I love the name of this jacket. I just hear heroes in a half shell, turtle power in my head when the word is mentioned. Hardshell. It happened again. Wondering what on earth i'm on about?
Growing up in the 80’s the turtles were big. Really big. Everyone had a favourite and ran around pretending to wield nun-chucks or a staff like their sensei Splinter. Listen to the theme tune, it’s way better than any current cartoon theme tunes but i really should be telling you about the Rapha Hardshell Jacket.
Hardshell being a technical term for a waterproof outer layer, the Rapha Hardshell is made from a fabric created in Japan that’s not quite like your regular Epic or Goretex incarnates. I don’t know how it works but it’ll be a similar technique. Small holes in a membrane let small moisture molecules out and stop bit fat rain drops getting in. This jacket stops wind too. All of it. The first time i rode it in winter i wore my regular merino jersey and base layer underneath. 10 minutes later all zips are undone and i’m sweating. I was expecting some wind cooling just like other waterproofs i ride in. Well the wind didn’t get through the jacket so next time i ditched the base layer and was comfy.
I’ve enjoyed testing this jacket. We’ve had some pretty bad weather over the last year which has given loads of opportunities for the jacket to fail. It hasn’t. Rain still beads off the jacket and i stay dry. I’ve never had an occasion where i’ve got wet because the jacket has failed. The jacket excels in weather that’s so insane that you want to curl up under a hedge. It laughs at bad weather. The fabric breathes. I know this because i’m not totally soaked through from sweating in it so it must breathe. Better than Goretex et al? I think they are all about the same really at a certain price level give or take a small percentage that really isn’t noticeable. Overall the fabric is much better than Epic which needs constant re-proofing and wears out quickly.
Regular washing with a technical cleaner is recommended, not that i’ve had the thought to do it until i came to writing a review. Having washed it in waterproofing wash it beads just the same. Here is my only negative point against the jacket; there’s mud and road grime up the back of it now and after two washes the dirt stain is still there, just fainter. I have mudguards in bad weather so most muck isn’t sprayed up my back but a bit does. I’d say if you don’t have guards you’ll have a grubby rear part of the jacket. Does it matter? No, it still works perfectly. Just doesn’t look as new and nice if you’re modelling it in the coffee shop.
Arm length is prefect for me. Being 6’2″ and skinny ish i love the coverage on the wrists. Coupled with a pair of gloves that have longer wrist coverage you get a nice closed seal. I’ve worn an old pair of Rapha winter gloves (similar to the merino gloves Rapha sell now but with a waterproof back) and some Goretex ones that have a short wrist. I prefer the longer wrist gloves for comfort.
There are plenty of pockets on the back to fill and a secret pocket on the left hand side. So secret that for 3 months i didn’t find it. After forgetting my phone was in my back pocket in bad weather and ruining it i used the secret pocket from then on for my phone. The chartreuse colour of this version of the jacket is nicely bright it’s not a flouro colour that reflects at night. The seams are taped and there are waist pulls to keep the jacket hugging your body, an offset ykk zip means the Jersey zip underneath doesn’t stack up. Reflective logos and lines help you show up at night and the trademark Rapha message in the zipped back pocket is there too.
This jacket is not just for sub zero bad weather riding. I enjoy wearing it on cool days with the sun shining just as much. It adds a lot of warmth so careful choice of jersey is necessary if you don’t want to over heat. I’ve worn it on summer days too albeit some of the freakish cold wet ones we had last year. I only wore a base layer underneath at that time of year and was back in short sleeves a few days later. Bonkers climate.
You can ride like a hero in the worst of weather and the Rapha Hardshell jacket has your back. Strangely, some may find it too protective and too warm but if you enjoy the harshest of weather then you'll love riding in this. A darker colour will hide any dirt that doesn't wash out. I can see this jacket lasting for years. The hero is the hardshell.
Review date: 23 March 2015