I am fortunate enough to actually enjoy riding in the rain, but a sizeable chunk of that enjoyment is facilitated by having good gear. In other words, I have access to the best waterproof cycling jackets on the market, by virtue of a never-ending group test. Of the over 40+ jackets I’ve got in a cupboard now, there are a good many that are excellent, but there are a much smaller number that are so good that they actually make me look forward to riding in an actual deluge. The Rapha Explore Gore-Tex Jacket is one of them for sure.
It’s nominally a gravelly, adventure-oriented shell jacket, but there are some nifty features that elevate it beyond the average. Is it worth the steep asking price though, which is knocking on the door of £400? Well, I’m not going to tell you here; you’re going to have to at least scroll to the ‘Value’ section to find out, but I’d much rather you just read the whole thing.
Design and aesthetics
Just a handful of seasons ago if you wanted a waterproof jacket that wasn’t cut for road riding you’d have to head to your local outdoors shop and buy a hiking jacket. The cut would work for mountain biking, but these don’t cut it for the in-between nether zone of gravelly adventure riding that Rapha’s Explore collection targets. This isn’t a jacket aimed at an FKT attempt, but more something for those aspirational Instagram reels of exhausted-looking riders, embattled by the elements somewhere in deepest Iceland, in tasteful earth tones that match the landscape.
It’s pitched at much the same market segment as the Albion Zoa Rain Shell, a jacket I adore both on and off the bike and one that sits in a similar price bracket. As there, the fit is looser to accommodate layers; you can very easily chuck a moderately puffy down jacket, one from our guide to the best winter cycling jackets perhaps, underneath and not have all of your insulation compressed into chilly oblivion. The other side to this is that there is more material to bunch up and flap around, and to counteract this there is a novel addition in the form of two small sets of poppers.
A waterproof, double-ended zip is a given for a jacket at this price, but if you unzip it from the bottom you can fold the front portion of the hem, the bits under the pockets, up and inside the main body of the jacket and pop them in place, effectively shortening the front of the jacket for times…