Well-made race fit jersey that promises free speed, twinned with superbly comfortable bibshorts. All at a price, mind
The direct spin-off from Rapha’s wind-tunnel tested Aerosuit that debuted with Team Sky (remember them?) a few years back, the Pro Team Aero Jersey is a fine addition to the Rapha range, which as per its name, promises to make you faster.
The Aero Jersey isn’t just the top half cut off from the Aerosuit, mind, but it does borrow far more than just a name and an idea.
Like for like – there is a new Aerosuit too (£230) – the Aero Jersey shares in the same golf-ball dimpled fabrics across the shoulders, smooth fabrics about the arms and textured fabric on the back panel as the all-in-one suit, and has a directional nap across the back that might best be explained as like stroking a cat.
In one direction (head to back) the fabric is smooth, the other direction it is noticeably rougher.
It’s all designed to help air flow more smoothly over the rider, and while I believe the theory and the industry-wide research that says aero clothing has far more potential than any other piece of equipment to save watts, I can’t say empirically that wearing the Aero Jersey made any difference. Neither, it turns out, can Rapha.
I asked its head of design, Maria Olsson, if there was any data to back up the ‘aero’ moniker, and she replied that while the Aerosuit has been wind-tunnel tested, where it ‘proved to be faster than all the other suits we tested’, the Aero Jersey has not, ‘as the use cases are very different and there are too many variables’.
Which I take to mean a road race situation – for which the Aero Jersey is designed – sees less consistent speeds, varying conditions and crucially, lots of rider body positions. This compared to a time-trial where such variables are more limited.
You could read this as Rapha saying the kit just aero, but I’d disagree, mainly because irrespective of anything else the Aero Jersey is very well fitted – figure hugging but without being restrictive – and there’s no way that tight clothing isn’t faster than looser clothing.
It probably goes without saying – and this is not a criticism – the Aero Jersey is very much a summer garment, it’s pretty lightweight, it’s tight so getting thick baselayers under it won’t feel great, and the sleeves are long which in my experience won’t gel well with armwarmers.
On the other hand, the Bib Shorts II would be serviceable most of the year round with a set of leg/kneewarmers. But the point remains the Aero Jersey is quite specific, and this won’t appeal to riders seeking more versatility from a single jersey.
Fit and detail
The sleeves are another aero dimension, much longer than you’d expect from a regular jersey, coming right down to the edge of the elbow. Or that’s the idea.
It’s no great shakes, but whereas the models in Rapha’s marketing material show lovely wrinkle-free material, I couldn’t get the Aero Jersey sleeves to sit around my elbows without bunching slightly in the crook.
They’re just too long, or at least my arms are just too short.
An interesting quirk is the detailing, primarily the raised, rubberised ‘Rapha’ lettering writ large on the left sleeve. It looks sharp, and being thick rubber it shouldn’t crack as the garment ages in the way thinly printed silicone does.
But it does sit well proud of the sleeve material and thus begs the question, ‘Isn’t it un-aero?’ Especially since it is on the leading edge of the shoulder/arm, eg, the first thing the wind hits.
‘We got a lot of questions about this as far as the [wind-tunnel tested] Aerosuit goes [which has the same feature], and the easy answer is that it does not impact the drag,’ says Olsson. So there you go. Case closed.
There’s little to report about Rapha’s Pro Team Bib Shorts II, other than the fact they are now in a variety of different colours, including a very fetching, on-trend dark blue. I like them very much, and have had several pairs of these and the Classic Bib Shorts over the years and can vouch for their longevity.
They’re available in two leg lengths, regular and long, which another nice touch, and the seat pad is sized per size, ie bigger bibs have bigger seat pads. It sounds obvious, but not all brands do this to such an extent, or at all.
One thing I’ll never understand, though, is the race radio pockets on the bibs at the small of the back either side the spine.
Yes, I get Rapha sponsors pro teams, but for the rest of us these pockets are unnecessary (and to be fair, appear on an unnecessary number of consumer garments across the board). But top tip – you can put secret reserve gels in them, so perhaps they’re not that bad after all.
With the introduction of a new colour palette – colourful enough to feel different yet muted enough to match bikes and not look dated in two seasons – Rapha has also added to its sock range with complementary colours of the Pro Team Socks, which similar to the Bib Shorts are available in three cuff lengths.
The regular length socks I tested cost £15. Yep, £7.50 a foot. They are very nice socks though, and that is pretty much the bottom line with this jersey and bibs too.
This is really lovely kit to ride in, it tailored just so to augment the feeling of being on the bike.
Also, I’d stick my neck out and say this is the best looking kit I have seen in a long time. I like the zany patterned jerseys and sock-doping trends of the last few years, but I can’t help feeling they will age badly as fluoro kit has – though again, I loved it at the time.
This kit will still look good in three years, or five or ten if the materials hold up, which I’d wager they will for a good long time, and Rapha still operates its mend kit for free after a crash policy.
Thus far I’ve avoided discussing price, but jersey, bibs and socks are a substantial outlay, even with Rapha’s 20% saving if you buy top and bottoms together.
But hey, a lot of kit is very expensive these days – rightly or wrongly – and so if you can afford this gear and want to (probably) go faster, you’ll not be disappointed with the Pro Team Aero Jersey and Bib Shorts II.
And the socks. Don’t forget the socks.