Rapha’s Flyweight glasses equal heavyweight style

In the beginning, there were goggles. Military-style flying goggles made of glass and leather, designed to protect the riders’ eyes from dust … and judging from the photos of the era, the discarded cigarette butts of their rivals, too.

Then, came Fausto Coppi, when stylish offerings by Persol and Rayban gave the peloton some Hollywood sheen. This was surely cycling’s Peak Fashion: an age of slicked-back hair, slender steel bicycles and elegant wool jerseys in block colors.

The ’80s were still an innocent time, when Greg LeMond and his Oakley Eyeshades seemed modern and fun, before we knew what genuine sartorial sin really looked like. If only we could have stopped the clock then, before Mario Cipollini and Marco Pantani, with their garish Brikos. Before the dawn of Oakley’s “Over The Tops,” perhaps the most aptly named piece of kit in cycling history.

Alas, it was another disgraceful decade before the sport’s purveyors of ocular apparel got their collective shit together. Before a word like “cool” ever applied to your riding wardrobe.

Of course, fashion is transient, and we might well wretch when we look at all of our cycling selfies 10 years from now, but it’s hard not to look at a pair of POC DO Blades or Oakley Jawbreakers and think that they’ll still have a certain air of retro charm for the next generation.

They will be second place however, at least in this guy’s opinion, to Rapha’s Pro Team Flyweights, which manage to combine some retro charm with uber-modern styling and high-quality materials into one of the raciest, boldest eyewear options on the market.

The Carl Zeiss lens is made in Italy and coated with a protective treatment, making it scratch resistant and easy to clean. They usually look great, even after a long, grubby ride. And there’s a selection of five different styles, covering every conceivable weather condition.

For the racers, their svelte 25-gram weight will appeal. The way they sit, and their frameless lens design, makes it easy to forget you’re wearing them. They’re also super aero (if that’s your thing), and after a few months’ worth of testing in rain and shine, I can say they are excellent at staying clear, free of fog, and dispersing water. But all of that is secondary, because they look awesome, especially with the standard, bronze mirror lens. And isn’t that all we really care about anyway?

Not exactly cheap at $220, but that’s the ballpark cost of high-end shades these days. There is only one problem: The hard case comes with a space for two extra lenses. Damn the budget – those spots must be filled. And if you’ll excuse the pun, I already have my eyes on a couple.


Rapha’s cotton trousers: Fashion meets function

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We could say a lot about Rapha’s cotton trousers. For one, we think they’re snappy looking. They’re also really well made, with a couple of pleasing features like the high-vis pink tabs and the hidden pocket zippers that set them apart from the competition.

They also offer an awesome blend of off-the-bike style with on-the-bike functionality, something that every sartorially-conscious commuter will tell you is hard to find. And the little bit of lycra woven into them makes them super comfortable, all day long, no matter what you get up to.

All of this is great, of course, but that’s not why we really love them. No, these pants get an unequivocal seal of approval because they were complimented by someone with no interest in bicycles or the culty, lusty status us roadies give to brands like Rapha. With some bonus points thrown in because the flattering remarks came from a member of the fairer sex.

The trousers are a slim fit and taper towards the lower leg but the sizing is accurate and a little more generous than Rapha’s casual offerings in the past. The fitted look is eye-catching, especially with the hot pink pocket tab on the rear and the coloured seams that you show off with a crucial roll-up at the hem, and the zipped side pockets are great for keeping valuables safe while you ride. They’re bike-friendly, but fashionable enough to be an alluring choice even for people with no interest in two-wheeled transportation.

What more do you need to know? At $150, they’re not the cheapest pair of slacks you’ll find on the rack, but then, if you’re shopping at Rapha you’ll know that their good looks and quality construction rarely comes cheap. Threads like these are a practical investment in your wardrobe, and they’re worth it for anyone who values bike-friendly clothing but doesn’t want to go all courier chic – or worse, show up dressed like a Fred. Because no one likes those.

 


Rapha Classic: Sunglasses That You Can Wear On and Off the Bike

Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now. These shades have handmade Italian frames and Carl Zeiss lenses, wrapped up in a sexy Rapha package. They were never going to be cheap.

But then, that’s ok, because if we’re honest, nothing is cheap these days. Especially not the pretty stuff. And if you go for the pink lens version–the only choice, if you ask this guy–you’ll have a nice rose-tinted outlook on the world that should distract you from your empty wallet.

Designed with a classic aesthetic and available in three colours–brown, black and the left-field grey/pink–the Rapha Classic range is inspired by sunglasses of old, but updated enough to function perfectly in today’s peloton.

Rapha Classic sunglasses. Photo: Colin O'Brien/Element.ly
Photo: Colin O’Brien/Element.ly.

The Carl Zeiss lenses are deep and curved, offering good coverage, and are coated with some things with complicated names that prevent fogging and smudges and offer 100% UV protection. The acetate/wire frame is made by Mazzucchelli, a firm outside of Milan with more than 160 years experience in the plastics industry. The design is robust and comes with well-placed, discrete rubber grips to stop slippage.

Rapha’s little foray into eyewear are a well-made, understated option for anyone looking for some premium shades. They won’t be to everyone’s taste because they’re not quite sporty enough for the try-hard weekend warrior, and unlike a lot of the competition, they don’t come with interchangeable lenses.

In the pro column, the build-quality is second-to-none and the understated design is stylish enough to wear off the bike without drawing any disapproving glances. And for those of us who’ve always thought we looked like tools wearing aggressively outdoorsy sunglasses, they’re a must have.


Climb Into This Purpose Packed Rapha Jersey

Rapha Pro Team Climber's Jersey
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

It is hot in Italy.

But I’m in Italy riding your bike, so complaining seems like a bad idea.

The water bottles are full, tires have been inflated, route map has been downloaded to the Garmin, caffe spot has been chosen and pockets are packed full of handmade treats.

And today I’m sporting the new Rapha Pro Team Climber’s Jersey. The first thing I notice is, even though I’ve stuffed my pockets with preparedness, there is very little sag from the packed pockets.

The second thing I notice is nothing. There is nothing to notice. The Rapha jersey is exactly what is says it is, a crazy lightweight jersey for hot and humid days in the saddle. Mesh panels here and mesh panels there allow this jersey to breath like few others.

Even though it is hot enough to bake a margherita pizza on the pavement the jersey goes basically unnoticed. Which on a day like today is exactly what I want.

The Rapha Pro Team Climber’s Jersey is currently on sale for $135, down from $195, if you want to go pick one up.


The New Rapha Pro Team Aero Jersey Is So Fresh and So Clean

Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly
Photo: Jim Merithew/Element.ly

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.