The Rapha Pro Team Aero jersey brings skinsuit tech to a jersey form while remaining comfortable and fast
All available designs ooze class, even this EF colourway
Sleeves are slightly too long
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Rapha's entry into aerodynamic clothing came back in 2015 when the British brand supplied the original Rapha Pro Team Aero jersey to its then-sponsored WorldTour team, Team Sky.
In the years since the jersey has been given a couple of updates, and today's Pro Team Aero is the jersey of choice for an altogether different WorldTour team, EF Education-Nippo. While Dave Brailsford's men worry about mattress toppers for a good night's sleep, EF's Lachlan Morton is busy bivvying in a hedge after riding 400km in a day wearing sandals.
That same personality can be found in the design of this bright pink jersey, which was sent to us directly from the team's HQ in Girona for our Object of Desire series, where we took a deep dive into the jersey's tongue in cheek design.
But the team doesn't ignore the so-called 'marginal gains' coined by Team Sky, and beneath the design, there's a genuinely great cycling jersey that we deem worthy of a place in our guide to the best cycling jerseys.
Unsurprisingly with its name, it's a jersey designed with aerodynamics at the forefront, and the Pro Team Aero has been a mainstay in the Rapha range ever since its inception. At £145.00 / $195.00 / €175.00 / AU$255, it's about as far away from cheap cycling clothing as you'll get, but is it a worthy exchange for your hard-earned cash?
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Design and aesthetics
In the 2021 range, the Pro Team Aero jersey is available in a choice of either black, navy or mustard. Of course, our test jersey is none of the above, but beneath the garish pink EF Education-Nippo design lies the very same jersey, which is constructed from four different blends of polyester and elastane, depending on the panel in question.
The entire front of the jersey is a lightweight material that is silky smooth to the touch. This material extends to the front of the arms, too, but the rear-facing half of the arms are made from a dimpled texture that, in a way, resembles the scales of a fish.
The same dimpled material is used across the shoulders and the top three inches of the back, while the panel that covers the majority of the back is made from an even lighter-weight material that is designed in such a way that it looks pinstriped when caught in the right light.
The inner face of the three back pockets are made using a similar dimpled material as the shoulders, but reinforced for durability, and the outer face is made from the same material as the jersey's front panels. The jersey I have here is limited to the standard three pockets, but the jersey available to buy also comes with an extra zippered valuables pocket hidden into the right hand pocket.
On the standard colourway designs, Rapha's iconic block of six stripes is placed on the right of three pockets. A large Rapha wordmark sits under each arm, and the same small logos live at either side of the bottom of the jersey's main zipper at the front.
The arms are contemporarily designed to finish just above the elbow, and the position of the neckline offers a perfect balance of coverage and comfort. The zip itself does touch my neck when I'm in a more relaxed on-bike position, but the zip garage keeps the metal of the zip from chafing or causing any discomfort.
The lower back extends to offer ample coverage when in an aggressive riding position, and a silicone gripper is used across the lower hem to keep things in place. This, combined with the overall compressive fit of the jersey as a whole means that even with fully laden, unbalanced pockets, (i.e. all the heavy items on one side) the jersey remains balanced.
Overall the fit of the Pro Team Aero jersey is excellent, but we'll admit it won't be for everyone.
Being aerodynamic, it is incredibly figure-hugging, which means it does absolutely nothing to hide one's penchant for eating biscuits. It's not quite compressive to the level of a road suit or time trial speed suit, but as far as standalone jerseys go, it's as compressive, tight and 'aero' as any we've ever used.
Despite this, it doesn't in any way compromise on comfort. There's enough stretch in the material that there's no issue wearing a base layer beneath, and when worn without one, the material feels super soft on the skin. Plus, the jersey is stable enough that there's no chafing, nor can you feel the different textures.
We've been testing a size medium, which fits perfectly - even despite Josh's lanky 6ft 2in frame - and there's no riding up of the jersey's bottom or of the sleeves. If anything, we'd say the sleeves are around a centimetre too long, as the material does fall into the fold of the elbow and bunches up a little when bending the arms.
We've tested the jersey in temperatures ranging from around 10C/50F up to around 25C/77F, in predominantly dry conditions, but with a couple of rain showers.
Of course, as a summer jersey, it came as no surprise that the Pro Team Aero jersey performed well when the temperatures rose. Of course, it doesn't quite offer the same level of performance as the super-lightweight hot-weather jerseys such as the Sportful Bodyfit Pro Evo, Castelli Climber's, or even Rapha's own Flyweight, but it has performed plenty well enough for everything I've thrown at it so far, which is to say it's probably adequate for 95 per cent of the British summer. Its lightweight material wicks away sweat with ease, and even when pushing the pace, we remained comfortably dry.
There's no technology here to keep the rain at bay, but the fast wicking nature of the jersey meant that during a recent ride where the weather couldn't make its mind up, we were able to remain comfortable and warm. Of course, when the rain comes down we're almost immediately wet through, but with such thin material, it doesn't hold onto much water, and it doesn't feel heavy or uncomfortable. Then once the rain stopped, our body heat quickly helped to dry the jersey out.
If you're looking to the Pro Team Aero jersey for racing alone, then Rapha's own Pro Team Aerosuit is likely a better solution to your needs, since it incorporates much of the same fabric technology into a road suit design. Likewise, if you're planning all day comfort in the hottest of temperatures, then a flyweight jersey might be a more adequate solution for the extra breathability on offer.
At £145.00 / $195.00 / €175.00 / AU$255, it might sit right at the very top of the price spectrum, but the Pro Team Aero jersey's price does reflect the technologies that have gone into it, along with the quality, construction and durability on offer, and this is (unfortunately) around the going rate for a top tier aero jersey from the top tier brands. It is possible to get similar from competitors for less, Castelli's Aero Race 6.0 being the 'budget' - said through gritted teeth - offering in the segment at £120.00 / $159.99 / €119.95 / AU$189.00, but solutions from Le Col and Assos are priced at the same level as Rapha.
But if you're looking for a fast, form-fitting jersey that balances aero tech with warm-weather comfort and the convenience of a separate short and jersey combo, then we can't recommend the Pro Team Aero jersey highly enough. It occupies a reasonably specific niche, but it meets its brief with near perfection.
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As the Tech Editor here at Cyclingnews, Josh leads on content relating to all-things tech, including bikes, kit and components in order to cover product launches and curate our world-class buying guides, reviews and deals. Alongside this, his love for WorldTour racing and eagle eyes mean he's often breaking tech stories from the pro peloton too.
On the bike, 30-year-old Josh has been riding and racing since his early teens. He started out racing cross country when 26-inch wheels and triple chainsets were still mainstream, but he found favour in road racing in his early 20s and has never looked back. He's always training for the next big event and is keen to get his hands on the newest tech to help. He enjoys a good long ride on road or gravel, but he's most alive when he's elbow-to-elbow in a local criterium.
By Will Jones