The Rapha Women's Pro Team Lightweight Gore Tex Jacket provides excellent weatherproofing and is lightweight enough to pack into a pocket and forget. The fit could be improved, but most riders will be more than happy to overlook this when the alternative is being soaked - from the inside and out.
Excellent weather protection
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When Rapha partnered with Gore to create a lightweight waterproof jacket with the legendary Shakedry fabric, our ears pricked up - and rightly so.
Shakedry garments have re-written the rulebook on packable jackets. The low bulk 49gsm material does away with the need for a 'face fabric', meaning Gore's hydrophobic membrane becomes the outer. Droplets hits the shell and roll off, and since there's only two layers in total the weight is cut right back to 119g in the case of the size small I had on test.
The most breathable fabric Gore has available means that the days of choosing between getting wet from the outside and wet from the inside are over, too.
I've tested Rapha's Lightweight Shakedry jacket heavily in the UK, but the primary testing ground was on a week away in Gran Canaria. Those who have visited the island will understand what I mean when I say the weather can be 'changeable' - most notable is the difference between the South and the North of the island. The jacket came in handy many times - particularly on the day we tackled the 45 kilometre climb from Maspalomas (brilliant sunshine) to Pico de las Nieves (thick fog and horizontal rain).
In the 25°c heat at the coast, conditions were obviously far too warm to wear the jacket. However, it was so lightweight I really could pack it into my pocket (or spare water bottle) and completely forget about it. In the past, I've avoided taking a 'packable' because the bulk in my back pocket would get on my nerves, but that's not the case here.
As conditions cooled, I could pull the layer on without getting overly hot. And on top of the mountain? It's hard to put into words my gratitude to this jacket - this day (and several others) would have been a lot less enjoyable without it.
Rapha has used a lightweight, elasticated binding at the hem to offer a close fit and prevent water getting in, and a high collar keeps drafts out when zipped to the top. The cuffs are bonded on the top of the wrist, with an elasticated underneath, again keeping water out.
Before I get on to the negatives, a look at some of the handy trinkets. There's a velcro fastened 'placket' (a decorative front panel to you and me) which sits over the zip to further add weather proofing, a double zip so you can undo from the bottom (handy for reaching into pockets) and a sweat-wicking lining on the inside of the collar.
Rapha has included a contrast armband on the left side. This is notable because one of the major drawbacks of Shakedry fabric is that it can't be coloured - so the London based brand has one up on other garments using the material, in terms of visibility.
Whilst the material is hardwearing, Rapha says you can't wear the jacket with a backpack - which will be a major issue for a lot of riders, though not for myself - mostly working from home, commuting isn't a big part of my schedule.
So far, so mostly good - but since Rapha's Women's Pro Team Lightweight Gore Tex Jacket did not receive a perfect 10/10, it must have fallen down somewhere.
For me, the fit wasn't spot on. I tested a size small, and would usually opt for either a small or x-small from Rapha. Whilst the chest was fairly tight, there were areas which were quite baggy, notably the arms which really flapped around on long, windy descents. This became annoying and was far from aero.
Whilst the armband is a great addition, I still would really rather more visibility in a jacket to be worn in low light conditions - whilst it might impact the breathability, weatherproofing or weight, I would appreciate some extra white or reflective panels around the rear.
At £220, it's not an inexpensive item by any stretch of the imagination. However, it does come in cheaper than Castelli's Idro Women's (£260) and Gore's C5 Shakedry (£280) - sadly at the moment consumers do just have to accept that this fabric isn't available at a friendly price tag.
Criticisms aside, during a very wet December I've rarely left the house without the Shakedry on my shoulders or packed into a pocket - and with several options within my collection to choose from, that says a lot for its reliability and resilience.
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