Published by Andrew on 28 February 2022
After the retirement of a long-loved jacket, Bob Zeller sees how things have changed with the Rapha Lightweight Explore Jacket.
For ten years, or even more perhaps, I have always taken my Altura softshell wind jacket when going touring. It has been a good and loyal friend. Not really water or windproof, it has been good enough to keep me dry in a shower and perfectly comfortable on a windy day. But all good things come to an end. In this case, it was my wife’s patience that ran out as she has announced there isn’t one more inch in the cuffs that can be stitched. It was obviously time to find a replacement.
I checked the websites for jackets and there were lots on offer from various companies. But Rapha had one (of fifteen offered) that seemed perfect for a cycle tourist. Called the Lightweight Explore Jacket, it is both water and wind resistant and looked to be comfortable. As a bonus, at £100, it was priced at the lower end of all Rapha’s jackets. I like Rapha products although some think they are over priced and over posh. But for me, Rapha has always meant good design and manufacturing and a company that bends over backwards to make sure the customer is well served. So it was a simple decision to order one.
Now that I have worn it for a few rides, I can say it is everything I want in a softshell touring jacket. It is indeed lightweight and breathable with a good level of wind resistance thanks, in part, to the 25 gsm material it is made with. It also has a good level of water resistance because of its durable water displacement finish. Equally importantly it is so packable that it squishes up to be smaller than my fist and can be stuffed inside its own pocket on the jacket’s side. Mind you, this is not a rain jacket or waterproof mac. It is rain resistant and you will get wet if you get caught out in a heavy rainfall. But showers or light rain will be kept off you.
Sizewise, and this is always a concern for me, large was a perfect choice even though I am only just over 170cm tall. To begin with, I wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be tight across my chest. And it isn’t. Actually Rapha designed it to be a bit looser than the usual race cut that so many cycling jackets feature. Apparently they were thinking about off-road cyclists, not sportive riders, when they worked out the sizing. It seems to me they got it right for tourists as well. Worn with just a jersey underneath, nothing flaps about and if you are wearing a thickish sweater as well, it is still a remarkably comfortable fit. Importantly, the zip goes up and down one-handed making ventilation easy.
One area of concern for some might be the lack of a rain flap at the bottom of the back. The back is about 5cms longer than the front and this is fine for me. But those taller than me and wearing this size might see this as a problem. A larger size would solve it, I’m sure.
All in all, an exceptionally good jacket in my view. But the ultimate test will be next year’s tour in Normandy.