Five years ago was the last time we made a kit. In those five years the amount of custom cycling kit manufacturers has seemed to double. Everyone is now offering exclusivity, premium cuts, aero dynamics, and low minimums. With all these choices, and the old kit showing signs of wear, it was time to make a new kit and put one of those manufacturers to the test.
The company we opted to go with was Rapha. They were gearing up to launch their custom line and I was given the opportunity to use their layout tool a bit ahead of launch to test it out. The interface is very minimal, which is great because you can spend hours going through the different design layouts and patterns available. You are given a blank white workspace with the kit element directly centered, leaving little to distract you from the task at hand. This was nice compared to other layout designers, but also dampened the creative process a bit. The option to upload your own pattern or to adjust logo placement felt limiting. These are both things that are in the works for the future as they continue to build out the system and get customer feedback.
Fit and feel is what you’d expect of Rapha, it’s some of the nicest stuff I’ve worn on the bike. The zipper is supper easy to get up and down with one hand. This was great on the hot and humid days in Europe this summer. The weight of the jersey (Pro Team Midweight) is perfect as well. It wasn’t overly hot in the summer and now that we are rolling into fall it is pairing perfectly with a base layer and arm warmers. With our mild California winters I’m sure I’ll survive with just a wind vest or thermal vest on the coldest of mornings. The construction is executed in a Rapha manner as well, there is no thread that feels loose nor is there any part that feels like it will rip if you tug too hard on it. The only standout to me was on the printing of the logo on the leg gripper. I had indicated for it be on the right side but every other bib had it printed on the left. Not a huge issue and one that is also being worked out of the system.
Construction and ship time is pretty fast from what I’ve experienced in the past. The price point can be challenging depending on your budget and order size, but it is fairly close to what we have paid in the past through other manufacturers. Even with system kinks (which should all hopefully be resolved/updated soon) I can say that there is a high probably we will using Rapha to make something special again in the very near future.
Pros: Great construction, Rapha fit and feel, Delivered in typical Rapha packaging, Easy user interface, pretty quick build and ship time
Cons: Still a few kinks in printing and design system, price points can be limiting depending on order size