Review: Rapha’s Pro Team Base Layer – Short Sleeve
"We suffer from start to finish. Do you want to see what we run on? Look. That's cocaine for the eyes; that's chloroform for the gums. That is a cream to warm up my knees. And the pills, do you want to see the pills? Look, here are the pills. In short, we run on dynamite." - Henri Pellissier, 1924
(2016) It would be forgiven for any current cyclist to pursue means of insuring a layer between jersey and skin. Recall if you will the early years of polyester sportswear. The sportsman had two choices in performance wear. The first involved forgoing the wicking properties of the jersey by providing a protective layer of the cotton variety. The cotton shirt would cling when wet, stretch around the neck, or it would get caught in the outer layer. The second option was to allow the sportswear to slice off at least one nipple and decorate the front of the gear with a pathetic tendril of blood making it difficult to produce a look of ferocity to the opponent. “We’re going to destroy you in soccer, but don’t look at my bleeding chest.” That doesn’t work.
It is the generation who endured the early years of wicking fabrics who could be the target audience for base layers. The light, stretchy, dazzling garment of today’s cycling jerseys could remind those of high school soccer and the application of adhesive tape to the nipples. Should that adhesive have fallen off mid-game, does the wearer then decide nipples are more important than victory? Hardly.
Let’s be honest about Rapha gear. Anyone that reviews it states that it’s the greatest thing since aged Gouda. I ordered their base layer for several reasons; most of all I wanted to try one of their performance wears that wasn’t easily identifiable by other cyclists. As long as a jersey remained zipped, I could ride incognito with boutique level base gear. It’s also difficult to have a Rapha base layer meant for summer reviewed in winter. That is, until winter decided to be mild in these parts and a sixty-degree day led to its unveiling from the frosty packaging and wedding invitation-like shipping order envelope.
I must admit I purchased this specific base layer for the quote adorning the front famously spoken by Henri Pelissier, “Nous marchons a la dynamite. (…in short we run on dynamite.)” I’ve always been interested in the glorification of this quote by cyclists despite the strange dichotomy of the culture’s desire to rid itself of performance enhancement approaches from the past. Yet the quote is just too much fun to heap into a French cave and roll a rock in front of its opening. The line has two other quotes translated to, “As long as I breathe, I attack,” (Hinault) and, “If you brake, you won’t win.” (Cipollini) This is indeed clever campaigning from Rapha.
Getting into the fit and feel of the garment, the base layer went on like fine webbing. I’ve had other brands’ approaches to base layers, which were bacon-y and scratchy. Some companies' base layers gained in itchiness as the ride progressed. I reserved my judgment until I had given the undershirt a proper run-in. The sleeves come down satisfactorily far. The length is neither too short nor too long. If one uses the Rapha size guide, s/he will not be guided into the wrong size. It provided a decent layer of compression that didn’t interfere with race cut jerseys. The funny thing is I forgot I had it on. Any time that happens, I insist on pointing it out.
When tucked into bibs the fabric doesn’t bunch or fold over itself. The black fabric can come in handy on marginally warm days. It could be too hot on very warm days so the pink or white options may be more attractive to those who ride in warmer climes. The sleeves don’t peak out of the arms of the jersey either, and that’s stylistically important. Furthermore the shirt stays put.
The base layer’s job is to provide separation between the skin and jersey for those who desire a little insurance to warmer weather rides. Ultimately though, should one purchase a base layer that rivals many jersey prices? I firmly believe it’s worth the investment. For those who insist on a layer, this is the best-feeling garment used so far. For those who aren’t fans of the Rapha label, this could be one of those secreted purchases that don’t see the light of day except for the on-off process.
The Rapha Pro Team Base Layer comes in sleeveless and short sleeve options. Both are race fit meaning they are meant to be quite tight. Prices range from $70 - $75 (USD). They can be found on rapha.cc