Rapha + Outdoor Voices Sports Bra review
A good option for those seeking light support
The Rapha + Ourdoor Voices sports bra is a good option for road riding, but it's not designed to offer enough support for anything higher impact such as spinning, mountain biking or any running or plyometric work you may do in the gym to support your training. It's quick drying, but I'm still waiting for a brand to produce a sports bra that dries quickly and offers more support.
Great aesthetic at the back
Sports bras are perhaps the most disappointing category for women who cycle. There are so many brands creating beautiful, lightweight jerseys and winter layers which wick sweat away - but none able to create a sports bra carrying the same properties, meaning the underlayer undermines the effectiveness of the outer in almost all conditions.
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The disparity is understandable: creating a sports bra is quite a specialist job (which is why we have specialist brands like Shock Absorber) and creating kit for cyclists is a specialist job. As yet, I don't know of any brand that has successfully merged the two.
From a sports bra I'm looking for support, fast wicking, breathability, something that's easy to get on/off and doesn't chafe in the riding position. The Rapha and Outdoor Voices collaboration meets some of these needs, but not all.
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Rapha + Outdoor Voices Sports Bra: construction
I'm very much a 'Bravissimo customer'; I've got a disproportionally small rib cage which means despite not having particularly big boobs, I wear a 28E/30DD. I tested Rapha's creation in an X-Small to ensure a good, supportive fit at the band and found the fit about right.
This is a 'light support bra'. It's made from a soft, Nylon heavy fabric (72% Nylon, 17% Lycra, 11% Polyester) and looks a lot like the crop tops of pre-teen training bras. At the front, there's a lot of coverage on offer; I could wear it alone without feeling self-conscious over cleavage. The cut swoops in at the edges, this is designed to suit the on-bike position, avoiding the dreaded under-arm chafing.
There's removable padding, which can be useful for covering up those 'smuggling peanuts' moments (particularly prevalent when cresting mountain climbs), though the fabric was thick enough to do the job on its own so I removed these for testing.
The back panel splits into two, creating a nice aesthetic which gives female cyclists a hint of that athleisure fashion sports bra luxe (typically designed for AA-cup wearers sticking to yoga), whilst a strong elasticated band at the bottom keeps it all in place. Towards the neck, the fabric is perforated for additional breathability.
Rapha/Outdoor Voices have gone for an over-the-head option, with no fastenings. Whilst this does mean there's no wire hooks to bend out of shape (or randomly snap open), it also means there's no space for adjustment as the band stretches over time. There's also no adjustability at the straps.
Rapha + Outdoor Voices Sports Bra: the ride
In terms of quick-drying and breathability, I'd place the Rapha + Ourdoor Voices bra in with some of the best. After hot, sweaty rides in a recent heatwave, I wasn't overly aware of a damp layer against my skin.
The bra still doesn't dry as quickly as a lightweight jersey or the base layer you place under a winter jacket. This is a feat I've yet to see a brand achieve, and I can understand why - to be supportive, the fabric has to be compressive and therefore quite dense. I still hold out hope that one day a brand will crack it.
The support is very much 'light'. It works via compression (similar to most sports brand bras from the likes of Nike etc) as opposed to providing a structured cup (see Shock Absorber, Panache, Bravissimo - basically any brand that specialises in bras over leggings). Out on my road bike, I was perfectly happy and didn't have to put up with any bounce. However, I wouldn't choose this bra if I were going mountain biking, planning to do any plyometrics (eg box jumps) at the gym or running for cross-training.
The lack of adjustability at the straps got to me too - I found myself wishing I could shorten them for a better 'uplift', and I also noticed a small amount of chafing around the back of my neck where the straps lean towards a halterneck style as opposed to crossing straight over the shoulder. This worsened over time and washes - which is why this review initially carried an 8/10 score but was downgraded to a 7/10 after around six months of use.
Rapha + Outdoor Voices Sports Bra: value
Coming in at £40, it's more £10 more expensive than Rapha's existing 'light sports bra', but you are getting a better package with the more sturdy band and aesthetic details at the back.
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Founded in 1891, Cycling Weekly and its team of expert journalists brings cyclists in-depth reviews, extensive coverage of both professional and domestic racing, as well as fitness advice and 'brew a cuppa and put your feet up' features. Cycling Weekly serves its audience across a range of platforms, from good old-fashioned print to online journalism, and video.
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