Styling and comfortable, and at a good price. Not for the sweaty among us though, as it's not the most breathable
Quite clammy during high output efforts
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When it comes to wet weather, particularly in the winter, you have a few options. You could do the cycling equivalent of hibernating and just go and ride Zwift in your shed (no, not your ‘pain cave’, please), but this isn’t for me. You could commit to riding the same amount as usual, come rain or shine, and kit yourself out with one of the absolute best waterproof cycling jackets money can buy, along with some of the best bike lights. Alternatively, as our Buddhist readership will no doubt be ahead of me on, the ideal may be The Middle Way.
You may not want to hear this, but if you don’t regularly ride in the rain then you probably don’t need the absolute best in terms of waterproofing and breathability. When the time comes to ride in foul weather, having a top-tier shell will certainly make life more comfortable, but if it sits in the cupboard for most of the year then it’s money wasted.
In my experience a lot of riders want a waterproof jacket to get them through the occasional grim day when they have committed to ride, or are suddenly overcome with a Belgian urge to have an absolutely grim time in a downpour. They need a jacket that’ll get them through without breaking the bank. These jackets tend to sit around the £100 / €120 / $150 mark, with proper waterproof membranes, taped seams, and waterproof zips. Enough to get you through a big ride in the rain, but perhaps not enough to leave you wanting more by the end of the day.
The Rapha Core Rain Jacket II is, on paper, one of these jackets. A £110 RRP, a non-branded membrane, but an aesthetic and fit that’s clearly a cut above truly budget options. I’ve been out in the rain in it over the winter, both on the road and for fast gravel action, so if it takes your interest then buckle up and read on.
Design and aesthetics
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of the design features, I must say I really like the look of this jacket. I was glad to have the yellow one. Rapha describes it as ‘gold’ and the pictures on its site don’t really do the colour justice. It’s much more like ‘Coleman’s English Mustard’; a properly cheerful, sunny yellow. All else aside, on a day out in the rain, having something that’s a colour other than black or gravel-specific olive green is actually more of a morale booster than you might expect. It also helps that you'll be a little more visible to drivers.
From a design point of view, it’s classic Rapha, with a vibe that traces back to the original Classic Jersey. One block colour, one sleeve stripe, wordmark on the chest. Bosh. There’s also a much bigger ‘Rapha’ perched just above your bottom.
The main zipper is single-ended, with a heavily plasticised outer coating that makes it quite a sticky operator; finesse is needed, or two hands. It’s also offset to the right by a couple of inches. Again, I like the aesthetics, but I’ve never felt hamstrung by stacked zips; the problem this purportedly solves.
The neck is unlined, meaning a slight drop in next-to-skin comfort in the dry but also less soggy material sat against your neck when it is wet. The cuffs have a wide Lycra gripper in lieu of a Velcro or other elasticated cinch; this is my preferred system as it does a better job of keeping the wind out, though you do have soggy material on your wrists. If you’re prone to cold hands this isn’t ideal, but then if you’re prone to cold hands you’re probably wearing some of the best winter cycling gloves anyway, so it’s not a dealbreaker. The front lower hem is good and wide and stiff, and while the tail isn’t overly dropped and lacks any grippers, it has a decent elastic cinch for those who want to seal themselves in.
Finally, there are six holes under each armpit. In all honesty, beyond proper large pit zips, small perforations such as this in any jacket are akin to trying to bail out the titanic with a martini glass. If the jacket itself isn’t breathable enough, you’re going to sink.
To torture my Titanic metaphor some more, when it isn’t raining you will definitely feel like you’ve hit an iceberg... By which I mean it’s quite a clammy jacket, and the waterproof fabric (for which we don’t have hydrostatic head and breathability figures) isn’t hugely breathable. The pit perforations don’t really add anything to the general equation, besides something to mention on a marketing spec sheet.
If you’re a sweaty rider, or your wet weather riding takes place in mild conditions, then I’d suggest looking elsewhere. While not the same kind of jacket, I found the Endura GV500 jacket to be more breathable, and its road-going sibling is made of an even more breathable fabric.
On the flip side, when it’s properly raining (I'm talking “It’s raining sideways”) then it does a marvellous job of keeping the elements at bay. In a constant deluge then it’s perfectly capable of keeping you dry, primarily as the wind chill and surface water do cool you down and bring you back from the brink of sweatiness. The DWR coating was sufficient too, no complaints there.
- If you need a primer about durable water repellents, as well as anything else regarding the technicalities of these jackets then head to our guide to how waterproof fabrics work.
As to the fit, this does a great job of signposting the intended use compared to the brand's now-endangered Lightweight Shakedry Jacket (Shakedry fabric is to be retired by Gore due to a ban on PFC's).
I am a VLB (Very Lucky Boy), and have both this Core Rain Jacket and the Shakedry option in a medium. The Shakedry is noticeably more of a race fit, so not so brilliant for layering; a race, or at least a high-tempo option for sure. Here though the fit is still very much road, with a slim silhouette, but there is room for some insulation within. If you wanted to go for a trimmer fit I suspect you could get away with a size down but I suggest you don’t as it’ll probably be too tight across the shoulders. There is some stretch, but hardshell jackets aren’t so forgiving in terms of fit as mid and base layers, and having a super tight option may save you some watts but cost you in comfort.
I actually think the fit is perhaps the strongest card this jacket plays. It’s tailored much more like a premium jacket than others at this price point, and consequently is more comfortable to wear. The cuff design is simple but cosy, and I’d rather be able to cinch the rear than rely on tacky grippers.
Rapha has a reputation for premium goods, and at times concurrently premium prices. In this case, I think you’re getting a decent, well made, and protective waterproof cycling jacket for about the price you’d expect. It’s around the magic £100 mark that seems to mentally separate the truly budget offerings from those you’d consider ‘entry level’.
No, it’s not as breathable as some, but it’s certainly waterproof enough and I think the price is about bang on. It’s not the bargain of the century, but you’re certainly not getting ripped off either
‘Style over substance’ is often the criticism levelled at Rapha. I don’t think it's fair to tar a brand with such a wide ranging brush. In the case of the Rapha Core Rain Jacket II you get style and substance. I don’t think the waterproof fabric is as attuned to high output efforts as similar offerings from Endura, but if style and fit are important factors for you then it absolutely warrants consideration. Who doesn’t like to look good, after all?
Not top tier performance then, but a waterproof cycling jacket that happily justifies its RRP, and will likely make riding in the rain a lot more enjoyable provided you don’t run extremely hot.
|Fit||For this price point its the most considered and premium cut of the bunch||9/10|
|Protection||Heavy rain isn't going to be an issue, though it's not on a par with premium options||8/10|
|Features||Marked down for a single ended, sticky zip, and no pockets or access to jersey pockets||7/10|
|Breathability||It's a clammy jacket if you run hot, there's no escaping that||7/10|
|Value||I think for the cut, comfort, and protection it offers the price is spot on||8/10|
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