I own the Rapha softshell jacket. http://www.rapha.cc/classic-softshell-jacket Hands down the best coat I have ever owned. It is pack able too. If I wear this with my base layer, vest and thermal jacket I can ride in the most brutal weather. The fabric is stretchable so comfortable in the drops or hanging at the espresso spot. It still looks new after multiple washes too. Form fitting design to fit the body like cycling clothing should. 10 out of 10
I do appreciate everyone's opinions. If we are gonna knock any brand in the cycling industry at least provide reasoning that may be helpful to other consumers. If price alone or even brand marketing is your reason to not like a brand than I really cant appreciate that opinion. I like opinions that are chalked with comments on durability, performance, aesthetics, maintenance tips and so we go. If I decide I want a product I then find the most economical option then make my decision based on brass tack facts.The truth is the items with the most technical innovation, highest grade materials and most appealing design will always be more expensive and I want to feed that monster with my hard earned yennys so it continues to innovate. To me, Rapha brings it all to the table. They hire excellent knowledgeable staff and you'd be hard pressed to find one that in not dedicated to the bone to the sport of cycling. The talented and famous clothing designers they appoint to fine tune their brand image. The professional teams they support and use to test products. They also organize events and rides to get people into the sport. They are all in!
I've got a Rapha Rain Jacket. It's by far the best cycling gear I own, and I'll definitely invest in more of their stuff. Design wise it's on point. I hate looking like Bozo the Clown ate some dye bags and vomited all over my kit. Classic, classy, and from what I can tell, quite durable.
I do appreciate everyone's opinions. If we are gonna knock any brand in the cycling industry at least provide reasoning that may be helpful to other consumers. If price alone or even brand marketing is your reason to not like a brand than I really cant appreciate that opinion. ...
Well, isn't value an important consideration? (Price in consideration of durability, performance, design, etc.)
No, I've never touched a piece of Rapha gear, but a couple years back I bought some expensive Assos bibs that after only a couple uses, were (IMO) the worst things I'd ever tried.
So, once twice burned, twice thrice shy.**
Do they allow you to try something like bib shorts for a few days or week and, if not satisfied, return them? Perhaps they do, since they also make this offer: "If you have purchased a jersey this year and lost weight through riding, Rapha would like to offer you a 50% discount on your new size jersey." (Tho cyclists serious enough to be in Rapha gear are unlikely to lose much more weight.)
A while back here there was a sunglasses discussion. The consensus seemed to be to either go top end, or for something in the ¥2500-3000 range. I'd offer that that same split applies to other stuff, too.
For example, I think there are 1-2 well-known TCCers who ride 105, and would probably never consider dura ace, in spite of its performance, durability, design, innovation and other possible advantages. (And while 105 doesn't look like clown barf, dura ace would look way more cool when stopping for a coffee or something...)
One comment about their projected image: Though they certainly do offer colors, a fair portion of the initial pics on various rapha pages show riders wearing black (or B&W pics, so black and very dark are the same). Of course I have black tights, but otherwise choose bright, visible colors. The ninja aspect of their coolness does not appeal to me.
**Just remembered--I have some shimano sunglasses I never use (¥20,000?). There are some little pads on the nose and temples that are impossible to keep on and not lose. Replacement pads are as expensive as cheap glasses, and don't stay on any better than the originals.
Sorry for the long post, I'm already bored with tonight's TV.
Assos bib shorts current generation ... more comfortable than any others I have ever tried. There is a reason why you see lots of Assos bib shorts being worn by riders at a multi-day event who do not give a hoot about brand (or actively dislike the marketing) and would never pay extra for Assos caps, gloves, jerseys, socks, etc.
Rapha gear ... too expensive for me since I cannot see any "must have" item. The softshell jacket looks great, but $360 ... As ProRaceMechanic says, "comfortable in the drops or hanging at the espresso spot" -- much of the gear is designed to look good off the bike. I agree with jdd about the "ninja" issue. The softshell jacket is black! Inconsistent with BEING SEEN EVEN A SPLIT SECOND EARLIER BY DRIVERS while riding in urban environments. Much of the classy Rapha gear is just not visible enough to be safe, in my view. http://www.rapha.cc/classic-softshell-jacket
i think the biggest thing is perceived value. my perceived value of most Rapha gear is quite high. i believe in the product, just as much as i believe Shimano produces a superior electronic shifting groupset, and as much as i believe Enve makes the best bar and stem combo on the planet (and unfortunately i own neither, but believe in these products by seeing what comes into my shop defective/worn out/idiotproofed, and have tried them on friends' bikes). of course this changes on a case by case basis, such as my feeling that there are some damn inferior Rapha products as well (like their transfer jacket. i'll go to uniqlo if i need a down jacket.)
as for the trial period if you buy stuff from Rapha's classic line, Rapha offers a 30 day money back guarantee. then you can really say 'tried it, it sucked, and here's why'.
on another note, @jdd, i can't wait to build up my sleeper 'crappy' commuter! going to pick up some 105 shifters to pair up with a set of free 7800 derailleurs i refurbished this week.
Putting aside my views on Rapha, I was struck by the comments above that seemed to instantly assume dark clothes are a safety hazard. To my own mind black can be a good contrast colour, especially in sunny weather and would not decrease safety during the day. However before i go any further, I'm clearly in favour of reflective strips on anything at dusk or night (how many detractors of ninja/dark clothes, still have wheel reflectors attached to the spokes of their wheels?) So, anyway, I had a look around on the web to see if there was any studies or evidence, one way or the other on colour in road safety (before you ask I'm still sitting in NY, at the outlaws, bored with nowt to do). Doesn't seem like there is a lot of evidence.There was a car colour study done in 2002 based on Spanish crash data from 97-99 that found black cars were more likely to be involved in crashes and white cars were the best. This study's findings seem to have been reprinted in minor league regional newspapers as a shock story many times after. However even the authors of that study criticised the data they used, showing they had no way to filter out crashes not caused by "not seeing the car" but instead caused by drunk/drugged/tired drivers. There are plenty of studies on general colour perception. It may surprise you that red is a bad colour - it's one of the first colours the eye sees as black in fading light. Silver is a good colour when differing intensity light catches it but in good general light it reflects the colours around it and effectively camouflages itself. From personal experience, green seems a colour people don't see (my Father having had two green cars at different times between others, always seemed to get hit in car parks in them; one I then acquired from him I noticed a higher incidence of near misses compared to my cars before and after). All studies seem to suggest yellow with a hint of green, being in the middle of the colour spectrum is the best medium colour to be seen in both bright light and dark. A second study in 2003 specifically on car colour using 571 New Zealand crashes, found black, brown or green cars to be twice as likely as white cars to be involved in a crash with injuries. It noted, though, that the weather would be a factor with low incidences of snow or high sunshine occurring in the part of NZ they choose. Hence a different prevalent weather "background" may affect the result. Both car studies suggested florescent yellow would be a better colour for cars to be seen but this second study also noted that if all cars were that colour, you would not be able to easily spot a moving one against a background of non-movement. Reaching into my photographic knowledge, a good way to get a photograph noticed is to frame it with black - hence any cycling outfit with a bright colour block on a black surrounding seems to be better than either all white or all black (maybe the TCC kit is a good kit to be seen in!?). Framing photos with alternate black and white lines calls attention to the photograph but actually takes your attention away from the picture and to the frame. Which is why I come back to my thoughts on contrast; In darkness use plenty of lights and reflective points; in daytime use clothing with black and bright colour points. If I had to personally design something myself, I would go with a black and white, or black and yellow, large checkerboard pattern....
Putting aside my views on Rapha, I was struck by the comments above that seemed to instantly assume dark clothes are a safety hazard. To my own mind black can be a good contrast colour, especially in sunny weather and would not decrease safety during the day. However before i go any further, I'm clearly in favour of reflective strips on anything at dusk or night (how many detractors of ninja/dark clothes, still have wheel reflectors attached to the spokes of their wheels?).
Agreed that during sunny weather at noon black clothes are not a problem, and in theory might be even better than white/light clothing in certain conditions. So by all means, wear black on midday rides.
But I know from my own experience that I do not see cyclists wearing dark clothes in low light conditions until much, much later than I see cyclists with reflective or white/light colored clothing. The ones wearing dark clothing are practically invisible, and do not seem to realize it.
As for cars, my parents had a black car back soon after they were married, and got hit twice within the first year by other drivers who "did not see them". Lighter colored cars since -- never been hit in 50 years. Anecdotal, I know, but seems logical.
As for reflectors, I use (and suggest) 3M reflective tape on seat/chain stays, fork blades, seat tube and crank arms. The tape is unobtrusive during daylight, but makes a huge difference in the dark.