BY GRAHAM HUTSON
You really notice the quality of your kit when your riding time enters double figures for a single journey. This is when little niggles will really begin to become apparent and if there’s something even slightly amiss and it hasn’t started to annoy you before, it will now.
Rapha designed its brevet collection for endurance riding. The very definition of Brevet is a long-distance bike ride with checkpoints, also known as a randonnee (French for excursion). This line has been part of the regular output since 2011 but along with a revived emphasis on long distance riding, brevet has been given a reboot.
Enter the windblock jersey: “The aim of this collection is for it to be our most versatile range of products - for any condition, anywhere,” says Marta Gut at Rapha. “The windblock jersey is possibly the best jersey we have ever made, I personally couldn’t love it more.”
A lofty assertion when you consider the size of the product line these days, but far from frivolous. The point of the windblock panel is to negate the need for an additional gilet, which while being possibly one of the lighter garments you might pack for a trip, does nevertheless still take up room. When you have only a few litres of space to play with, every centimetre counts.
Of course stitching a gilet to a jersey means you can’t take it off, which you might consider a design disaster if Rapha hadn’t already thought of that. To balance the additional windproofing to the front, they have lightened everything up elsewhere. So instead of the hefty sportwool traditionally used in their brevet jerseys, they have used a lighter-weight merino.
This merino has a dual purpose - as well as offsetting the windproof panel, using a lighter-weight wool is supposed to allow for the jersey to dry quicker overnight, an essential quality if you’re not packing a change of clothes in your bags.
All this makes for a quite simply stunning garment and not one that really needs to be reserved for epic rides, which is probably a relief for the majority of us who can count the amount of ridiculously long trips we have done on one hand.
The accompanying kit is equally versatile. The bib shorts are possibly the most comfortable Rapha have produced, incredibly light with a new pad which while offering great cushioning, has also been designed to dry quickly. There’s plenty of give in the bib straps too so there’s no sensation of being pulled up by your britches.
The socks are not your standard offering either. For one thing they have a reflective band at the ankle and for another they are made from a wool and Primaloft blend which adds a quick-drying aspect to the warmth and comfort of the merino.
These reflective elements set brevet apart from other Rapha collections. Due to the length of brevet and randonee riding, daylight will run out on a regular basis, making reflectivity a must. All brevet jerseys feature two horizontal strips around the chest and back which throw back any light that hits them. The bibs have equally reflective panels and the socks have a reflective yarn stripe.
Together, your reflective bases are covered from all angles but if you wanted to stand out a bit more you could always throw in a pair of the new Rapha climber’s shoes (http://www.rapha.cc/gb/en/shop/reflective-climber%27s-shoes/product/PCS02BU).
To see how brevet performed in a condensed brevet environment we took it on a far more modest morning dash over multiple surfaces from fields to steep brick-cobbled tracks through woods to country lanes and singletrack. It was the sort of ride that soon had the body temperature soaring and would be guaranteed to lay bare any shortcomings of the overheating variety. But this jersey design was tested on a 4,000 mile Transcontinental in 2015 which should give you a clue as to how it fared on our test. Basically it sailed through. We seriously couldn’t find fault, even approaching midday when the arm warmers came off and the mercury was pushing well past the mid-twenties.
BY MAZY RYDER-ALLISON
It was never really fair for women to do endurance rides in clothing designed for men so the women’s brevet collection will have come as a welcome relief.
Jerseys are manufactured in the traditional heavier-weight sportwool made for the standard brevet jersey line but with a cut defined specifically for women, slightly tailored around the waist and a bit more room in the chest.
There is a women’s windblock jersey or alternatively you do have the option of a women’s gilet to complement the jersey, which offers a high degree of windproofing and even keeps the odd light shower out.
Jerseys are available in pink and navy with the traditional, and reassuring, hi-viz stripes around the chest and back. You get the three back pockets, along with the waterproof pocket and the chest pocket, introduced specifically to hold your brevet card.
These might not be the lightest jerseys available but the combination of the high visibility and comfort of the sportwool have made it an absolute favourite for all but the hottest of riding conditions. It’s a jersey you can put on and not worry about, with plenty of storage for the essentials.
Rapha say they will expand the brevet range for women in coming seasons. This is a move which, given the amount of women I have seen riding in brevet jerseys, is going to prove very popular indeed.
Summary: Rapha’s brevet is effective and accomplished and there really is no other kit that would come close to consideration if we were packing for an endurance ride. Years of design tweaks and refinement and many, many miles of on-the-bike testing have brought Rapha to this. Reassuringly accomplished and beyond capable of taking on the lengthiest cycles rides you can subject it to. One thing’s for sure - you’ll give up long before brevet kit does.
5 / 5
Jersey from £110