Cycling, like any other established hobby or sport, is a microcosm. There is a specific fashion culture and the quality of goods runs the gamut from homemade products sold on amateur Blogspot sites to full production companies focused on high-end products. Rapha definitely falls into the latter category. If you have ever seen, or better yet, worn a Rapha piece you might be surprised (as I was), that the UK company is only five years old. I am convinced the founders must have had a crystal ball because the market has only recently been receptive to high quality, fashionable cycling clothing.
I look for two things when I ride – performance materials (breathability, moisture-wicking) and looks. Rapha manages to deliver on both fronts, something that has eluded even top names in the industry. Their recently announced AW09 range is a reflection of the intersection of performance, quality, and looks. Their cuts are flattering, but still promote and allow for a full range of movement. Their finish is impeccable, with no irregularities in stitching or construction. I am particularly fond of the Rain Jacket and the Trousers – they are perfect for cold weather riding and include thoughtful features such as packability and reinforced seat panels. Their prices are high but the quality reflects that and I guarantee once you try one of their items, the other stuff in your closet will suddenly seem pale in comparison. When you are done checking out their products, subscribe to their blog. It has wonderful commentary on their various race and ride teams, amazing photography, and though provoking commentary on cycling personalities and culture.