It's a lot of money for a gilet, but it's a lot of gilet for the money

Remember that tank-top that your mother forced you to wear to keep you warm and the wind off your chest? Well, the Rapha Softshell Gilet is just like that but trendied up because it's made of softshell, called a gilet and brought to you by Rapha. And this time you're not going to have a tantrum every time you have to put it on. Although your wallet might.

Based on Rapha's Classic Softshell Jacket the gilet is designed specifically for winter cycling and claimed to be totally windproof and highly water resistant as it has a breathable laminate to keep you dry. The gilet is cut long in the back to fit a cycling tuck and has a dropped tail for wet-weather protection. The arm holes are reinforced with extra softshell fabric, cut to allow greater freedom of movement on the bike and decorated with a ring of reflective piping. The full-length front zip is offset in typical Rapha fashion and neatly follows the line of one of the tram-tracks of piping on the front keeping everything all very smart and stylish, there's the obligatory zip-dock at the top, wind-cheating baffle behind the zip and a light fleece inside the collar which is tailored to sit higher at the front. Oh, best not forget that extra collar detailing includes a teeny little reflective Rapha logo sitting quietly on the outside left and a pink ribbon hanging loop.

Two large pockets grace the back with their openings angled to the outside to help access. The right-hand pocket has a pink stitched buttonhole in the back through which to feed your favoured entertainment device headphone cable and matching pink loops up the inside of the body keep it tidy on the way up to your ears, whilst on the pocket's outside sits a zipped key pocket. On the left-hand side panel there's a concealed valuables pocket that's so hidden it took several rides to reveal itself. Nestling between the two main pockets is a mini-pump sleeve (other long slim items can also fit) which has a rubberised hem at the top to help secure a clip-on rear light. Parallel lines of reflective piping to match the front run the full length of the back with a reflective Rapha logo to top things off and let car-drivers know how swish you are, handy to have as the black colour, whilst being dapper is not the most visible hue, this tends to bother some more than others. The hem has a pink drawstring with friction locks to make adjustment on the move easier.

The Softshell Gillet is one of those items of clothing that has you making involuntary cooing noises while your hands run up and down the soft and warm softshell whenever you slip it on. The fit is sublime, everything is "just right" and the flattering cut and detail does wonders for a not-quite race-fit body. On the bike it's just as lovely, the lightweight softshell makes it a non bulky yet cosy extra layer ideal for when a common or garden flimsy nylon gillet isn't enough but a extra layer complete with sleeves is too much and it's just the core that wants the extra warmth and wind protection of a thicker layer, and the pockets mean there's no fumbling beneath layers for mid-ride needs.

The cut is loose enough to fit over a couple of winter layers yet snug enough that it doesn't flap about in the drizzly gusts that it's most likely to be worn into, and the reinforced armholes mean they don't bag out and catch the wind either. Although the gilet is designed to be worn over the top it's tight enough to be worn underneath bulky heavyweight jackets should you wish, a torso-lagging technique that was used on several particularly cold rides. And yet despite Rapha saying it's designed specifically for winter cycling the softshell gilet is far more season versatile than that, particularly useful in the intermediate months when a whole extra layer of clothing might be too much but a little bit of core insulation is needed, or for rides at either end of the day when the temperature has a certain chilly mood about it.


It's expensive, it's very Rapha, it's also very lovely, stylish and so exquisitely tailored that you could wear it at a dinner party, maybe. But in spite of that, and because of that, it's become a firm favourite and an essential companion when layering up for any ride that might encounter some kind of chill and the core needs cosseting, leading to miles of thought spun on how life had been possible without one. Sometimes a piece of cycling kit just works, this is one of those times.

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road.cc test report

Make and model: Rapha Softshell Gilet

Size tested: Medium

Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?

Agree with all of that, it's a warm and versatile piece of clothing but it's not just for the Winter.

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

The Softshell (polyester 81%; spandex; 10%; Hytrel membrane 9%) material is 100% windproof for core body warmth and water-resistant yet highly breathable to keep you dry. Reflective piping and Rapha logos aid visibility and there's a rear rubber light grip in the centre pocket. Rear pockets are positioned to reduce sweating and centre weight when loaded.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
Rate the product for performance:
Rate the product for durability:
Rate the product for weight, if applicable:
Rate the product for comfort, if applicable:
Rate the product for value:

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

The gilet did it's job perfectly, warm, comfortable and Raphish.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

The fit, the pockets, the warmth, the fact that I used it more than I thought I ever would.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Nothing at all apart from maybe the colour. Well I liked the colour, but a more visible alternative might appeal.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? Yes, I have a birthday coming up.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Overall rating: 9/10

About the tester

Age: 42  Height: 180cm  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: It varies as to the season.  My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.


Simon E [3097 posts] 8 years ago

£150 for a tank top?!!

But it's not made-to-measure, organic or fairtrade so why the hefty premium? I know it's a bit of a stuck record but goodness me that's a lot of money.

You can buy three Altura gilets for that much, and don't ask me about my perfectly adequate 'softshell' Aldi gilet...

I suppose it might look OK with a bow tie, if that's your cup of Earl Grey.

mad_scot_rider [581 posts] 8 years ago

A fair question would be exactly what it offers to rate a 7 on value?

Do the pockets come stuffed with caviar? Does is stream HD movies while you're stopped at lights?

demoff [327 posts] 8 years ago

Posing Elitism.

eddie11 [118 posts] 8 years ago

ha ha

top marks for pairing it with a torm jersey  4

Martin Thomas [384 posts] 8 years ago

But...but... how can they justify that price when the wind jacket (or whatever the stowaway's called these days) is just a tenner more? Actually, just checked, it's £15 now, but the point stands. I'm all for paying for what you get and all that, but I think this is ludicrously overpriced.

Tony Farrelly [2899 posts] 8 years ago

It gets a 7 on value because it works very, very well, and it is built to last. I wouldn't spend £150 on a gilet but then I've got other calls on my cash… Vecchiojo would, and he's lived with the thing. More impressively still, he works for us, so not entirely sure where the cash will be coming from.

I'd also add that you can pay more for gilets not made by Rapha http://www.wiggle.co.uk/assos-element-zero-gilet/

and that of course paying lots of money for a gilet is not compulsory.

@eddie11 aren't we tinkers. Thought we'd average the price of the whole ensemble down a bit

The _Kaner [1143 posts] 8 years ago

You see they (Rapha and Tørm)can all play along together..nicely....  13

step-hent [725 posts] 8 years ago

Ha - I was wearing exactly this combo last week, and very good it is too. The gilet is a seriously great bit of kit - I know it is expensive, but it is lovely to wear and it does work brilliantly, so I still think it was worth the money (albeit that I can see why people think it is too expensive).

woollee23 [99 posts] 8 years ago

This is outrageously expensive for what is ostensibly a functional bit of kit that is only worn as a temporary measure. For something a fraction of the price that does the same job check out - http://www.lidl.co.uk/cps/rde/xchg/SID-0B137E3B-DB945715/lidl_uk/hs.xsl/...

VecchioJo [409 posts] 8 years ago

what do you mean by "temporary measure"?

did you read the review, as the Rapha Gilet was worn for an entire Winter season of 4+ hour rides i would hardly call it "temporary"

thanks for the link, i'm off to get some Spitfire Ale on the cheap

woollee23 [99 posts] 8 years ago

I guess it's horses for courses, but for long winter rides I'd prefer a softshell with sleeves for a top layer.

That said, as I live in the People's Republic of Geordieland, anything other than an NUFC away shirt could be considered to be somewhat overdressed, whatever the occasion  3

(I'm not a Georide, by the way)

Oh - @ eddie11 - I know you in the real world, don't I?  1