30 Days of Rapha – Head, Core and Knees… Repeat

Commute: 25 miles roundtrip
Weather: Partly Cloudy Temp: 55 deg.
Rapha Kit: Base Layer, Touring Shorts over Bib Shorts, Black Long Sleeve Jersey, Winter Gilet
Accessories:  Merino Socks, Softshell Gloves, Winter Hat, Fixed Backpack

The last few days have been surprisingly cool. I'm clearly getting soft and like my Canadian passport, my tolerance for the cold has apparently expired. Staying warm is all about your head, core and knees. Your head because science and our mothers tell us that's where we lose heat most rapidly. The core because once you've lost that heat on a ride, either the sun comes out or you're miserable for the duration. And then there are our knees. This exposed complicated joint performs better when it's kept warm. The older I get the more temperamental my knees become.

This morning I opted for the Winter Hat over the my regular Rapha cap. As advertised it's plenty warm and fits comfortably under my Giro Ionos and Atmos helmets. I can't help thinking with the ear flaps down I look like I'm ready for duck hunting season, but they certainly work. I wondered if they'd compromise my hearing, but I didn't notice any difference picking up cars approaching from behind. When I'm in traffic I feel my hearing is as important as sight when it comes to staying safe.

This is a great hat if you've got a big head like mine. It has a fair bit of stretch. The merino wool, polyester, Elastane blend is itch free and dries quickly. Important if you're commuting and don't want to put on damp kit for the journey home.

The Softshell Gilet took care of my core. The moment it appeared on Rapha's site I knew this was going to a constant companion for the next few months. The Summer Gilet still sits on top of my favorite kit list, yet there have been many times I wished it was warmer. For my money and your money the Gilet family's versatility can't be beat. The two Gilets dramatically increase your layering possibilities. The winter Gilet won't fold up like it's temperate cousin, but the heavier construction won't flap around as much if it's kept partially zipped.

The generous rear pockets have the carrying capacity of a small suitcase without spoiling the clean lines of the tapered cut. If you've not managed to get your body fat down to single digits (and who has) then this is a flattering garment.

As for the knees... if you thought I was simply going to recommend Rapha's Knee Warmers, we're still a few degrees away from that inevitable selection. Instead I wanted to put in another good word for Mad Alchemy's Cold Weather Embrocation. I've tried a number of warming products (for the legs, for the legs) and this is far and away my favorite. The bespoke preparations are made in small batches from natural ingredients by proprietor Peter Smith. This morning I covered my legs from mid thigh to mid calve with the stuff. It has a rich, dark color not unlike the sauce you'd find in a good order of hot wings (and that might be the Mad secret) so I wouldn't recommend you wear anything white like Rapha's BKW Knee Warmers over it. You're completely safe with black however.

17 Responses to 30 Days of Rapha – Head, Core and Knees… Repeat

  1. Joe says:

    Mostly just curious….are those the Touring Shorts? It says Bib Shorts in the kit description, but they appear a little baggy for the Rapha bibs. Love the blog….my wife blames you for the mass of Rapha gear that has invaded my collection. Everything else just looks tacky in comparison…so out with the old, in with the new.

  2. Good catch Joe,

    Those are the Touring Shorts (over the bibs). I missed adding them to the day’s kit list. You may also notice the “V” embroidered on the left leg. That’s just a little Velodramatic co branding.

    I’m beginning to imagine a scene from Frankenstein where the wives come to my front door carrying torches looking for the monster ;-)

  3. Joe says:

    I did notice the V. Also noticed it on a few other pieces of Rapha-wear. So how long until we can buy Velodramatic/Rapha gear right here on VeDram? The hat is especially nice!

  4. I’ll probably have one or two bits of Velodramatic kit next year. Of course I’ll need to get special dispensation from London if I’m basing it on Rapha. Need to do a few more experiments on me first though.

  5. Joe says:

    You should do 3 days without Rapha (next month). Might make for some interesting comparison. Wear some really gaudy kits…and a pair of cut-off (fingerless) leather gloves from the hardware store.

  6. That’s a great idea. Done.

  7. BR says:

    Oh I have a vast collection of 80′s gear that you can borrow for that scene. I have a white & black tiger striped jersey and some vintage Oakley’s. Maybe I’ll dig the 1984 Bontrager road bike out of the attic? Runs like a fine watch….1st generation Look pedals, down tube shifting, Rolls saddle, Blackburn cages, Suntour Pro gruppo, Mavic MA40′s, etc.

  8. Great. Except I’d need a step ladder to get on the bike.

  9. RMW says:

    Hi – I have been reading and following your Rapha reviews for quite sometime, this month of November looks to be interesting and cool.

    I have a few items from Rapha (3jerserys, Touring Shots, Light Weight Jacket, hats, etc) that I have used though the Spring and Fall around here (Calgary Alberta).

    My question to you is now that the temp have dropped to around 0C with drops into -10 to – 20 (-20 being the extent of my riding) I have ordered the Rapha Winter Tights, Winter Jersey, and Winter hat, in your experience how cold do you think these items can withstand? I am wondering if I should add the winter gilet into that order…


  10. RMW,

    Your timing couldn’t have been better after my references to losing my Canadian anti-freeze super powers yesterday. I can see you’ve still got yours getting out when its -20C (-4F). Amazing. Everyone is different so the following suggestions to a Calgarian (tougher stock) won’t necessarily apply to those of us living in a pampered climate South of the 49th.

    Assuming you’re wearing the tights over your bibs and a long sleeve base layer under the jersey, I think you’d be comfortable to 5C (40F) with the Winter Jersey. Anything below that and I’d definitely be adding the Winter Gilet. Also if you’re doing any high speed descents you’ll want to add the Winter Gilet sooner.

    At -5C (23F) I might swap the Winter Gilet out for the Classic Softshell Jacket so you have full arm coverage. At your maximum cold temp of -20C I’d be layering the lot, Winter Gilet over Classic Softshell over Winter Jersey over Base Layer. Then I’d put on a pair of boots, grab my stick and go take shots in the driveway. Road Hockey could be a whole new scene for Rapha ;-) Hope that gives you some ideas.

  11. RMW says:

    Excellent thanks, it is good to get a range of comments on the perceived “warmth” of any one item. I wore my LS Jersey with the LW Jacket the other day at 20F and was warm with the 3/4 bibs. Mainly just due to a life time of climate suffering. ha.

    Thanks again, I think I will add the Gilet. One thing I really like about the Rapha clothes, as you have mentioned, is the fact layering is designed into them at all levels. Here it is not uncommon in the winter to go from 10F to 60F in one afternoon. normally most of us stop riding at 0F or -4F to avoid the potential mechanical failures.


  12. Joe says:

    Not to hijack the post (and far be it for me to interject an opinion)…but I live and ride in a cold-ER climate….I rode a few weeks ago when the temps dipped into the low 30′s with just the Classic Softshell and a baselayer. I had to unzip the jacket to stifle the heat. I am confident that the CS will take me through the winter here even when the snow hits the ground. I am eyeing the Gilet too. Probably will pull the trigger on it tomorrow…

  13. Joe says:

    tip of the hat to the new softshell gloves too…I think they are a must have.

  14. It’s all good feedback Joe.

    I’m still finding new ways to combine the various layers depending on the conditions. The Winter Gilet just doubles our options.

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  17. Scott says:

    If it is any help to anyone from the colder northern wastes…

    On the coldest day here in Brisbane, Queensland I ride around in 0C. I can get by with Long Sleeve base, Classic jersey, the normal summer Gilet, arm warmers and knee warmers, rapha cap, Grand Tour Gloves.

    Next winter I’ll probably have a jacket, but the decision will be hard… Stowaway, Softshell or even the new winter Gilet…

    Too hard by far.