Over the years, I’ve come to acquire a handful of windbreaker riding jackets from varying brands, some better than others. When I got my hands on Rapha’s Women’s Classic Wind Jacket, I was intrigued, given the British company’s reputation for style, quality, and attention to detail. I quickly put it to the test on a few cool winter rides.
A few things stood out right away with this jacket — fit, performance, fabric quality, and price.
(Note: naming on this jacket was a bit confusing, as it was once referred to as the Stowaway Jacket. For this review, I’ll refer to it by its newest name, the Classic Wind Jacket.)
Although Rapha rightly describes the Classic Wind Jacket as a “highly versatile three-season jacket,” I rode it in various types of weather during a mild Colorado winter. There were some cold, breezy days, as well as days when the road was wet from snowmelt. It excelled in all conditions. Though wind chill obviously increases as speed increases, to my delight I never had to do the dreaded “retreat back home” for a wardrobe change. The Classic Wind lived up to its name, and did an excellent job of keeping the wind off my arms and core.
The fit of the Classic Wind Jacket is one of its finest qualities. Great care was taken in respect to a woman’s shape. More fabric is allotted to the shoulders and hip areas, while the waist consists of stitched darts, allowing for a slimmer silhouette. I’m not ashamed to admit I appreciate looking feminine on the bike whenever possible.
Slipping your arm into the sleeve, it’s hard to ignore the soft, articulated cuffs and the perfect length of the sleeve — not too long, and not too short. The cuffs provided several benefits, namely comfort, but also a good seal that enhances the jacket’s overall wind-blocking capability. In terms of aesthetics, Rapha’s modern-classic style is hard to beat. The clean, simple lines of the jacket make for a tailored, put-together appearance, and its offset zipper adds a subtle flair.
On one particular outing, the temperature outside rose gradually, as did my core temperature. The jacket is somewhat breathable, and I was able to unzip for the second half of my ride and let air in, rather than stopping to remove it entirely. On wet days, I rode through several puddles and dodged many a vehicle threatening to spray me with road sludge. Post-ride, I located several splash marks on the front and back, which easily wiped away with a warm, wet rag. More on the price later, but let’s just say if you’re paying $270 for a wind jacket, it’s nice to know that the inevitable road splatter that comes from riding in cool, damp conditions isn’t automatically going to equate to permanent stains.
Another area where the jacket stood out from others was in the superiority of its fabric. There is a slight stretch to it, which is ideal when wearing it over a jersey with full pockets. At 150 grams (size small), it’s lightweight and packs down nicely into a pocket. Another key reason the fabric is so stellar is the complete absence of flapping noise. I’ve come across several wind jackets that seemed great — until the wind picked up, or I was descending a long mountain pass. The Classic Wind Jacket is practically silent, which is a major bonus. There’s nothing more annoying than listening to a jacket whip in the wind, three inches from your ears, during a long descent.
Other features include reflective stripes on the sleeves, which look great and are positioned for maximum visibility, a small front-left pocket perfect for cash or a key, and a reflective Rapha logo on the lower back, above the dropped tail, which keeps the spray off your rear end.
While this jacket is almost perfect, as with most things Rapha, it comes with one serious consideration — at $270, it’s nearly cost-prohibitive for anyone in the lower- and middle-income tax brackets. There are other high-end wind jackets on the market, such as the $80 Leggera from Castelli, which can be acquired for less than half, or even one-third, of the price. Rapha’s might just be the nicest on the market, but is it two or three times as nice as others? That’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself, but it’s fair to say that you’d have to really want to own this jacket to consider buying it.
One other, minor gripe is that the front zipper can be a bit difficult to manage with one hand (i.e. trying to unzip while riding). The reverse coil on the zipper — the back of the zip faces outwards, for maximum water resistance — does a great deal to keep the wind out, but it also makes for sometimes sticky operation. Admittedly, riding with no hands isn’t my strong suit, and I found it safer to just stop my bike and unzip, rather than fumble with the zipper while pedaling.
The Classic Wind Jacket comes in three colors — cream, red, and a plum color Rapha calls purple. It’s a dream garment for those who can afford it. The quality, fit, and attention to detail all put it at the top of my list when conditions call for a wind jacket.
Features: Water resistant, breathable, lightweight, packs down, reverse coil zipper
Pros: Fit, style, performance in the elements, fabric quality
Cons: Price, sticky zipper