Few dates have engraved themselves on my mind to the same extent as the 1st October 2019.
In what was to be the most traumatic moment in my time at university up to that point, I had to commute in rain that was so biblical in proportion I felt even Noah would have been shocked.
The worst element was not the flooding of the bike paths, the spray of the Hyde park horse manure or the puncture I sustained halfway. It was instead the fact that I had to engage in the typical awkward Freshers’ Week conversations resembling what I can only describe as a drowned rat with glasses.
Despite having extensively swum, rowed and canoed prior to this, I had never felt as soaked to the bone as I did that fateful Tuesday.
I can hear those doubters asking why I didn’t have a waterproof. To which my response would be to show them a typical waterproof coat.
Whilst I am hardly a paragon of elegance, I draw the line at riding along in something that looks like the love child of a shopping bag and a parachute. Even if I were to suck it up and wear this waterproof, it would still leak at all the seams and feel like I was sweating into cling film, scarcely better than the drowned rat alternative.
And so began the search for a waterproof coat that kept me dry and actually looked alright.
In response to this search, Rapha sent us their £250 Explore Hooded Gore-Tex pullover which they describe as “A waterproof hooded rain jacket with a chest pocket for storage, designed for year-round adventure”.
Rapha Gore-Tex Cycling Pullover
On the bike this jacket does the job very well.
Rapha have designed this for exploration rather than speed which means they have given this jacket the regular fit.
Like the lightweight commuter jacket we reviewed earlier, this fell right into the Goldilocks zone of having enough room underneath to wear a jumper but also not so much baggy excess that you inflate like the parachute we so desperately want to avoid.
As the name suggests, this pullover is made from Gore-Tex Active, the premier waterproof clothing material. Having ridden this in rain (and hail) so torrential that I had to stop because it was hurting my hands, this jacket kept my top half entirely dry. When I say entirely dry, I am neither employing artistic licence nor ignoring dampness that seems to find its way in at the seams. This jacket, simply put, is fully waterproof as tested in the most intense rain I’ve faced since that awful Autumn day.
Rapha Waterproof Jacket
The ‘Active’ part of its name denotes the fact that this is the lightest material in Gore-Tex’s range and as such the jacket has an extremely lightweight build, weighing only 224g (the same weight as a an adult hamster).
The designers have given this a storm hood which can be worn above or below one’s helmet. This elasticated hood fits snugly round the wearer’s head when worn under the helmet and kept my hair totally dry in the aforementioned rain. It does work over the helmet, though if so worn, the wearer does rather resemble Megamind. The quarter zip is Aquaguard which, surprise surprise, means it keeps water out.
Breathable and Waterproof?
It is a fact universally acknowledged that something cannot be both waterproof and breathable.
However, the Rapha Explore Hooded Gore-Tex Pullover goes further in avoiding the internal wetness due to lack of breathability than many other cycling waterproofs I have experienced. Given this jacket’s waterproofing prowess, it is clearly the designers’ priority, and so I am inclined to forgive the deficiencies in breathability.
Most waterproofs feel like you are wearing a moist bin bag when you wear them against your skin. Mercifully Rapha have made this soft when it’s against your skin and have even added microfibre fabric on the collar for that extra bit of comfort on your chin.
The big chest pocket is big enough to hold all your essentials; my phone, wallet, keys, mask, Bible and Ovid’s Metamorphoses all fit in comfortably. There are also internal mesh dividers to hold everything secure and make sure your keys don’t jangle about too much.
In a very Rapha-esque touch of ingenuity, the whole jacket folds down into this pocket to have a compact bundle which Rapha say can be used as a pillow or just fit into your bag. You can see for yourself, but, to me, the latter is a more realistic possibility than the former.
Not merely content with adding a hem drawstring to keep the pullover tight around the rider’s waist, Rapha have also added an integrated valve core tool on the drawstring.
There are reflective elements on the back and side but given this item is not specifically for road use, there is better (mother-pleasing) visibility on other more commuter-focused jackets.
A Stylish Waterproof Cycling Jacket?
Off the bike, this jacket has received many compliments from people far more sartorially astute than me. The ultimate test of any item of urban cycling clothing is whether I would wear it if I was not cycling, a test that this jacket has passed many times.
In Summary: Rapha Explore Gore-Tex Pullover
Out of all the items of clothing I’ve reviewed, this is the one that is of the highest quality. It does exactly what it says it sets out to do and looks good off the bike. I do however feel that it still does not need to cost more than the bike I ride when wearing it.
Rapha are synonymous with quality, but this does come at a premium. If you have £250 to spend on a jacket, go ahead [although it is on sale for £150 at the time of writing!]
The rest of us might have to settle for something that costs a lot less, even if it doesn’t do the job anywhere near as well as this jacket does. Or is it worth it just to be sure to avoid the drowned, bespectacled rodent look?
Rapha’s Explore Gore-Tex Pullover comes in a range of sizes and in colours brown, dark navy and dark yellow (Rapha’s version of orange).
As well as the men’s version that we’ve reviewed here, a Rapha also have women’s version of this pullover, boasting all of the same features.