“Pack light, travel far“has been the strapline for the brevet collection from Rapha for some time, a collection that includes bib shorts, jackets, gilets, hoodies, an insulated mug, and several jerseys. This one, the Rapha Brevet Jersey is one of the first items the brand released with the aim of servicing the long-distance cycling community, and set the trend for the rest of the collection regarding additional storage, reflective detailing, and a focus on comfort over aero.
This is my second Brevet jersey too, my first back in 2015 lasting a good few years before it met an unfortunate end at the hands of a too-hot iron. This one I wore for four days straight on a disastrous bike tour through France (no fault of the jersey, I should add). It saw frosty, foggy mornings, 12hr days in the saddle, midday heat, and enough pastries to make even the most unflappable boulanger blush How did it fare, then? Does it deserve a spot in our list of the best cycling jerseys, or is it style over substance?
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Design and aesthetics
The Rapha Classic Jersey was, in my opinion, a bit of a watershed moment in cycling apparel. Clean, premium aesthetics and a tasteful color palette broke us collectively out of the glut of day-glo soup options and, aesthetically at least, I believe the Brevet Jersey is a worthy heir to the title of ‘nest looking jersey’ – at least from the Rapha catalog. The race-focused aero items with their big logos and bright colors are space-age, but are constantly being updated to fit with current trends.
The Brevet Jersey has basically remained unchanged since its launch in 2011 save for different color palettes, with a single or double main color body, two stripes across the chest, and the trademark left arm stripe too. The uppermost stripe is reflective, and perforated to aid in breathability as the reflective material itself is not breathable.
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The construction is basically identical to the Classic jersey, save for some extra stripes and pockets. You get the classic three at the back, but in addition, there is a cavernous whole-width mesh pocket behind these, a chest pocket, and a valuable pocket on the right-hand side. The rear hem has a rubberised strip, but the front is without. The fit is adjusted via an elasticated cord on the rear, with toggles anchored inside over the hips.
The material that Rapha calls ‘merino based’ is in reality only 36% merino, the rest being polyester, but it feels thick and luxurious nonetheless. It has some stretch, not so much as Lycra jerseys, but it is also designed to fit more loosely. I wear a small and it fits perfectly for the intended use. One word of warning, don’t be tempted to size down to get a race-fit. I used to do this, and while it worked with the Classic jersey, the chest stripes on the Brevet reduce the amount of stretch available, and it can slightly constrict things when you’re breathing heavily; If you want a race jersey then buy a race jersey.
The arms don’t have grippers, just a contrasting hem. Nobody has ever bought tickets to my personal gun show but, nonetheless, I still found they could be a little constricting. The body of the arms is fine, it’s only at the hem when they can bite in a little more than I’d like.
As it is billed as an all-day, multi-day jersey I rode it all day for four days straight, from Roscoff in the north of France to La Rochelle, where my friend and I aborted the rest of the trip thanks to bad knees and some shoulder tendons that had developed severe attachment issues after an unscheduled lie-down. While we didn’t make it all the way to Spain, in the 500km or so I spent in it, it proved to be an excellent long-distance companion. Not perfect, but excellent.
The fit is spot on, it’s extremely comfortable, and the tightness of the arm hems was never really a great issue. The material is forgiving, soft, and noticeably warmer than a layer of Lycra would be, which came in extremely handy on cold foggy morning descents. It doesn’t block the wind, but neither does it cut through you like a knife. On the flip side, however, when the mercury does rise it can be a warm option. We saw ranges of 2-23 degrees on some days, and it was spot-on for the middle, and bearable while unzipped at the upper end. I’m no hero, so I did layer up while it was still in single figures. The high collar, which is double thickness, was definitely much welcome when the sun was still trying to edge its way slowly over the horizon.
One thing I would say regarding the comfort is that you’d be better off with a base layer, even if you don’t normally wear one. There is a lot of stitching internally thanks to all the stripes and especially the additional internal pockets, and having even just a thin layer helps insulate you from any irritating rubbing.
The pockets are really what make me keep coming back to this jersey from a performance standpoint. The chest pocket is more or less a useless affectation unless you’re actually carrying a brevet card, and I rarely use the valuables pocket (though it is great for stowing keys and a credit card), but the enormous mesh inner pocket is a godsend when you clear a rural Lidl out of bananas and baked goods.
The three standard pockets can carry all the usuals, but knowing you have an auxiliary area opens up the possibility of bigger resupply stops, and therefore makes them less frequent. It can easily hold three bananas, some smaller snacks, and smaller layers like the best arm warmers all at once. Again, another reason not to size down – the rear capacity relies somewhat on the looser fit. If it’s skintight you’re going to end up with a back full of banana puree. If you’re also wearing a pair of the best cargo bib shorts, and pack conscientiously, you can realistically jettison some on-bike luggage if you so desire.
One gripe I do have is with the material itself. It isn’t, as Rapha states, merino based, rather it’s primarily polyester and so it does get stinky, even with a pure merino base layer as an acting barrier. Not an issue for day rides, however long they are, but waking up and putting on yesterday’s jersey when it’s a bit humming isn’t the nicest thing in the world. However, unless it’s totally constructed of merino, any jersey is likely to smell bad, so I can’t mark it down too much in this regard, just adjust your expectations accordingly. On the flip side, the durability will be of benefit to those venturing off on gravelly adventures.
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I really like the Rapha Brevet Jersey. For the sort of riding I really enjoy, the non-aero exploration kind of riding along anonymous country lanes, it’s a stellar choice. It looks good, it’s comfortable, and I can carry the kitchen sink if I so wish.
For long distance, self-sufficient riding it really comes into its own, and despite the merino blend not really keeping the multi-day stink at bay I’d still choose this as my go-to tour jersey for spring and early summer in northern Europe. In high summer Rapha has a new lightweight version, which I’m yet to get my teeth into but am excited to see how it performs, too.
|Design and aesthetics||Beautifully designed, and up there with the Classic Jersey in terms of timeless appeal||10/10|
|Thermal management||Surprisingly adept across a wide range of temperatures, but struggles in high heat||8/10|
|Storage||You’ll struggle to find a jersey that can pack more in, but it can twist about when heavily laden||9/10|
|Comfort and fit||The fit is only let down by tight arms, but you’ll need a base later to avoid itchy bits||8/10|
|Value||Considering the performance and durability it represents very good value, but it’s still at the upper end of the Rapha range||8/10|