Wednesday, 11 October 2017 20:46

Rapha Brevet Insulated Jacket with Polartec Alpha Tested and Reviewed Featured

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I was supposed to be going cycling in the Dolomites in July. A perfect chance to test the Rapha Brevet with it's Polartec Alpha insulation I hoped. For various reasons sadly that didn't happen and so I searched  for the opportunity to give this snazzy piece of kit a good test. It stood up to South Wales summer drizzle quite admirably but I wasn't sure that was enough of a test for something that costs £150 and it certainly wasn't testing the Polartec Alpha. I know I've got it. This year's touring was taking in the mountains of both Serbia and Montenegro. Perfect.

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.

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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.

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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)

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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.


Last modified on Friday, 13 October 2017 09:22
Stu Thomas

A former bank worker now working for a major national outdoor company Stu is an avid mountain and road cyclist and tests kit for MyOutdoors around the BreconBeacons and South Wales. As a member of South Wales Mountaineering Club stu, along with partner Julie (who also tests for us) also both climbs and walks. When not tearing up mountain bike trails Stu can be found on the road either commuting by bike or taking part in muscle draining sportives in the Peak District.

With his retail experience and insight Stu is able to help us with real time buying trends and reviews based on a wide range of kit for comparisons. Stu has also started writing for MyOutdoors Blog, first documenting his "conversion" to a road cyclist and soon to be reliving some of his recent cycle tours that have taken in both the Balkans and Estonia/Latvia. You may even be able to pick him out in photos of wild camping in Magillicuddy's Reeks on the site - Stu gets around!

Preferred activities: Hillwalking ,mountain biking, road cyclingg, climbing, skiing

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