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Rapha's Classic Long Sleeve Jersey II is better than ever, with an improved fit and better breathability ensuring it's still a solid choice for winter cycling. Here is a well-designed, comfortable, warm and soft-next-to-the-skin jersey that is ideal for winter rides, either worn as a top layer over a baselayer or underneath a jacket.
A long-sleeve jersey was one of Rapha's first garments when it launched over a decade ago. It was made from Sportwool, a hybrid material combining merino wool and polyester that I remember causing a bit of a stir among cyclists. It worked and provided luxurious comfort, good insulation and anti-bacterial and odour resistant properties.
There's now a new version of this long-running staple, the Classic Long Sleeve Jersey II. Like the Classic Short Sleeve II, which was similarly updated earlier this year, this latest incarnation has a whole host of improvements, but underneath this change there's still the fundamental appeal of a solid winter workhorse that should be a staple in any cyclist's wardrobe.
Of the many changes, the revised fit is the most notable when you first pull on the new jersey. It's a lot more fitted now, snug around the body and less relaxed than the old jersey. Sizing is good, with XS to XXL, and the sleeves are sufficient length on the size small I tested to ensure proper wrist coverage, unlike some jerseys that I find are not generous enough in the arm length.
It's a more streamlined jersey as well, with new bonded seams for the full-length zipper and collar, which is also thinner and less bulky thanks to improved stitching. The waistband combines a flat and non-stretchy hem around the front, while the rear section is elasticated and silicone lined, helping the jersey to stay comfortably in place. There are drawcord adjusters either side of the elasticated section for tuning the fit, but I found it perfect as is.
It's still made from a merino wool-based material but the new RPM 190 (Rapha Performance Merino) is said to be lighter, softer and more breathable than the original Sportwool. It's certainly lighter, and feels thinner between the fingers too; that much you notice immediately. After a whole bunch of hours in the saddle in a range of conditions, it's clear the material is more breathable. It has a higher operating temperature than before and works well on brisk tempo rides.
A highlight of the fabric is how soft it feels against the skin. It's ideal for wearing over a short-sleeve baselayer on warmer days and is just a lovely thing to head out in for a ride. What the jersey doesn't do is provide any form of windproofing, so if it's really windy you'll need to think about adding a gilet for a little extra protection.
That's probably the only complaint that can be levelled at this jersey. If you do want wind protection there are a wide range of jerseys that offer similar levels of warmth with added windproofing: Gore's Power Windstopper, for example, though it costs another £30, or the new Sportful R&D Strato, which has an integrated baselayer, also for £120.
You're likely to wear a long-sleeve jersey a lot at this time of year, and if you're riding every day and commuting, the odour resistant and quick drying properties are welcome, especially if riding twice a day, morning and night.
There's ample storage for long training rides with three large pockets for all the food and tools you need. The outer pockets are angled to provide easier access. There's a small zipped pocket with large ring-pull zipper, ideally sized for safely storing house keys. You can load the pockets up and they are stable enough to prevent sagging.
Small details add up to contribute to this jersey's overall loveliness: angled wrist cuffs, reflective tape around the rear zipped pocket, a small garage for the full-length zipper, a larger puller on the zipped pocket, a headphone cable port on the rear pocket... And an obligatory story is hidden inside the pocket. Totally unnecessary, of course, but a nice little detail.
It's early days for durability but I'll look to update this review in a couple of months once it's been through the hard winter months that lie ahead. Based on my experience of the first long-sleeve jersey I tested in about 2006 or 2007, which is still going strong and still gets used from time to time, there's no reason why this new Classic II won't also be providing good service in 10 years' time.
The new Rapha Classic Long Sleeve II jersey is comfortable, functional, fitted and stylish (especially if you go for one of the brighter colours) and the attention to detail is high. Yes, there are cheaper long-sleeve jerseys that offer similar performance, but few that tie up that performance with as much style and attention to detail.
Rapha's long sleeve merino-based jersey is better than ever, with improved fit and breathability
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Classic Long Sleeve Jersey II
Size tested: Small
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: "Like its short sleeve predecessor, the Classic Long Sleeve Jersey II builds upon Rapha's game-changing original jersey with a warm and comfortable merino-based fabric and updated fit.
Based on the bestselling Classic Jersey II, a product that has been in the Rapha collection since day one, the Classic Long Sleeve Jersey II features an innovative merino-wool-based fabric and comes in a range of beautiful colours.
Updated with an improved fit, bonding rather than stitching to save weight, and an all new, proprietary merino-based fabric, RPM190 (Rapha Performance Merino - the 190 indicates grams per square metre). Unlike generic merino-blends, RPM190 is light, soft, breathable and adaptable to a huge range of conditions, and while heavier than the fabric used in the short sleeve version, it is lighter than the fabric used in first iteration on the Long Sleeve Jersey. Offering excellent pocket support and comfort in a wide range of temperatures, RPM is the most versatile cycling fabric in the world."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Rapha lists the following features:
The valuables pocket uses stretch mesh for less weight and more capacity
Valuables pocket outer has a reflective tape over a bonded-in zip
RPM190 fabric – Rapha Performance Merino is light, soft and breathable
Sleeve stripe and front hem are bonded for a low-profile finish
One-piece bonded zip-guard reduces bulk and improves zip action
New construction techniques for cleaner finish and quality
A pump loop inside the rear pocket keeps your pump in place
Up to Rapha's usual excellent standard, and certainly what you'd expect at this price.
It provides great insulation for lots of winter riding, either on its own as a top layer, or as a mid layer, and it's breathable enough to ensure you don't overheat. There's no windproofing though, which might be a dealbreaker for some.
It's early days for durability, but based on the previous version of this jersey there's no reason why it shouldn't offer the sort of durability expected at this price.
It doesn't weigh much.
Supremely comfortable, the merino-based material is lovely and soft next to the skin.
Well, it's cheaper than the Assos iJ.tiburu_evo7 jacket, but there are jerseys that offer more versatility in terms of added windproofing and water resistance, such as the Sportful R&D Strato or Gore Power Windstopper long sleeve jersey, which arguably offer more performance.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Goes through a regular washing machine cycle just fine.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Delivers great warmth and comfort on chilly rides, and can be worn underneath a wind or rain jacket.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Great fit and lovely attention to detail.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No wind or rain protection limits it to dry weather cycling when worn on its own.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Probably
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Most likely.
Use this box to explain your score
A really nice long-sleeve jersey has been made even lovelier, and though there are better value jerseys and those that offer more weather protection, the new Classic Long Sleeve Jersey II still delivers great performance.
About the tester
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, mountain biking
David worked on the road.cc tech team from 2012-2020. Previously he was editor of Bikemagic.com and before that staff writer at RCUK. He's a seasoned cyclist of all disciplines, from road to mountain biking, touring to cyclo-cross, he only wishes he had time to ride them all. He's mildly competitive, though he'll never admit it, and is a frequent road racer but is too lazy to do really well. He currently resides in the Cotswolds, and you can now find him over on his own YouTube channel David Arthur - Just Ride Bikes.