What it is
The Rapha Hardshell is a road cycling jacket, described by Rapha as the “ultimate workhorse” designed to deal with the most inclement weather you can withstand on two wheels. From my knowledge of the brand and the £260 price tag, it had a lot to live up to.
When I first got the jacket I was amazed at how light it was and how thin it seemed for a jacket designed for wet, cold conditions. I was dubious as to whether it could really keep me warm. I followed their size guide and ordered the Medium jacket but found that it was too tight to fit anything other than a thin layer underneath. Although this is enough for many riders I wanted a little more room, so I swapped it for the large size. The fits are designed to be tight, of course, but it felt restrictive so be mindful of this when choosing a size.
There are a few really nice, classy features to the jacket. The off centre zip I think is really stylish but it also allows you to zip up to the top without the zip being in contact with the most protruding part of your neck. To avoid any skin irritation there is also being a protective layer of soft fabric over the zip. There’s a small zip up pocket on its side ideal for keys, credit card or any other small items to keep safe. There are three larger pockets on the back ideal for wallet, phone, map, even a small water bottle as well as another smaller zip pocket. A really nice touch is a super reflective Rapha logo running vertically down the central pocket. For ultimate wind protection there is elasticated lycra at the end of each sleeve to keep a tight fit around your wrist.
For the first proper ride, the jacket and I were chucked in the deep end. Riding atop Exmoor completely exposed to the sideways heavy rain and hail, with very strong winds. The perfect testing conditions.
I was quite frankly astounded at how well the jacket performed in these conditions. In such rough weather I had never felt so protected by a jacket. There was absolutely no hint of wind or water coming through the jacket whatsoever despite sustained heavy rain and hail in normally cutting winds. It was like a magic force-field around the upper half of my body that was entirely impervious to the elements.
The only place there was some dampness was from the elasticated lycra that protrudes an inch or so from the sleeves. In heavy enough rain moisture will creep up these parts of fabric. A slight issue I found was the water beaded so beautifully off the material that it would run in to the rear pockets a little. Although elasticated at the top to prevent anything from falling out, it does allow water to seep down in to these three open top pockets. Phones in the zipper when it’s raining hard.
The material was also really quite breathable. It never felt clammy on the inside unless riding in warm weather. This is a testament to how warm it is for such a light weighted item, but also to say that it’s not suitable for riding hard in vaguely warm weather. That’s not what it’s designed for.
All in all this is hands down the best cycling jacket I’ve worn at protecting you from bad weather. It manages to immaculately protect you in a stylish design, not easy to do. Be wary of the sizes if you don’t want a skin tight jacket. At £260 it is expensive but you get what you pay for with this jacket, just don’t leave it lying around on post ride pub bar stools.
You can buy the Rapha Hardshell jacket here. Currently over 20% off RRP.