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Rapha Reflective Quarter Zip Knit review

8 Mar 2018

Rapha’s innovative commuting sweater is big on looks, big on features and big on price

Cyclist Rating: 
Lovely feel and fit for riding and general wear, Neat cuff design Incredibly reflective making for safer riding, Stylish

Buy the Reflective Quarter Zip Knit from Rapha here

When Rapha began in 2004 I can remember the cycling world marvelling at just how expensive its bibshorts were, then latterly, marvelling at just how good  they were. The cost, it seemed, was justified, and I’ve since had first hand experience and can attest the same.

My Classic Bibshorts are a wardrobe staple, still notching up the Ks four years later. They were around £200, which I can now look back on as a good investment.

Still, it’s a bold move to release a sweater for £250, and I can hear the sabres rattling. I agree this is expensive, but I reckon it might, just be considered good value. And if you take cost out of the equation, there is no denying this is an amazing piece of kit.

Fabric of the fibre

The Reflective Quarter Zip Knit is knitted from a merino blend yarn, which, in case you missed it, merino is the Dom Perignon of wools. Naturally anti-microbial, wonderfully thermal and soft yet hardy.

What merino isn’t is reflective, a key element to any piece of gear cast in the commuter mould, which this sweater definitely is. You’ll not see any of Rapha’s pro-team riders mixing it in the bunch wearing the Reflective Knit.

To that end, Rapha has woven in highly reflective threads that appear a dark mottled grey in normal light but transforms the shoulders, chest, sleeves and midriff into the proverbial festive tree after dark.

In the first instance, the reflective element works impressively well, and knowing this I felt safer riding in the Reflective Knit than I do in, say, a black top or jacket.

Am I safer? Who knows, but logic would suggest (and I would hope) that the more you can see me, the less likely you are to hit me. Unless we are playing.

The Reflective Knit also has a fine and very neat touch at the sleeves, where the cuffs roll back to present a secondary Rapha hot-pink fluoro cuff beneath, which again logic would say is an excellent edition to turn-signalling (while we’re on that, why has nobody brought out a good glove with a large reflective panel on the back and fingers?).

As the name suggests, this sweater also has a quarter length zip, which zips up so neatly as to almost disappear, albeit with a touch of the European architects about it (so I’m told; I also got ‘Russian spy’ from two friends).

Simply brilliant

Other than the reflective element and cuffs there is nothing particularly technical about this garment, which might bemuse the casual onlooker considering the price.

But then there is nothing really that technical about any sweater, and to my mind Rapha’s biggest consistent strength is it does the simple things well. Or at least, makes the fundamental things simple.

Thus I found the Reflective Knit’s fit bob-on, with a comfortable cut to ride in that didn’t look ‘bikey’ off the bike. The sleeves are longer, so too the back, in order to cope with a stretched out riding position, but when stood normally there wasn’t the weird sag that comes with some bike-fit clothing. Nor, mercifully, did Rapha choose to put in rear pockets. Shudder.

This is a good thing, because in purely shallow terms this is a classy looking sweater that I found myself wanting to wear as much on as off the bike. Indeed, it went entirely unnoticed by even riding mates as being commuting kit until I flashed some pink sleeve. And when the reflective element lit up in car headlights one dark eve, there were audible gasps, prompting a phone flash set to ‘on’ while I stood there like a performing monkey in a road safety awareness demonstration.

On the bike the Reflective Knit ticked all the promised boxes. It was nice and toasty, soft to against skin; it also breathed well, and the merino’s anti-microbial nature meant when I did get sweaty the Reflective Knit wasn’t left smelly (another idea – merino boxers please).

I washed it a couple of times, but this was only to see how it stood up to being cleaned rather than because it needed washing.

The knit isn’t super dense, so while warm in the main the wind did whistle a bit through the fabric on particularly breezy days or riding properly fast, and it isn’t waterproof – although on one or two drizzly rides it managed to not get sodden or cold.

The drizzle was light though, and the rides no longer than 20mins. I tended to put a waterproof shell over the top if it was actually raining.

Still, I can’t shake the idea that, because of the price, this is a luxury piece of kit not a necessary one.

Like most cyclists I know I can already cobble together useful commuting kit from regular clothes mixed in with true cycling gear, and I don’t live in a world where I get harangued for showing up to the pub in a softshell (I hope no-one does), and the instances when I arrive somewhere by bike and must stay dressed in all the clothes I rode in, are few and far between (that said, on these odd occasions I found the Reflective Knit a perfect accomplice).

Yet I don’t feel able to level price as a criticism per se, more a point of fact. I find paying more than £13 for a haircut faintly ridiculous, but I know many people that routinely don’t bat eyelids at £25 trims. Value is in many respects context dependent, especially when I consider one last thing.

I have several sweaters from a well-known flightless bird fashion label; 100% cotton and 100% haven’t lasted more than six months before the shape has gone, the knit pilled. I also have a merino sweater from a deceased tennis player. It is now in its sixth year and it still holds its shape like new. I was even able to get a hole sewn up when the washing machine door nipped it.

The cotton sweaters were £40, the merino one £90 – a huge indulgence for me that I nearly didn’t go for. But I liked it and I’m very glad I bought it, it has proven an investment, and if other pieces of Rapha kit I’ve owned have taught me anything, the Reflective Quarter Zip Knit would be an investment too. It’ll just take a few years before it pays itself off.

Buy the Reflective Quarter Zip Knit from Rapha here


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