For the last month or two I have been testing the next two items in Rapha’s female specific capsule range, namely the Stowaway and the Shorts.
Firstly, the three items that encompass the capsule range are complimentary, and I have found they look excellent when either worn together or as items in their own right when teamed with those trusty older favourites.
Now, as I’m sure you will know, I have said it before and I shall say it again, I’m a huge fan of Rapha. To me the appeal is simple, it’s the winning formula of a dead simple sleek design, but the way they simultaneously push the envelope when it comes to the functionality of each piece they produce. I have long been a fan and adorner of their male garms, so immediately I expected great things from their ladies range..... and I was not disappointed.
First up is the ladies stowaway. I am riding the luscious rich red colour, and I think I have made only two journeys on my bike 'sans stowaway' ever since peeling it out of its cellophane envelope. The cut for me, it has to be said, is pretty damn on the nail. Its racy and aerodynamic, figure hugging yet flattering. I have long admired the men’s stowaway on the weekend riders when out on the Surrey run, and the ladies version delivers all the same excitement and pleasure in wearing it, but with some excellent little refinements in its detailing.
The jacket hugged my torso perfectly, with the added darts in the chest area compensating for my female contour. The jacket flutes slightly towards the bottom, enabling it to sit in a most flattering fashion on the hips, although the bungee cords allow a custom fit.
The pocket features a new placement also, in keeping with the theme of providing a female specific fit. It’s a nice small size, ample for keys and cash, and handily enough the jacket can actually pack away into this small front stash pocket.
On the bike the jacket fits like a glove. The arms are cut nice and long, so when I stretched down in the drops the elasticated cuff didn’t move an inch. The Lycra cuff is comfortable and secure, and there isn’t a chance of any cold breeze or road spray snaking its way up my arm. The reflective detailing on the jacket, whilst not overdone, really delivers piece of mind when riding out at dusk or on those early morning secret missions to Richmond Park. When flashed in the camera you get a taste for just how visible the jacket can be, so I rode safe in the knowledge I wasn’t stealthed out to the other vehicles on the road.
In my wardrobe I have lacked a decent, truly 'packable' stowaway for some time. Whilst I have a small race shell that filled this void, it was neither waterproof nor windproof and also came in the many varieties of Henry ford black. Cue the stowaway to the rescue, I can now ride with a water resistant shell perfect for the ever changing British weather, be it a sudden drop in temps, or that awful moment when the skies black and the raindrops fall. The jacket folds down to an insanely small wee package, weighing in at a featherweight 150g.
Similarities remain between the female version and the male version, the bite tabs remain, the refined styling of simple bold colours and reflective detailing carry over, and not forgetting the dropped rear of the jacket, shielding from road spray and curbing the 'soggy bum' syndrome. A reflective logo on the rear finished the top off nicely. Overall I love wearing this top on my rides; I think it has well and truly cemented itself into my cycling wardrobe staples. For those worried about the price tag, id say its easily justifiable when considering the downright versatility of this jacket, Perhaps only the hottest of summer days I would forgo this jacket in my jersey pocket, and even then, I might just pack it in case of those trusty summer showers! Its also worth noting that the last Rapha jacket I purchased was the lightweight soft-shell, and not only do I still wear it, its quality stands through as it looks as good today as it did when purchased. So although the price tag may scare some, I guarantee that in terms of quality and longevity, it’s a very sage investment. I purchased Rapha's iconic cap in red and I must say, it compliments the jersey and stowaway perfectly!
The second item I have had the pleasure to road test are the ladies shorts.
Firstly, a bit of background.... I have rarely worn ladies shorts for reasons serevalfold. It irritates me no end that companies assume that because we are girls we want a significantly short leg, so thrust horrific hotpant style shorts in insipid colours such as blue, yellow and red upon us. Cue Rapha with the antidote.... a well thought out pair of plain black, properly lengthed, high end half shorts.
I have never been particularly enamoured with half shorts, I have always seemed to prefer bibs, and men’s ones at that. I found that with half shorts they didn’t hug my waist as much as they would, resulting in the chamois moving around slightly and not being in optimal position, without getting into too much detail. The current favourites of mine are the Rapha 3/4 bibtights and also my Assos Mille shorts. The reason for this is I find the Cy-tech chamois (it’s the same in both) is pretty much perfect for me, I can ride all day long and hammer many miles without any discomfort.
Naturally I was intrigued at the shorts as I saw they featured the top end female specific chamois from Cytech, a perfect insert designed for long distance riding, and riding those miles in perfect comfort.
I pulled on the shorts and straight away knew they were going to be very comfortable indeed. The Lycra is nice and thick, with a matted satin like sheen to it, about as far removed as possible from the cheaper shiny Lycra many manufacturers prefer. When combined with a good dollop of Sportiques chamois crème.... I found no discomfort whatsoever in riding a 60 mile loop on a very hot day.
I loved the shorts look similar to the popular men’s version, simple and black for that pro look. The high cut back hugs high enough to never be worried about ahem, revealing too much. I found they stayed in place easily, even when moving positions, such as down in the drops. The front is adorned with a maternity style waistband.... it’s a big thick band of supple Lycra sans gripper, designed to be unrestrictive. Another box well and truly ticked.... I found them to be insanely comfortable, and unlike my cheaper Nike half shorts, they didn’t leave an unsightly mark from unwanted pressure around my tum. The ladies shorts are now my go-to pair of britches for those long undulating surrey miles. I teamed them with some Descente legwarmers and some Santini kneewarmers on those cooler days, and due to their classic 'Henry Ford' styling they looked natty and stylish. Id heartily recommend these shorts for riders undertaking medium to long distance rides regularly... the comfort is unmatched so far in the ladies shorts I have tried in the past couple of years. One last thing I will mention, the silicone grippers on the leg are in contrasting red, and happen to look pretty cool when flipped over ‘euro-style' when seeking to avoid a lower thing tan line!
Rapha offer the stowaway in cream and red in xs-xl sizes and the shorts can be purchased in xs-xl also. Both available from RAPHA