By National Geographic Adventure Contributing Editor Steve Casimiro,
editor of The Adventure Life
To understand the power of the perfect cycling jacket, you need to know that I am not a morning athlete. Once I’ve had a few espressos and the sun’s climbed closer to its zenith than its morning horizon, I start to think about getting the blood going. But generally I’m not in serious motion until early afternoon. Rapha’s drop-dead gorgeous Stowaway shell is such a pleasure to wear, however, I find myself getting out of the rack and right on the bike, just so I have an excuse to wear it. Ridiculous, but true.
The Stowaway is as close to perfect as any product I’ve tested—and for $260, it should be. Rapha, if you don’t know, is a high-end cycling brand from the U.K. Its stuff is deliriously expensive to the American wallet, but it so creatively blends hardcore usability with luxury that even diehard dirtbags save to buy it. In this case, the lightweight (165 grams) shell fits snugly, as a bike jacket must, but has built-in stretch, so it never binds or confines you. Its water-resistant and windproof nylon is surprisingly quiet–it whispers when you move, rather than the loud rustle of a typical shell. And the cut is spot-on: The arms are curved to mimic the posture of riding, there’s a long drop tail, and the off-axis zipper doesn’t scratch your chin.
Of course, other jackets share many of the same features, but in Rapha’s everything comes together with an exquisite finish. This shell is tight—attention to detail feels like it was born in a Savile Row tailoring establishment, where a fussy old man with a waxed mustache sweated over every stitch. Put it on and you won’t want to take it off. Take off and you’ll look for excuses to put it on. Promise.