Rapha exploded into the MTB clothing scene with a bang earlier this year, unveiling a capsule collection of riding kit designed with the feedback and input of some big names in the sport, including downhill racer Eliot Jackson, the multi-talented BMX and MTB racer Jill Kintner, Enduro World Series racer Ella Connolly, back-country explorer Joey Schusler and the Santa Cruz cross-country team. So yes, that’s pretty much every MTB discipline covered.
The women’s range includes a selection of the best mountain bike jerseys, technical tee-shirts, tanks and 3/4 length tops, mesh-sided liner shorts, baggy shorts, and of course hip packs, helmets, socks and caps.
Within that range, the Rapha Women’s Trail 3/4 Jersey combines a range of technical fabrics and high-quality construction with a Rapha aesthetic that will appeal to some riders, but perhaps not all.
Sustainability of the garments has been considered, and in addition to the body fabric being made from recycled material, Rapha has also included a patch kit so should you end up tearing your shiny new jersey, you’ll be able to repair it easily yourself.
- Best women’s mountain bike shoes: clipless and flat pedal shoes for female riders
- Best mountain bike shorts: comfortable baggy shorts that blend protection with performance
Construction and fit
Before delving into the performance, fit and sizing has to be discussed. Rapha’s trail range goes up to an XL, as the road and gravel lines do. However, where the road and gravel ranges' XL fits a size UK16/US14, in my experience, the trail range is more equivalent to a UK14/US12. As a UK16/18 with a curvy body shape, while the jersey does fit and is comfortable, it’s a form-fitting top rather than a loose fitted jersey, and the shorts aren’t anywhere near me so have been excluded from this test, which is a shame as they looked promising. They’ll be put through their paces by another rider.
As a consequence, riders above a UK14/US12 are sadly not going to find much for them in the Rapha Trail range, but smaller riders will find kit that fits, is technical and is very well thought out.
The body of the jersey is constructed from a lightweight, recycled stretch fabric with a textured weave that’s designed to keep it slightly away from the skin to allow airflow. It’s breathable and works well in warm weather, but isn’t quite as lightweight as, say, the 7Mesh Elevate or Patagonia Capilene Cool ranges.
The 3/4 length sleeves are constructed from a slightly more rugged fine black fabric with slight stretch. Raglan cut sleeves means there are no seams on the shoulder tops that may chafe while wearing a rucksack, and that tougher fabric is certainly more abrasion resistant than the body fabric which has fallen foul of a few pulled threads where it’s come into contact with velcro on other items of kit.
The feminine but loose cut has a longer dropped rear which provides coverage for the lower back when leaned forward riding, while the cuffs and neckline are made from the softer body fabric.
Despite the sizing issue, the fit around the sleeves was still slightly, nicely loose and the jersey doesn’t squeeze, pinch, constrict or rub anywhere. It was actually very comfortable to ride in, bar the front riding up which is more likely due to my curvy body shape rather than an inherent issue with the jersey. For riders UK14/US12 and down, I don’t think this will be an issue.
The body material is nicely breathable when working hard, though isn’t quite as breathable in really hot or humid conditions as other technical jerseys I’ve tested. For cooler mornings and evenings, or where you want a bit more protection from the elements or environment, those 3/4 sleeves really come into their own. The articulated cut on the sleeves and shoulders is excellent, allowing perfect, natural movement without pulling the jersey or being noticeable in any way, which is really the goal of a good piece of kit; you shouldn’t really notice you’re wearing it. One slight downside is that that smooth black sleeve fabric doesn’t seem to be as breathable, leading to slightly sweaty upper arms.
Luckily, I haven’t needed to use the patch kit included with the jersey and thus far the sleeve fabric has proved resistant to the main threat of the season - brambles and thorns. However, the body fabric has a few little snags in it from bramble encounters and an unfortunate velcro interaction, but again much less than other jerseys I’ve ridden and tested over the years, so I’d say this is a top that blends breathability and ruggedness well.
In all honesty, I’m not a big fan of this off-white colorway, which looks a little like I’ve accidentally let a blue sock get into the whites wash, and it does come up pretty grubby quite quickly when things are muddy. However, so far it’s washed up well following the care instructions and is looking good as new.
One of the questions that’s inevitable for a MTB jersey by Rapha, and indeed any jersey retailing at this price point is ‘is it worth it?’.
Firstly, this jersey is only marginally more expensive than, say, the Troy Lee Designs Mischief Jersey, a women’s specific 3/4 MTB top. While having a distinctive and popular aesthetic, the Mischief is nowhere near as technical as the Rapha jersey in terms of fabric, construction and performance. Other comparable options include the Mons Royale Tarn Freeride Raglan 3/4, constructed from merino wool which retails at a similar price point. So, yes it’s pricey but comparably so for technical garments. Yes, it’s more than a tech tee but it also provides more in the way of fit and performance; the decision as to whether that’s something that’s going to benefit you is down to you.
Personally, I was particularly sad that the sizing doesn’t extend to larger sizes because this jersey is a pleasure to wear, offering a good blend of performance features with a well-thought-out construction and design. I’d wear it all the time if it fitted me better.
As for who this jersey is for, I’d say it’s aimed at riders who are looking for a performance item for long rides or hard efforts, more towards the XC and trail end of the riding spectrum; while the design is rugged, I don’t think it would survive a big crash while downhill riding, for example. If you’re heading out for a big day exploring in the mountains, it’ll do you well.
Tech Specs: Rapha Women's Trail 3/4 Jersey
- Price: £75 / €90 / $100
- Color: Black (pictured) and Purple
- Sizes: XXS to XL
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