The Hardshell is Rapha’s most uber cold-weather jacket. Their best breathable laminate fabric, taped seams, water-resistant zipper, 3 pocket (plus 2 zip pockets). They say that it’s waterproof and breathable, and believe me…it is.
The tail provides enough coverage to keep your rear dry in the rain.
It has an asymmetric zipper, so the zipper doesn’t conflict with your jersey (if you’re wearing one). The zipper his highly effective at regulating temperature, and unlike many jackets, it stays zipped wherever you leave it zipped (and doesn’t gradually unzip itself).
I originally ordered a medium. It arrived and it was very fitted. I could fit a base layer under it, but just barely. I was concerned that I would be cold with just a base layer, and thus upsized to a large, so I could fit a base layer and a jersey under it comfortably. In retrospect, the medium was all I needed…this jacket is thin–very thin. It is completely unbelievable just how warm it is when it’s zipped up. I’ve worn it in complete downpours, in frigid temperatures, and in ridiculous wind. I’ve worn it in combinations of all three of those weather conditions. It. Is. Much. Warmer. Than it looks.
It is completely windproof and waterproof. Completely.
The sleeves are the perfect length to pull down over your glove cuffs, and they have a nice elastic band that is just the right tightness to hold in place without feeling restrictive.
The 2 side pockets are large enough for water bottles, and the middle pocket is a bit smaller and has some very grippy rubber in it; perfect for a pump and some tools. There is also a zipper pocket in the middle (perfectly sized for an iPhone), and a small zipper pocket on the side (perfect for keys, a few bucks, and a credit card).
The jacket is expensive. No doubt. There’s no way around it. However, it does have Rapha’s ridiculously good warranty/repair service behind it.
I’ve only had this for a few months, so I cannot comment on durability beyond saying that everything I’ve had from Rapha has been incredibly durable. It hasn’t needed washing yet, as it has self-washed in the last downpour I rode it in.
It is one of the most breathable jackets I’ve ever worn, in any circumstance. With a wool base layer underneath, it is an incredibly comfortable jacket for temps ranging from the mid 40s down to freeze-your-toes-off temps. I haven’t worn it in warm weather, and don’t anticipate doing so…it’s too warm for that.
The cut is unreasonably good. It’s perfect. Perfect in riding position, perfect off the bike. The sleeves are cut perfectly, and are amazingly comfortable. I can offer absolutely no constructive criticism with regard to the cut of the jacket.
From time to time, I think it would be useful to have vent zippers on the rear/side of the ribs in back. I realize this might compromise some of the waterproofness of the jacket, and that’s likely why they weren’t included. This request is not because the jacket isn’t breathable–it’s just to facilitate more airflow through the jacket when you’re getting warm. As it is, unzipping the front a bit does a good job of getting airflow in, so it’s not really an issue.
I’m sure this will inspire questions of Rapha v. Gore. Frankly, even having bought this on clearance, with a discount code, it’s too expensive for me to contemplate mountain biking or fat biking in. That’s the biggest limitation. Comparing jacket to jacket, the Rapha’s fit is more tailored and just a bit better for me, and the Rapha fabric is pretty damn hard to beat. The jacket is thinner than a comparably warm Gore jacket, and warmer than a comparably thin Gore jacket. Also, the seam taping is far better, and many comparable Gore jackets are just water-resistant (and not seam-taped), rather than waterproof. I don’t believe Gore has a jacket that is directly comparable to this in terms of both waterproofness and warmth, and certainly not in terms of tailored fit.
Of note, this is a jacket to wear when you’re riding. It is not insulated enough to be a good jacket for rides that are likely to involve much cold-weather stopping. But it is an incredible–incredible–jacket for the intended purpose.