Layering up kit is great for changeable conditions whether you’re preparing for the worst, out all day or climbing in the mountains you may find that one item of clothing is just not enough. With the weather being so nice in the UK whilst we tested these offerings from Rapha it was lucky that I had a trip to Mt Ventoux to look forward to giving them the conditions that may challenge them enough.
The Rapha Classic Flyweight jersey and Classic gilet 2 are nice light weight items, the jersey is basically see through – I even watched the tv through it for a while before I got bored of the experiment. On the chillier starts to rides in the UK the gilet has been a welcome addition and it’s great to keep heat in when you have stopped for coffee. So, it comes to our trip to France, if you’re short on time and there are enough people willing, you can do the trip in about 16 hours – if unlucky like us it will take you about 20.
As we he had decided to attempt the Cingels du Ventou (all three ascents and descents of the renowned Mt Ventoux in one day) on the Saturday in club kit, our warm up ride would have to be part of the test as well. Our first days riding I was in the Classic Flyweight jersey with a Rapha lightweight base layer, the classic cut is a bit looser than the racier feeling items from Rapha but if you’re carrying a bit more weight than a matchstick with the wood shaved off it could be just for you! It was warm around the market, we went to grab food for lunch and the gilet stayed firmly in one of the roomy back pockets (those pockets are good – I kept a Rapha musette, my Topeak pump, the gilet and my Silca phone wallet in them without any problems). Soon the musette was full of shopping and we were on our way back to the base camp for lunch.
The big test was on our recon up from Bedoin to Chalet Reynard at 1,417m and through Gorges de la Nesque. The temperatures varied from 81f to 91f and with very little breeze on the side of the mountain it felt hotter, and with segments over 9% for 5km it’s not what most people would call an easy climb. Black is also possibly not what we would call the best colour to have in the heat, but it never presented a problem for me on the day. For the ride I found that the gilet again stayed in the back pocket with the rest of my equipment. We tried to remember points on the road for the next day’s first climb and there are lots of markers to take in including a memorial to the mountains motor racing history. It seemed after I reached Chalet Reynard (whilst I was having coffee) that the temperature seemed to still be rising, the gilet does not look like it’s going to get a look in as we head to the Gorges de la Nesque. The gorge is warm and again there is no wind, we pushed on hard using the gradient to build speed for the next short climb and this type of effort goes on for about 45 minutes before we re-join our route back to base.
3am is not the time of the day I like to get up but at least it’s going to be cold outside, right? Maybe not, we left base at 3.45am after having a good breakfast and packing many bars from beloved brand Veloforte into our pockets. It was warm, so the gilet went into one of my back pockets with a set of arm warmers, again it’s a good thing the gilet packs down so small as climbing all three sides of the Ventoux in one day was going to take a lot of energy bars! We had already done a bunch of miles before we had hit the foot of the first climb and in the dark it was hard to remember where any of the points we had seen the day before to help us judge how we were doing. In the fresh air the climbs didn’t seem as steep. Before we knew it, Chalet Reynard had come into site but there was still some of the hardest miles to come. When you first see the tower on your way from the Chalet to the top it looks close but turn after turn it just does not seem to get any closer, the higher you got you began to notice the temp finally drop and on that last turn at the summit the wind the mountain is known for hits you.
At this point we reached around to the back pockets to pull out the luxury items, a Veloforte bar to munch on and the gilet and arm warmers, you know it's cold when people stand around in sleeping bags to watch the sun rise. On the inside of the gilet you will see a diagram of the tower and the top of Mt Ventoux being buffeted by the Mistral winds but the gilet helped keep them at bay, but my bare legs were not as lucky. After watching the awesome sun rise we turned around and headed down towards Malaucene, the gilet was a god send and I’m sure it was the only thing that kept me on my bike going down the mountain. My body temperature had dropped low whilst stood at the top in the wind in summer kit, it was about half way down that I stopped shaking from the cold which made controlling the bike and using the brakes with my frozen hands very interesting, but my chest was warm, and the gilet did as promised. This seemed like the pattern of the day, a cold fast descent wrapped up warm against the elements and in the coffee shops and bakeries to help stay warm and save energy and then, gilets rolled up and stowed away with the rest of the supplies on the way up. For this type of riding, all day with changeable conditions the Classic Gilet 2 is in its element (pardon the pun), windproof and light weight, small enough to be concealed in your back pocket along with your days spares and supplies and looks great when it’s on if you like to look stylish. Its available in a few colours, I had dark blue and one of my ride partners opted for the easy to see orange which a good choice in gloomy British winter months, the small reflective marks and raphe logo’s also may help in low light.
Luckily after the climb up the third and final side of Mt Ventoux, the temperature had risen enough for the gilet to stay in the back pocket. Let’s face it it’s always better to have it and not need it then to need it and not have it and that’s the winning point to this item, you can carry it around all day and not notice it’s there. When it’s warm the flyweight jersey keeps you cool even when working hard and uphill, the gilet is a good accompaniment for this (or any other jersey) if it starts to get chilly, your heading down hill at speed or you just want to add some extra wind proofing.