Putting Rapha's adventurewear to the adventure test
Words - James Raison Images - Lana Adams
I love Rapha. I’m a proud Raphapharian. Basically the whole La Velocita team are big fans of their Rapha gear. So it really bummed me out when I wore the Brevet Lightweight jersey and didn’t really like it. It’s like your straight A student kid got a C+ for no reason. You’re disappointed because you know they can do better.
Before I get into that, the Brevet Lightweight is Rapha’s “jersey designed for adventures in the hottest conditions on self-supported rides.” It proudly spruiks voluminous pockets for all your vittles, reflective panelling to make you visible from space, wicking fabrics to keep your horrid sweat off your skin, and anti-bacterial odour-resistant treatment. Sounds pretty good. It is pretty good. Except when it isn’t.
Describing this jersey feels like talking to Homer Simpson about cursed frogurt. For everything good, there’s something bad. Thankfully the jersey doesn’t contain potassium benzoate though.
- The jersey has big pockets to hold all your things. That’s good! But the waist gripper is only about 20cm wide so actually loading up the pockets causes annoying sag and bouncing. That’s bad…
- The jersey has reflective trim so you’re super visible all the time. That’s good! The seams where they’ve joined the different materials are at perfect nipple-shredding height so wearing it without a base layer hurts after a couple of hours. That’s bad…
- The jersey is made of fast-dry fabrics. That’s good! The fabrics don’t feel very nice on your skin. That’s bad…
- The jersey is anti-bacterial and odour-resistant. That’s good! Yes, that’s actually an awesome feature and has no catch.
There are some things going for it though. You are visible from 3 postcodes away with those colours and reflectiveness. The pockets are really nice so long as you don’t put too much in them. The anti-odour treatment is pure magic, and I put it to a disgusting test. I took the claims of anti-odour as a personal challenge and wore it for 7 straight days of riding on my Mawson Trail adventure. No washing. No rain. Hot conditions. 40 hours of riding. It was gross. The jersey could basically stand up by itself. The smell? Almost nothing, just a light whiff of scent. Truly amazing. The rest of my gear smelled like a burning rubbish dump. It does breathe well too. I rode this thing in 30+ degree heat and it did a good job of keeping me cool.
After my ambivalent experience with the jersey, I was very happy to find the the gilet is very well sorted indeed.
It continues Rapha’s streak of placing panels to balance warmth and breathability. You’ve got windproof material covering your whole torso, shoulders, and lower back. The under-arm side panels and upper back are breathable. The zipper is offset so you aren’t stacking it on top of your jersey, and there’s some bright’n’colourful trim to contrast the dark blue and help you be seen. That’s it really, it’s a very uncomplicated piece.
That spartan simplicity and lightness of material makes it a top-notch gilet for changing temperatures. There’s warmth and breathability exactly where you need it. Its temperature range is impressive as a result. I wore it around 10-20 degrees depending on the jersey underneath it. The gilet then rolls up tiny and stuffs away easily into your pocket.
The frustration here is that the lightweight brevet jersey is close to being very good. A full waist gripper and better panel placement would make it the jersey I wanted it to be. I took the adventure jersey on an adventure "in hot conditions on a self-supported ride" as Rapha specify, and it should have shone. But it didn’t it. The colour is great, fabric breathes and miraculously doesn’t stink. But it’s just not very nice to wear. That’s the only Rapha item I’ve ever said that about and it makes me sad to do so. For $210 Australian retail it needs to be better.
The gilet on the other hand is just a damn good performer and one I happily recommend. It’s light, warm, and breathable. It packs down tiny as well. Australian retail is $150 and that's a reasonable price for a jersey like this. Nothing but raised thumbs over here.
Disclosure statement: These items were sent by Rapha Australia for review.