When I walking, skiing, climbing or staggering between bars my usual choice of insulation is down. The feel, lightness and ease of compressibility make it ideal for most outdoor activities. Many of the issues of the past. such as being useless when wet have been addressed by water repelling etreatments, which has also increased the ease of caring for down garments. I don't like it on the bike though. It feels a little restrictive, too warm and I'm dubious if it could stand up to the demands that cycling brings to a garment.
So we look at synthetic and perhaps the best known player in this field is Polartec. Found in jackets, fleeces, gloves etc etc. Polartec Alpha has been designed to work in both the "stop & go" phases. For those of you not fluent in outdoors industry jargon, it works whilst engaging in the activity and whilst resting. Polartec Alpha claims to have increased breathability and lightweight warmth. Bold claims indeed and if true ideal as the insulation on the lightweight Brevet.
The Brevet itself is well, styled like a Rapha piece of kit. It has that hipster vibe about it but I'll be honest the black (no whatever Rapha say it is NOT dark navy) piece I chose is a beautiful understated jacket. Classy and wonderfully made. The DWR coating provides a surprising amount of waterproofness and the hardly noticeable reflective details come alive when needed.
The Brevet features a long tail for extra protection, a secret pocket for valuables and packs into a band on the neck. Not that I could be bothered with that, far more impressive to me is it's extremely light weight.
So all in all this should be good so off to Serbia we went this autumn. First day it rained so I donned the Brevet. I wore it constantly for over a week. With extremes of temperature ranging from 0-15 in the 1500 metre plus peaks of the Balkans the Brevet was a dream. The Polartec Alpha worked at maintaining core temperature and only on the last two days when temperatures hit 20 did I ever start to feel sweaty. I simple tug on the zip helped to ventilate on the long, steep climb out of Tara Canyon and I was thankful that I hadn't taken it off when the cold hit on the climbs to the Ski resorts of Zlatibor and Zlabjak especially with the howls of the local wolf pack being heard on the horizon.
If I had to find fault then the sleeves felt cold on the descents of a morning or evening and I had to wear arm warmers underneath and also at £150 the price is slightly painful (although currently the Rapha website is selling for £120)
Sizing wise it's snug. My small certainly fitted me better in Tivat at the finish than Belgrade at the start but insulation actually works better when there is less air so that's how things should be really.
I've worn and tested insulated cycling kit before, whilst I've seen some benefits I've never really considered it quite right. The look, feel and comfort factors are just missing something. Perhaps the Rapha Brevet using Polartec Alpha has found it. Almost perfect in the changeable conditions of the mountains, looks good on or off the bike and it doesn't flap in the wind. The Brevet has become a go to piece of kit; I just can't commit to growing a daft enough beard to go full hipster.