The Cycle Life

Rapha Now Makes a (Sorta) Affordable Bike Kit

It’s still Rapha quality, but marketed for the masses

  • The Core line features thoughtful details like well-placed pockets and soft, cooling material.  Photo: Rapha

  • The women's jersey and shorts.  Photo: Rapha

  • The men's jersey and unisex bib shorts.  Photo: Rapha

Rapha, the British purveyor of some of the most expensive cycling kit on the market, is bringing its wares to a broader audience this spring with the Core line. The collection of four pieces, which offers Rapha’s understated style, will sell for between 35- and 50-percent less than the premium line.

“Core introduces Rapha to a customer price point where we’ve not been available before,” says Chris Distefano, the company’s communication director. “We keep all the details, though, like high-quality fabric, finishing details, and a great chamois...so it’s distinctly Rapha.”

That sounds like good marketing, but is this just a grab for more customers using cheap seconds?

We’ve been riding in Core for a couple of months, and it doesn’t feel like watered-down product in the least. The jerseys are constructed of a stretch fabric that’s perhaps not as lightweight as some of Rapha’s other materials, but is still soft and cooling in the heat. The details are dialed, including contrast fabric swatches at the neck and sleeves, a wide gripper elastic waist in the rear, reinforced rear pockets including a zipped pouch, and contrast stitching for Rapha’s characteristic arm-band look.

The bib shorts are just as good, starting with the same thick chamois that Rapha uses in its Classic bottoms. There are laser-cut silicone grippers at the quads and a huge rear cutout in the bibs for cooling. And the fabric, while thicker than that used in Rapha’s higher-end gear, is extremely compressive and comfortable.

So far, testers have loved the feel and performance of Core. Several have actually noted that the heavier fabrics seem more durable than those in the more premium lines. In fact, given the price differences—$115 for the Core jersey versus $170 for the Classic and $210 for the forthcoming Brevet, and $150 for the Core bibs as opposed to $235 for the Classics—many riders have said they might opt for the Core instead. It’s definitely excellent, everyday gear that outperforms most of the other budget options out there—and looks better, too.

Rapha wouldn’t be Rapha without a healthy dose of affect, and Core definitely delivers in that respect. “I looked a lot at Tadao Ando’s architecture, which is really simple and plain,” says Rapha Head of Design Alex Valdman on his inspiration for the Core line. “It’s always just four walls, but the order in which he builds the walls creates gaps, and it’s those gaps which produce light and brings real drama to his buildings. With Core, the main idea was how to use only one or two fabrics but still offer drama?”

For our part, we’ll save the drama for those late-race attacks and high-speed descents. But we’re totally down with the good-looking cycling gear for less.

The collection is comprised of the Men’s Core Jersey in four colors and the Women’s Core Jersey in three, both for $115, the Core Bib Shorts for $150, and the Women’s Core Shorts for $120.

Filed To: Clothing and Apparel

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