This article originally appeared on BikeRadar
You could argue that Rapha is rather late to the 'Gabba party' as most brands have already launched their own version of Castelli's game changer. But this isn't a 'me too' product; Rapha set out to raise the bar.
The Shadow kit was developed for and with Team Sky, which used it during the 2015 Classics. Rapha didn't start with the fabric, it went back to the yarn.
- Highs: Brilliantly effective; very comfortable
- Lows: Colossally expensive; stealth-ninja visibility
- Buy if: You have money to burn and want a tip-top combination of breathability and weatherproofing
The thread itself has a Durable Water Resistant (DWR) coating applied before it's woven into the fabric. It then undergoes a steam-pressure treatment, shrinking the fabric by half and creating a very dense weave that's claimed to greatly increase its resistance to rain and wind while retaining breathability. Finally, another coat of DWR is applied.
The fabric is described as hydrophobic. That sounds like it's scared of water but really it's the other way around. When the two meet, raindrops run away screaming. As with all DWR products, you have to clean it with a technical wash and reproof it occasionally but Rapha claims that the two-stage coating means this is less frequent.
The fabric has slightly less stretch than normal kit and comes up a bit smaller, so make sure you try it on before you rip the tags off. The jersey requires a base layer as it isn't designed to sit next to skin. Generally the cut is really good, though we'd like the sleeves to be angled forward for riding to eliminate the stretch across the back that's visible in the main photo.
Through a number of rides in disgusting weather, the Shadow kit really impressed. It keeps you dry in the rain, the fleece-backed bib short is warm enough at 2ºC, chill air is always held at bay and the pad is superb.
The jersey is good down to around 6ºC with a regular base layer and should also be wearable on wet days when the mercury is in the upper teens. Summer then.
It showed itself best on a hill rep training session, working very hard on the way up, sweating, and then coasting back down at 50kph in cool air. The combination of breathability and windproofing is excellent.
The Shadow kit is twice the price of most rivals; it is the best that I've tried but it isn't twice as good. The only other niggle is the lack of reflectivity. Rapha say it's impossible to bond to the DWR fabric.
Rapha says lots more Shadow kit is on the way: warmers, caps and so on. That's good news in our book.
- Jersey: £220 / $320 / $385
- Bib shorts: £260 / $375 / AU$450