The Bike List

Rapha Transfer Gilet £150

Tested by Oliver Laverack, tester for The Bike List

The Transfer gilet is part of Rapha's Pro Team collection and for 2014/15 is available in black and chartreuse as opposed to the blue 2013/14 one we tested. The jacket hasn't changed much with the only new feature being a headphone loop for those who like to tidy their headphones neatly away inside a jacket. Not having many new features certainly isn't a bad thing though as the gilet was well designed in the first place and has been a joy to test.

However, if you're after a gilet for riding then this probably isn't going to be the one for you. Its synthetic 'PrimaLoft' insulation is great at retaining your body heat but could quickly become suffocating on a lycra-clad training ride. That's not to say you can't use it on the bike at all but this gilet is really more at home being used on a commute where you want to stay warm and won't be worrying about breathability so much.

Although the design lends itself well to commuting or casual cycling, thanks in part to slim fit and dropped tail, I have worn this gilet for so much more. On a trip to Whislter, Canada in February, I wore the gilet to travel in and thanks to its compressible size it was easily stowed away, and stored in my hand luggage when not needed. When compressed inside its own rear pocket the gilet also doubled as a small travel pillow, ideal when waiting for a connecting flight or trying to find a comfy spot in an economy seat! On arrival it wasn't long before I was using the gilet again for virtually all of my planned sporting activities including as an extra layer for snowboarding. Where it really excelled, though, was on the snow-shoeing and Nordic Skiing excursions where the combination of insulation and sleeveless design combined to make the perfect 'stay comfortably warm whilst working hard in the cold' top.

The beauty of the gilet is that you can easily wear a layer or two underneath or even over the top, or strip down to have just a T-shirt and the gilet depending on conditions. This was especially useful whilst snow-shoeing when your body temperature can change quickly if it starts to snow or you stop for a break to soak in the views.

Although I can't imagine many people using this gilet for such winter activities it does give you an idea of just how versatile it is. The PrimaLoft synthetic insulation is really very good and it doesn't take long to get warm wearing this item. Great if you've just finished a cyclocross race on a winter's morning and need to retain your heat while you hose down your bike. And this top is equally at home being used as an extra layer on a daily commute over your work shirt or perhaps just walking the dog. It's this versatility that may help those in two minds about this item justify the price as it is essentially two jackets in one.

On the subject of price, you really need to look at gilets from outdoor brands for comparison. Well known outdoor brand Rab offer a very similar item called the Strava Vest which retails for £110 and is even available in the same blue we tested. The North Face also offer a similar item called the Quince Pro gilet which is priced at £160 but uses goose down. Although both very similar they lack the cycling specific features of the Rapha Transfer such as the O-ring zips for ease of use whilst cycling, the dropped tail and thermo-roubaix side panels that stretch with movement as well as offering some breathability down your sides.

With the added flexibility this jacket offers in being a valued member of my causal wardrobe as well as my cycling collection I'd argue it is really two for the price of one. I've certainly used it far more off the bike than on.

As stated by Rapha, the fit is slim and the medium, which weighs in at 307g, was a perfectly snug fit for my 75kg, 6ft 1in frame. It's hard to comment on fit for others but personally I'm always very impressed with how well Rapha items fit me. But they aren't perfect. I often find medium Rapha tops a fraction short for me at the back with the pockets on the rear also being an inch or two too high and this gilet is no exception. It is, however, less of a problem in this instance as I can't see myself relying on the dropped tail for any type of long ride protection or needing to access the pocket at the back in a hurry as I might do with one of Rapha's other Pro Team tops. When it comes to fit I'm personally happy to pay a bit more for an item that I know will offer a great fit as that usually means I'll get my money's worth out of it and wear it to death. There's hopefully the added bonus of items that fit well looking better on you, too.

The offset zip, which is a fairly standard feature on Rapha jackets, is a stylish feature. The zip guard helps keep the zip away from right under your chin when zipped right up. This is more important on jackets that have high necks like this one as the zip can get caught on your skin occasionally (or even your beard, if you have one), which is unpleasant.

Should you be caught out in the rain the body has had DWR (durable water repellent) treatment applied to it. It was certainly good at repelling snow that melted on me, making it invaluable during one particular snow-shoe outing where it snowed for hours. The arms of my North Face soft-shell were wet at the end of the walk but the gilet comparatively dry.

Whatever the inspiration for Rapha's Transfer gilet was, it's a versatile jacket that lends itself to any situation where you need an insulating layer with a good degree of movement.

At a glance

Verdict A versatile gilet great on and off the bike, and effectively two jackets in one, packs down to a small size making it the perfect travel companion.

Rapha says:

A highly-insulating gilet created for cold conditions, ideal pre-ride or for a post-training warm-down. Contemporary styling makes it versatile enough for city riding and the gilet also packs down into a pocket, making it a great travel piece. The body of the gilet is made from a durable, stretch fabric with a matt finish and Durable Water Repellent treatment.

The gilet is filled with PrimaLoft® ONE, an extremely lightweight synthetic insulation. In addition to being extremely lightweight, PrimaLoftONE provides exceptional warmth and is water resistant.

The armholes are gathered at the back which ensures a cosy fit but also allows movement when riding. The gilet's two front pockets have a brushed tricot lining to keep hands cosy and a reversible zip pocket across the back of the jacket doubles as a storage pouch. Features a Rapha logo when packed.

Key features:

  • Slim fit
  • PrimaLoft® ONE insulation
  • DWR treatment
  • Thermoroubaix side panels
  • Gathered armholes
  • Dropped tail
  • Two front pockets
  • Zipped rear pocket/ storage pouch

Sizes XS, S, M, L, XL, XXL