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Wet Weather Riding
It’s been said there’s is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. Andy Hampsten, who famously battled a snowstorm during the 1988 Giro, might beg to differ but Rapha understands that products that perform brilliantly in wet and cold conditions can help keep you riding on even the foulest days.
Riding in the wet for long periods can, in the case of inferior fabrics, lead to a fabric becoming saturated with moisture. It’s a condition garment technologists (yes, there is such a thing) refer to as ‘wetted out’. Not only does this mean a fabric is no longer waterproof but once you stop riding, the water in the fabric will, as a natural conductor, conduct heat away from the skin to leave you cold as well as wet.
The water resistance of a fabric is calculated by the amount of water it can support, in millimetres, before any water begins to seep through. A moderately water-resistant fabric, for example, will withstand around 5,000mm of water before it gives way. At the upper end of the scale are fabrics able to withstand as much as 20,000mm of water. Impressive stats, certainly, although it would be hard to ride in the equivalent of a diver’s dry suit.
A performance fabric for wet weather needs to work like a valve, keeping the rain and wind and bay, at the same time forcing out moisture vapour in the opposite direction. The breathability of a fabric is based on how much moisture vapour can pass through in a given period. Known as the Water Vapour Transmission Rate (WVTR), tests vary between manufacturers but the fabrics used in Rapha wet weather products have been chosen precisely because they offer the very highest levels of performance.
The Rapha Rain Jacket is a case in point. Created specifically for training and racing in the wet, its stripped down, aggressive styling superbly articulates Rapha’s design philosophy. An effective water-resistant outer layer for training and racing is one that strikes a balance between waterproofing and breathability and thanks to its ingenious design, the Rain Jacket does this brilliantly.
The body of the jacket is made from a 2.5-ply waterproof fabric. This consists of a waterproof ‘face’ fabric – the first ply, as it were – to which we’ve added a breathable laminate layer. The 0.5 in question refers to a further protective layer which is applied to the inside of the jacket. This not only prevents the laminate from degrading but also gives the jacket a ‘dry-touch’ finish, so unlike many water-resistant garments it doesn’t feel sticky to the touch. Crucially, it also means the jacket doesn’t suffer from the stiffness found in these sorts of products and as a result it packs down very small.
And it that weren’t clever enough, to help the jacket achieve the maximum WVTR when a rider is working hard, the side panels and inner arms are made from a separate fabric. This offers even greater levels of breathability and the panels are positioned in those areas that are the least exposed to the elements when riding. Conversely, those parts of the jacket that bear the brunt of bad weather, the shoulders, are finished with waterproof tapes while the cuffs have a super light neoprene trim to ensure a weather tight seal.
As a training and racing product, the Rain Jacket has a slim, aggressive cut, with additional reach in the sleeves to allow comfortable riding in the drops for long periods. The jacket’s functionality is equally training orientated. The water-resistant zip, for example, is angled to keep it clear of the spray and dirt that can be thrown up, particularly when riding in a group. The chin guard will prevent the zip from chafing, a common occurrence in the cold and wet, while reflective tabs and logos will help improve visibility on those dark, country lanes. The jacket is also available in a Rapha Condor Sharp team version.
City riding in winter calls for a rain jacket that meets a different set of criteria. Unlike the sustained effort of a long training run, the short, sharp nature of city riding means there is less emphasis of breathability and more on comfort – and as with all things Rapha, a certain style.
Enter the Rapha + Paul Smith City Rain Jacket. With an overall aesthetic designed to give it less of sportswear feel, the jacket is more of an all-purpose product. It boasts water-resistant panels throughout and the fabric has a twill finish to give the jacket a heavier feel, similar to Rapha softshell. More like, you could say, a jacket.
Inside, the jacket is partly lined, both at the front and in the yoke (upper back). This gives it a more luxurious finish than its utilitarian training cousin but the soft, breathable mesh lining still guarantees high performance. The jacket also has laser-cut vents under the arms and stylish venting on the upper back for exceptional breathability.
The secret to a truly effective city riding jacket is adaptability. The Rapha + Paul Smith City Rain Jacket features a hi-vis storm tail and reflective hi–vis cuffs, both of which can be hidden. Other functional details include a rear light loop and discreet zipped pockets both inside and out.