Aerodynamic. Versatile. Team Sky. Something called “Coldblack technology.” There’s no shortage of buzzwords to accompany Rapha’s Pro Team Aero range, but they weren’t what hooked me when a colleague fired the full, fresh-and-clean kit at me. Using the the age-old, unimpeachable rationale of cyclists everywhere: I liked it because it looked cool.
The data print style—a graphical representation of performance data collected from a pro rider during a grand tour—is a move away from Rapha’s almost trademark tendency towards understatement, and for this hack at least, that’s a good thing. Because if imitation really is the sincerest form of flattery, those designers in London should be extremely pleased with themselves.
Rapha have redefined cycling’s aesthetic over the last decade—chapeau—but as an inevitable consequence, it’s all gone a bit identikit. There are now hoards of Rapha-wannabes, all trying to sell us the same clean lines and muted palette. No one wants to go back to the luridly shameful ways of the 90s and early 2000s when skeuomorphic denim prints and a plethora of sponsor logos were the order of the day, but a little colour never hurt anyone.
The Pro Team Aero range is a happy medium. As well as the staple black, the block color jerseys come some bright—but not offensive—colors while the data print option allows the flashier among us to express themselves a little without making their riding partners nauseous. The bibs are understated, but the use of some fluo for the branding means they pop just enough.
There’s also some performance benefits to be had. The shoulders, seams and pockets have apparently been reworked to make the jersey more aero. It’s the kind of thing marketeers refer to as “free” speed, though at $195 for the jersey and $290 for the bibs, it’s hardly gratis. Crucially, then, for gear in Rapha’s price range, this is some well-made kit and once it’s looked after, should stand the test of time better than a lot of the competition.
They’ve taken elements of Team Sky’s racing skinsuits and bundled them into a more versatile jersey package. As a nice pro touch, there are still loops to hold race radio cables—or headphones for the mere mortals. And the aforementioned “coldblack” material reflects more heat than standard fabric, while some nice mesh on the back and sides makes it all very breathable.
Rapha claim that Sky have been riding various versions of this kit for the last few seasons, and that the Aero has become their go-to jersey. Assuming you’ve got the bank—and the physique to suit its tight, race-cut lines—it could very quickly become your favourite kit, too.