from rain or sweat respectively.
Rapha developed a new three-layer fabric with a polyurethane membrane sandwiched between the inner and outer layer. The fabric has a DWR (durable water-repellent) treatment, but rather than coated on the outside of the fabric as is normally the case, Rapha worked with a Swiss textile company called HeiQ who developed a process that 'infuses the fabric with the treatment'.
It's not a completely waterproof jacket, but most of the seams are taped, the majority internally. The shoulder seams, because this is the part of the jacket that takes the brunt of the weather, are externally taped, and this really helps the jacket cope with longer rides in the rain. The combination of the fabric and the construction seems to do the job. The jacket holds up well under a light shower, making it ideal if the weather looks a bit iffy, and beats wearing a jersey and sticking a waterproof in the pocket. In a heavier downpour it still holds the rain at bay, providing impressive protection, certainly enough that you don't need to seek shelter or reach for a waterproof jacket. For most mixed weather with on-off rain, it copes just fine.
The fit is typical for a garment with the words 'Pro Team' attached. The size medium I reviewed provided a comfortably snug and fitted shape. There's enough room underneath for a base layer but not much else, but unless it's really chilly you don't really need, or want, to wear anything more than that. I found the jacket good on single digit temperature days, but closer to zero degrees and I was feeling nippy. I do run cold, though, and like to wrap up when it's really chilly. It has quite a high operating temperature too, and I've been wearing it well into spring with just a short sleeve base layer. The breathability and ventilation are sufficient to avoid any dramatic overheating.
There are some well thought out details – the lower hem, the shape and length of the arms, the tall collar, and the multiple pockets including one zipped pocket – but the most unusual is the middle of the three pockets. It's covered with a shiny wipe-clean panel. Rapha have realised this is the sort of jacket that will be used in horrible conditions when the roads are covered in mud and water, and for those that don't use mudguards the slippery panel does prevent the rear of the jacket getting as saturated as it would otherwise from all the rear wheel spray. It's also easier to wipe clean at the end of the ride.
With the Pro Team Softshell Jacket, Rapha have developed a worthy alternative to the popular Gabba with a fabric that offers a great balance of protection and breathability, making it a useful three-seasons top. It's a big chunk of cash, and both the Castelli Gabba and Parentini Mossa are cheaper - much cheaper if you shop around online, but in my opinion the Pro Team Softshell just nudges both in performance, fit and features.
Superb foul-weather jacket with impressive breathability and nice details, but its rivals are more affordable
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Pro Team Softshell
Size tested: Red - Medium
Tell us what the product 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?
The research and development process for the Pro Team Softshell Jacket was the most challenging and intensive of any Rapha product. The result is the most advanced race-ready jacket in the world. This is a jacket for riders who seek the highest levels of performance in wet conditions, when a race cape would be too constricting and a jersey too exposed to the elements.
The fabric is an extension of Rapha's softshell concept, incorporating two thin layers, separated by a membrane, to create a fabric that is breathable, highly water resistant, insulating, but retains a soft and comfortable feel against the skin. The seams are fully taped, and laser cut ventilation holes under the arms allow air to circulate.
The fit is in line with the Pro Team collection, with a slim and close fit suited to a low riding position.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Wet-weather race jacket
Dual-layered fabric and membrane
Highly technical fabric with comfortable feel
Wipe clean rear panel
Pro Team fit
Fully taped seams
Laser cut ventilation holes
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Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
Rate the product for value:
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
For unpredictable weather conditions when you can't decide what to wear, this jacket removes all the guesswork and copes with whatever the weather throws at you. You need to keep the pace up to generate decent insulation on very cold rides though; it's not so good when the temperature is nudging sub-zero.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Excellent fit and comfort, useful details and the wipe clean panel is more than a gimmick. Fabric stands up to plenty of rain and punishment.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
It's expensive compared with its rivals.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
The Pro Team Softshell Jacket is very good but it is expensive – and its rivals, the Castelli Gabba and Parentini Mossa, are cheaper. But in my opinion the Pro Team Softshell just nudges both in performance, fit and features.
Age: 31 Height: 180 Weight: 67
I usually ride: My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, mtb,
Tories don't ride bikes?
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