Granted, the fabric blend that Rapha uses for its Lightweight Jersey is only 22 percent wool (the rest is polyester) but it's enough to yield a softer hand on bare skin than most 100 percent synthetics while the visibly open-mesh weave allows for plenty of airflow plus good moisture transfer. Add in the extra-meshy panel down the center of the back and the full front zip and the result is a much cooler feel in sweltering conditions than what we would have expected of something that once covered a decidedly furry sheep.
For sure though, the mostly-black (with requisite white armband, of course) colorway of our test sample isn't the best choice for those residing in more sun-drenched locales as it does absorb quite a lot of heat. Thankfully, Rapha also offers the Lightweight Jersey in white instead – choose accordingly.
Out back, the standard-sized outer pockets have slanted tops for easier access but standing in for Rapha's usual narrow-format 'pump pocket' in the middle is a vertical zipper (with a very handy pull), behind which is a giant expandable pocket that actually runs the full width of the jersey. It can sometimes be a bit difficult to access while rolling along but it's a gem for bulkier items like rain jackets nonetheless. In addition, there's also a cheeky 'pill pocket' tucked on the inside of the jersey – you know, for ibuprofen and stuff.
However, the novel pocket arrangement also results in a lot of material right at your lower back – up to five layers in fact when you factor in the right side's additional concealed zippered pocket. Given the intended summer temperature usage, this isn't exactly what you want in hot and humid conditions.
Tailoring is superb as we've come to expect from Rapha though with a perfect form-fit cut that's neither too tight nor too loose and nary a thread of excess fabric hanging about when you're in the drops. Soft silicone grippers line the rear inside of the lower hem, too, to further help things stay put.
Durability has proven to be very good regardless of what some would think of the overseas sourcing. Thanks in part to the high polyester content, our test jersey is still looking brand new after well over twenty trips through the machine washer and dryer with no signs of fabric wear or stitch fraying.
Unfortunately, all of this comes with the usual Rapha price tag. In spite of the Lightweight Jersey's capable ventilation, well-sorted fit, novel pocket arrangement and solid quality, there's still a premium to be paid for that trademark color-contrast armband and embroidered logo. It's a very good and distinctive looking jersey but at US$175/£105/€115 you really have to want it.