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The bright and fun design makes it easy to spot, but Rapha's Pro Team Crit Suit is difficult to get on and off thanks to its awkward zip design – and its rivals have a simple solution. The neat number pockets could be too dark for a fussy commissaire, too, and the percentage of riders who could actually run this suit (at least in the UK) is actually quite small.
Criterium racing, if you've never had the pleasure, is a form of road racing usually held on short, tight courses with a lot of corners and a ferocious pace. While you can rock up in a jersey and shorts, skinsuits have long been popular as comfort isn't really a consideration for an event that only lasts an hour.
Rapha's Pro Team Crit Suit has a number of features that Rapha says are perfectly suited to crit, but while some – like the easy-to-spot design and close fit – are indeed very useful, the race number pockets, zip design and the long arms and legs it hard to get on with.
Kicking off with the good stuff, the fabric is very comfortable against the skin and the fit, once you've struggled it on and pedalled away, is very good.
The pad is comfortable, with a soft cover that's stayed soft through several washes.
The look is also great for your superfans at the side of the circuit. Mine generally spend the whole race not seeing me, so the easy-to-spot colours mean 'we never saw you' is, for once, not the first thing out of their mouths.
The reflective design could be useful under floodlights, too – your superfans will simply have no excuses.
Now the bad stuff. My issues centred around the zip, and how the jersey part attaches to the lowers. The zip is the correct length – any longer and it would bunch up when you're in the drops – but it's stitched in a rather old-school way.
The Crit Suit closes in the shape of a 'V', with the base of the zip stitched directly to the shorts section. This means the upward stretch of the top half is limited by the zip, and getting into it (or back out of it) is really tricky.
It's also only really comfortable once on the bike and hunched down in the drops. For the rest of the time, the collar digs into your neck as there's just no give in the front.
Rapha could have used a half jersey design, where the top half is not stitched to the bottom for a couple of inches either side of the zip. Castelli uses it on its Sanremo 4.0 suit – which is easy to get on and off, properly fitted in any riding position and comfortable to stand in pre-race – and so do a number of other brands.
Rapha has also gone with relatively long sleeves and legs, and I find them just a little too long. Given that the sleeves and shorts are already at my elbows and knees, sizing up to ease the zip issue is impossible.
I like the idea of the number pockets, but again, they're perhaps not that well implemented – the mesh is really too dingy and the numbers are not visible enough (even under studio lights for the photos!). Turn up to an evening race in this and you can bet on a commissaire complaining they can't see the number clearly.
Add to this the fact that, in the UK at least, riders with category three race licences (or above) are required to wear team or club kit and you're left with a market of fourth-category riders, for whom this is a rather expensive choice.
Unfortunately the Crit Suit isn't available under Rapha's custom programme either, so it's not even a choice for race teams – who I suspect would be the parties most interested in a garment like this.
At £210, the Pro Team Crit Suit is midrange against the likes of the Castelli San Remo 4.0 Speed Suit (£250) or BioRacer's Speedwear Concept RR Suit (£188). There are also options from Kalas, Santini, Vermarc and NoPinz should you want a custom team design.
The Rapha Pro Team Crit Suit isn't for me. As much as I love the bright design, number pocket idea and soft fabrics, the zip creates use and fit issues that Rapha's rivals just don't have. The execution of the number pockets also leaves a lot to be desired.
Bright, good-looking and sleek when in the drops, but uncomfortable in most other ways
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Rapha Men's Pro Team Crit Suit
Size tested: Small
Tell us what the product is for
Rapha says this is: "Created for the demands of racing all-out for an hour, the Crit Suit features innovative technical features and a unique design with reflective applications to ensure you stand out on the startline when racing in low light."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Lightweight, highly breathable fabrics for temperature regulation
Full-length zip with bonded inner placket avoid irritation
Reworked RAPHA logo on the chest and legs
Cut longer in the leg for aerodynamic advantage
Low-profile silicone leg grippers for stability
Mesh-lined pockets aid airflow
Upper section (main)
Contrast fabric 1
Contrast fabric 2
There's no bunching when in the drops and the fabric is tight but not restrictive, so it's good on the bike. But the zip prevents any stretch in the front panel and that makes sitting up or standing uncomfortable, and getting in and out is difficult. The long legs and arms also mean sizing up is not an option.
Sizing is accurate.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Fine. In with the rest of my kit at 30 degrees and don't tumble. Standard stuff.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tuck low on the bike and the Crit Suit does well. Sit up, get off or try to get changed and life gets less comfortable.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The bright design is very easy to spot.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The zip design is such a disappointment, and seriously hampers comfort and ease of use.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
It's middle of the road: Castelli's SanRemo 4.0 suit is £250, and BioRacer's Road Race suit is £188.
Did you enjoy using the product? Not really
Would you consider buying the product? No
Would you recommend the product to a friend? No
Use this box to explain your overall score
I can't really get away from the fit issues created by the zip design and the potential issues created by such a dark material on the number pockets.
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!