Review: Rapha Pro Team Long Sleeve Thermal Jersey

New Rapha jersey is a deserving new addition to the Pro Team range and a brilliant performer in the right conditions – but be warned the ‘winter’ claims.

Love it or hate it, if there’s one thing you can say about Rapha, it’s that it polarizes opinions.

Unapologetically premium, the British apparel brand’s high-end prices, exclusive membership and moody black and white photography won’t appeal to all, but by CEO Simon Mottram’s own admission, Rapha is ‘everything to some, not something for all’ – and I tend to agree. The Marmite of cycling brands you could say – if Marmite charged £250 a jar.

Whatever your stance, there is no denying that the products are high quality. Exotic merino wools, subtle, stylish designs and fitted, race-ready cuts come as standard.

But if there’s one item that is likely going to split opinions as much as the brand itself, it’s the new Pro Team Long Sleeve Thermal Jersey, released as part of the new winter collection. Billed as ‘a cold weather training jersey for riders and racers looking to stay aero without freezing’ it bears all the hallmarks of Rapha’s highly popular, performance-orientated ‘Pro Team’ collection. A tight-fitting race cut, simple, clean colourways and a moisture-wicking fabric for when you’re putting serious efforts in are all familiar features.

Pro Team winter Rapha jersey front

Three main rear pockets plus a small zipped compartment for valuables take care of the practicalities, while a mini pump holder ring in one pocket and handy lens cloth in the other are nice touches. Reflective Pro Team stripes on the rear and wrists ensure improved visibility, while subtle logos at the base of the full-length zipper and on the armband complete the look.

Slipping into the jersey you can feel the quality instantly. For my 6’3 slim frame the size L fits like it was fitted by the best tailor on Savile Row – no creases, no flapping, just an impeccably fitted garment. It feels fast before you’ve even sat on the bike. With the soft, fleecy inner lining against your skin you feel ready to take on whatever winter can throw at you.

And that is where, for some, this Rapha jersey may not quite meet its lofty expectations.

Pro Team winter Rapha jersey rear

For a jersey billed as a ‘thermal’ winter garment it isn’t as warm as you might expect. On several rides throughout October and November I found that it excels in slightly milder autumn conditions down to around 5 or 6 degrees. It does a brilliant job of keeping the body warm whilst wicking sweat. But on those rides when the cold really bites it just doesn’t quite cut it. A lack of windproofing doesn’t help matters, and even with a winter base layer underneath it simply won’t be warm enough on those really cold mornings below 5 degrees. It could work well as a mid layer with a winter jacket over the top, but that’s not really its intended purpose, as the reflective detailing suggests.

If you can live with that and you love the look and feel as much as I do then you can’t go far wrong with this. The Rapha Pro Team Long Sleeve Thermal jersey is a beautifully crafted, brilliantly fitting, elegant piece of cooler weather apparel that fully deserves its place in the long-running Pro Team range. It’s a go to item for me between 5-15 degrees, and for autumn and spring riding you’re unlikely to find a better looking and performing piece. When it comes to the business end of deep winter however, when windproofing and genuine thermal performance are non-negotiable, you’ll need something more robust if you really do want to ‘stay aero without freezing.’

Rating 4/5

Price: £150 /

Don’t want to go out in the cold anyway? Check out our review of TrainerRoad and get faster this winter without leaving the house: