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The Rapha Men's Classic Winter Gore-Tex Jacket is an exceptional cycling jacket for a range of winter rides. The fit is relaxed for easy layering over thermal long sleeve jerseys, and the lightweight design provides a surprisingly good amount of warmth.
My first ride in this jacket was a muddy mountain bike adventure in some incredibly heavy rain. That, combined with the rather sloppy trail, made for challenging conditions for the jacket. It came through this test without being fazed at all. Whatever Rapha is saying about the Classic Winter Jacket just being water-resistant, the rain and wheel spray that it fended off leads me to think it rather out-performed those claims. Which was nice, because I didn't get wet.
According to Gore, Infinium – which Rapha is using for the Classic Winter jacket – is not one particular fabric, but a name under which it bundles all of the non-waterproof materials it produces. Rapha doesn't specify which Gore-Tex fabrics are used, but the balance between protection from the elements and breathability feels spot on to me.
A steep and technical climb to the top of the trails had me unzipping the jacket, but it wasn't a properly cold day and the slow riding speed, high humidity and challenging technical nature of the riding was the perfect storm for making me work up a sweat.
For normal road rides through the November test period, the jacket has been ideal and really easy to layer under, depending on the conditions. Throughout these rides I have felt comfortably warm, only working up a good sweat when I started really pushing the pace on Bath's numerous climbs.
The thin design is a lot warmer than it looks and the brushed inner provides a surprising amount of insulation. For most of my rides, I stuck to wearing a summer baselayer and jersey under the jacket, only needing thicker layers when the weather turned really cold and wet.
One aspect of the jacket that I have really liked is the fit, which is slightly relaxed. This is not only more accommodating in terms of body sizes, but also makes it really easy to wear over thermal layers. As Rapha has the Pro Team range for the racers, I think this relaxed cut is ideal for the purposes of the jacket. It is comfortable and allows you to move freely, but doesn't flap around in the wind too much.
Down at the hem, there is a drawcord if you want to pull the bottom of the jacket in tight.
Rapha has moved from underarm vents to two chest vents, which also double up as pockets for small items like keys. I didn't use the chest vents that much – I found that going full gas up a steep climb required the jacket to be fully undone; I'd say that the chest vents are better used when you want to release a little heat, rather than for instant cooling.
Rapha has included a number of reflective elements and panels on the jacket that, along with this lovely bright colour, made me feel about as visible as possible on gloomy days.
At the back of the jacket, Rapha has used its two-pocket design which it says makes access with big gloves a bit easier. I'd agree with that claim. Fishing snacks or my house keys out of the pockets was simple, and the added opening space makes stuffing any spare clothing in there a bit quicker.
The sleeves are finished with storm cuffs that lock over the top of gloves really well, though I'd say that putting the jacket on over gloves is the easier way to do it. Gloves with a chunkier wrist, like deep winter ones, can be tricky to get under the storm cuff, so if you take a glove off while riding, it can be very frustrating to try to get it sorted again without stopping.
At £270, this jacket is a premium option, but the exceptional performance certainly helps to justify the price. You can spend more, too – Le Col's HC Jacket is £300 for a similar promise of a water-resistant softshell with thermal properties.
The Gore C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Thermo jacket that Stu reviewed is £100 less. Its performance in the rain isn't quite as impressive, but you could get a dedicated rain jacket with the money saved.
Rapha's fully waterproof Pro Team Lightweight Rain jacket is £30 less (£240), while for £50 more its Insulated Gore-Tex Jacket (£320) promises you full waterproofing and warmth.
My advice would be to consider how much riding you actually do in the rain. Unless you're spending several hours in heavy rain, the Classic Winter jacket will do just fine.
In conclusion, this is a high-priced product that backs it up with brilliant performance. The fit and cut are both great, the outer fabric is very water-resistant, while the inner fabric provides a surprising amount of warmth.
A brilliant jacket for varied winter riding conditions
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Men's Classic Winter Gore-Tex Jacket
Size tested: Small
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 Classic Winter Jacket is designed to help you enjoy the winter months, rather than enduring them. For rides that begin and end in challenging conditions, it's made using a wind- and water-resistant, three-layer GORE-TEX fabric from the INFINIUM™ range that balances protection from the elements with excellent breathability and durability. Designed to be used in coldest of winter temperatures as part of a layering system, the jacket is fitted to allow space for a jersey and base layer beneath, while high-stretch storm cuffs form an airtight seal around gloves. An adjustable drawcord at the hem combines with a raised collar to keep warm air locked in. If the temperature or the pace picks up, chest zips allow for extra ventilation and double as easy access pockets for small essentials. The jacket's chest zip pockets, armband, shoulders and pockets all feature reflective trims for improved visibility while two easy-access rear pockets provide space for ride fuel to keep you riding through the freeze.'
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the jacket?
GORE-TEX INFINIUM™ fabric technology
Water- and wind-resistant fabric with comfortable stretch
Chest zips for easy ventilation and extra storage
High-stretch storm cuffs form airtight seal around gloves
Adjustable hem and raised collar keep the heat locked in
Two rear pockets provide easy access for gloved hands
Reflective trims throughout for added visibility in low light
How easy is the jacket to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Wash at 40°C and tumble on cool. Simple.
Tell us how the jacket performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well. I was dry and warm on my rides, only getting sweaty when I smashed it up some hills.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the jacket
The water-resistance is incredibly good.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the jacket
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It compares favourably to the Le Col offering at £300; it's £100 more than the Gore C5 Gore-Tex Infinium Thermo, but that has less water resistance.
Did you enjoy using the jacket? Loved it.
Would you consider buying the jacket? I will actively go out in the rain and prefer a proper waterproof.
Would you recommend the jacket to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
It's exceptional. It's warm and highly water resistant while being breathable and comfy too. There's not a lot to say against this jacket.
About the tester
I usually ride: Cannondale Supersix Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 5-10 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, general fitness riding, I specialise in the Cafe Ride!