Reviews

Rapha Trade Team Jersey Review 6/3/13

Given the opportunity to review the new Rapha Trade Team Jersey I jumped at the chance. Knowing the meticulous nature of product design and effort Rapha applies to their stock, the trade team jersey had piqued my interest.

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The Rapha Trade Team Jerseys

Let me be blunt, I’m a big guy.  On a good day I clock in at 208 lb. six foot even, and 45-46 inches across the chest. Somebody big and mean once told me, “You are built for running in a straight line and hitting things.”  You get the picture; I am a stately-sized-linebacker-like-gentlemen who enjoys the rouleur life.

While Rapha has shifted into the racing spectrum with the pro team kits the trade team jersey seems to be a descendent of their “club fit” line, specifically the popular Rapha Country Jersey. The Trade Team jersey differentiates itself by deriving it’s naming convention in celebration of the podium holders (Poulidor, Anquetil and Planckaert) and their respective trade teams of the 1962 Tour de France. The Trade Team Jersey itself is a luxe Merino blend and the nod to the past gives it a classic aesthetic at first glance.

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The Rapha Trade Team Jersey (front)

The Rapha Country Jersey relied upon a traditional five-panel design. Two up front, one panel for each side, and then a back panel. Awesome, right? Well, yes and no. Five panel construction fit ends up being akin to a majority of full zip race style jerseys. It’s par for course in modern jersey design but the defects are obvious to those of us that wear them on a regular basis. Specifically you run into the issue of, “The fewer panels the more the fabric must stretch, the more the fabric stretches the more opportunity for bunching, pulling and other irregularities in fit.” It makes Daddy look sloppy.  This is where Rapha differentiates the Trade Team Jersey from the rest of the crowd. The Trade Team Jersey departs, significantly from this model by incorporating nine panels into the design. Yep, nine.

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Exterior of side panels

Due to the addition of those panels (the additions are made to the side panels) the jersey does not pull across the front to close, but instead, naturally wraps around the chest to have a much more ergonomic fit. Oh and by the way as previously mentioned I, for one, do not have the traditional skinny cyclist body. On several rides there was no pull across the front. Instead I received a snug, racier fit than anticipated without the typical fit issues that accompany a jersey of this caliber. Those fit issues range from sleeves that ride up, bunching around the back of the neck, and pulling on the side panels through the armpit area. Over the course of several hundred miles on both long and short rides the trade team design carried me in comfort.

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Interior of Side panels 

Rapha has also incorporated a longer sleeve length, it is 1/2 to a full inch longer than the past Country Jersey, which is a nice touch for function and style. Especially when you consider the contrast piping and flag embroidery that pimps out each jersey.

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Rapha Trade team Sleeve Length

 

Let’s talk about that piping. Upon closer inspection black sleeve piping provides a nice constriction around the arm without resorting to elastic. If you’ve ever had a jersey too tight around your arm you’ll recognize the immediate value and comfort this brings to the table. The sleeves allow that right amount of fit and volume. This kind of detail is where Rapha’s attention to product design becomes evident.

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Sleeve with flag detail and Piping

Ergonomics and access is always an interesting problem to solve on a jerseys back panel. Rapha has traditionally applied zippered pockets and this is no exception. However the valuables pocket has become a vertically accessible full size pocket sewn into the interior of the jersey. Rapha jerseys have been arriving for some time now with the pre cut wire port for headphones/ear buds. On their trade team jerseys the port is cut out of the valuables pocket, which makes sense, but does create some logistical challenges. Nothing that can’t be navigated, but it does make you think twice before unzipping that pocket.

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Back Pocket Unzipped

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Interior of Valuables Pocket

All in, the simple and effective design changes allow for the classic color blocking to shine as Rapha gives a nod to the rockstars of the 1962 Tour. For a style and fit conscious rider like myself the Rapha Trade Team jersey falls into the game changer category. I’ll be the first to say, this isn’t rocket science, Rapha has managed to capture the right amount of function to accompany their meticulous fit and finish. Form and function is a winning combo and I’m interested to see if this design philosophy starts to make inroads to other areas of their product line up.

 Verdict: Totally worth it, Rapha sticks to the “Simple is Beautiful” design ethos. And then they tweak it, to wildly effective results. 

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Road Holland Hilversum Review 2/20/13

Back in December I pulled the trigger on a @roadholland Hilversum jersey and over the past six weeks as I’ve been phasing back into riding I’ve been making notes here and there about the jersey, fit, finish and overall impression. But first lets talk about what attracted me to @Road Holland. Yes, there’s a backstory!

As you may have guessed I have a dual design ethos. either keep it simple or make it fun. The two can live together but there’s equal opportunity for these ideas to push the barriers. Last year after WTFkits 1.0 went down for a few weeks I moved back into long slow miles. I ended up riding a Century with my then 69 year old father. The event went from Richmond, VA to Williamsburg, VA and back to Richmond. We ended up in the “SUCK THE F’ing LIFE OUT OF YOU” Virginia sun for about 4 hour and 30 minutes as we jammed out a fun 102 miles. Damn, that was a fun ride but we both agreed … maybe next year not to wear a black kit.

At the ride expo Road Holland had a both set up. I saw riders out on the road in their different Road Holland  jerseys. They looked solid. Functional for an all day event. Ok, interest piqued. Flash forward to December 2012. I am now snowed in up in Binghamton NY under 20 inches of fresh. So, I was checking various bookmarks. Heckling my Cat 2 trousers deluxe racer brother and of course I stumbled upon road holland. Jersey on sale? Discount coupon? Why not? Jersey procured!

The jersey itself is a very nice article of cycling gear. The weight is low and the fabric a blend of poly and merino. Over the past few weeks  it’s become my go-to jersey on days when it’s slightly warmer. The finish is solid. One particular element I liked was the noticeably lacking “grip of death” around the arms. That, I can do without on any jersey. I tend to remove the elastic and have a seamstress take the sleeves in since nobody wants their circulation cut off or to look like hobo kit. 

Design wise it’s exceedingly simple which is a joy of mine. Road Holland, Rapha and several others seem to do this well. That is … embrace the nothing. Make it OK to have nothing. Other than a small call out branding is subtle. That, I dig. I could do without the orange stripe on the sleeve but that’s just a personal choice. The three back pockets had plenty of volume but it was the middle pocket I was stoked about. Large enough to stash the phone for an emergency but narrow enough to stash the pump and it remain upright. Nothing jostled around. Been pretty happy with that fact.

The fit is the one thing I would caution people towards. As stated on the Road Holland website “This jersey has a more relaxed cut than our others. If you want it most form fitting, we suggest going down a size.”  The fit is definitely a club fit and if you buy your normal size … you may be swimming. My XL Road Holland is a touch loose on me where my XL/L team kits fit perfect. But, they do point out that’s how this jersey is supposed to fit.

All in it’s a really solid jersey with quite a few positive details about it. Where I think this jersey will really shine is for the rider who wants something simple & well designed. Somebody who is doing the longer rides, commuting or tends to get around town by bike. This jersey fits all those needs. As I ride to work and roll in wearing the Hilversum nobody bats an eye and that’s an achievement. Which is to say if you can make it by the non-cycling public without somebody asking you if you rode in today (no I just wear cycling clothes for the heck of it) then you’ve got something elegant and understated on your hands. Add in functional and it’s fun time.

Note: This jersey was paid for by me. Not gratis. These are my opinions … nothing more nothing less.

Review Update 6/17/13

After several weeks of riding I quickly realized the xl was much too large. In particular on one 100 mile odyssey the back of the jersey would extend over the back of my bibs and snag on the seat. I exchanged to a large with another rider but at this point after several washings and wears it’s becoming more akin to the phrase “rode hard and put away wet.” Which is to say it performs at certain level but the performance of the jersey appears to be degrading over time. I know Road Holland is going back into the lab soon and I hope they find a good way to deal with both the fit as stretch seems to be an issue. Additionally, this is a good opportunity for them to take a look at stitching and fabric selection.

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