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Supple by name (well, almost), supple by nature, the Rapha Women's Souplesse Jersey aims to please demanding female riders looking for the optimum combination of performance and comfort with a hefty measure of style thrown in as a bonus. It does the job admirably, at a price.
It's hard to find fault with Rapha's ability to produce a coherent and desirable collection of cycling clothing and accessories every season, even if you'd argue with the pricing. The Souplesse range (including bib shorts, mitts, socks, baselayer and jacket as well as the jersey) is all designed with the sportier cyclist in mind. The fabric is extremely technical, works hard to give enduring long-ride, hot-weather comfort, and even the details are fine-tuned towards performance.
This jersey is certainly very easy on the eye, with bold, not overly-girly colour options and some great contrast colour accents to liven up the block colour. The stripe pattern at the back also does a great job of lifting the design, and is a nod to the company's overall love of stripes this season.
The fit of the Souplesse Jersey is definitely more 'race' cut than others from Rapha's range such as the Classic and the Brevet, but it's not unbearably snug and the sizing is still on a par with the brand's other clothing, just with a closer cut.
Features include 20 per cent more storage for 2015 than previous incarnations of the jersey, with slanted rear pockets for easy access while riding, a central pump sleeve and a zipped security pocket. To make up for the soft, pliable fabric, the pockets are reinforced to make load carrying more effective.
On the bike, the fabric really stood out, both for its soft, barely-there feel and also for its superior moisture wicking and breathability. This is a jersey that excels during those rare hot weeks of the British summer, but is equally appropriate for those working hard in slightly cooler climes. I found myself maintaining a steady and equable temperature, no matter what the my levels of exertion. The hem gripper meant everything stayed put, and the fabric really was a joy to wear.
There will be those who complain (as ever) about the price of Rapha's kit, but this is a well designed, attractive jersey with top end performance, so it's not surprising that it commands a top end price to match. If you're happy to spend the money, this is well worth buying.
Well made, well designed and super-high performance hot weather jersey
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Make and model: Rapha Women's Souplesse Jersey
Size tested: Women's, Blue, Large
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?
Rapha says: "The Souplesse range is for female riders who demand top-level functionality without compromising on sophisticated looks, and the Souplesse Jersey combines streamlined tailoring with advanced fabric technology to create high-performance style. Designed for all-day riding in hot conditions, the Souplesse Jersey is cut from a proprietary fabric with a soft matte finish that is very breathable. It is elegant and lightweight, yet tough enough to withstand demanding use, and to be your companion on all your summer rides."
It's an extremely high performance top that really excels in hot conditions.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
78% nylon polyamide
2 rear pouch pockets
1 small zipped security pocket
SPF 50 fabric
Full length front zip
Superb quality fabric and attention to detail in finish.
Excellent hot weather jersey.
The soft and silky fabric needs to be looked after well, washed at the correct temperature and kept well away from Velcro.
As light as all but the very lightest summer jerseys.
Extremely comfortable, both in terms of fit and feel, but also the fabric and its temperature maintenance properties and ability to wick moisture quickly.
It's a lot of money, but this jersey shows some real effort in both design and performance.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well indeed.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Style, fabric feel, fabric performance.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
Very well designed, extremely high performance and really rather lovely.
Age: 42 Height: 1.65m Weight: 73kg
I usually ride: Boardman Hybrid Fi My best bike is: Specialized Ruby Elite
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, sportives, general fitness riding, mountain biking
Lara has been riding bikes for longer than she'd care to admit, and writing about them nearly as long. Since 2009 she has been working as part of the road.cc review team whilst championing women's cycling on the side, most notably via two years as editor of the, sadly now defunct, UK's first and only women's cycling mag, erm, Women's Cycling.
Believing fervently that cycling will save the world, she wishes that more people would just ride a bike and be pleasant to each other.
She will ride anything with two wheels, occasionally likes to go fast, definitely likes to go far and is always up for a bit of exploring somewhere new and exciting.