I am very much the fan of budget friendly everything, including sports kit. Much as I love cycling, the price tags attached to anything with the c word in front of it seem to be five zillion percent more than any other fitness kit. Rapha are a cult brand who make all the Team Sky pro kit, and they're a favourite among many a road cyclist, but boy is the kit pricey. Whilst I've seen reviews of their jerseys and more recently their 'City' range of clothing (designed to not look like kit, it includes things like jeans and a button down shirt...) it wouldn't usually even come close to being on so much as a wish list of mine, as prices start at £50.
It's only when I was given a £50 gift voucher in return for a filming project recently, that I thought back on the reviews I'd seen and started to think about how I could use my voucher to best suit me. With the best will in the world, a £150 jersey just isn't me, even with 1/3 off. Luckily, the City range includes some women specific base layers priced between £50 and £65. I have a fondness for base layers because I wear them with everything and if they are made of the right materials, they truly do help to reduce sweating and overheating, even if you're wearing an extra layer of clothing. Weird. I know. The tops come in a tank version, a short sleeved and a long sleeved t-shirt version in a short selection of nice neutrals (grey, sand and pale blue), they're made from the miracle of Merino (more about that later) and they generally seemed like the kind of thing I'd get along well with. I went with a grey tank top as the thing I'd be most likely to get best wear from and after forking out £6 (yes, really) for standard delivery, I waited with baited breath.
For those wondering- I chose a size Medium, I usually wear a dress size 12-14 for my bust and a 10-12 for my waist. I followed the measurements given on the Rapha size guide to select my size, and this little beauty fits like a dream.
I wore this top for the very first time on a the super warm weekend before the bank holiday- 25 degrees and beautiful blazing sunshine for a 55km round trip cycle. I have sweated more in the depth of winter than I did on this trip, and for me, that's a game changer. The true test though, as for all sports tops is in the rucksack. I hate riding with a pannier more passionately than I can say, so I'm a rucksack girl all the way (you can read about my preferred one HERE). With a rucksack against my back... it still performed better than anything I've ever tried. In fact, the only thing I didn't like about this top was that I forgot to remove a packaging sticker inside on the back, which stuck to me then itched like crazy.
The question still remains- is it worth £50 of your hard earned sterling, plus P+P....? The truth is that I'm not sure. I now understand why cyclists across the land extol the virtues of Merino wool, and the design of the tank is.... nice enough but I remain convinced I could probably find other base layers at a less wince-worthy price point. My other true test for this top will be how it fairs this winter. Merino isn't just about keeping cool, it should also keep you feeling warm in cooler months since the fibres help retain heat generated by your body as most wool fibres do. To be truly worth £50 it'll have to year round useful, in the mean time though, this has proven to be a real game changer and a very good use of a gift voucher.