Rapha Brevet versus Le Col Pro Jersey is a Clash of the Titans (of things you wear on your torso when cycling).
There is a reason why the pro peloton can be found in one of the best cycling jerseys, because like a decent set of bib shorts or a carefully considered pair of cycling shoes, the fit, breathability and performance of a garment can make a huge distance over big mileage.
Even if you’re not sold on the aerodynamic benefits of a quality cycling jersey, you will most certainly appreciate something that fits properly and therefore doesn’t start to chafe or flap around as your mileage progresses. Take it from me, two hours on a bike with something rubbing under your armpit is deeply unenjoyable and can cause a fair amount of discomfort over the following days.
Both Rapha and Le Col are deeply rooted in the best road bike crew and both produce some beautifully crafted pieces of cycling kit. Le Col’s stylish Pro Jersey and and Rapha’s lightweight Brevet Jersey cost about the same, are aimed at the discerning/wealthy rider, and feel like natural competitors. I donned my helmet, slipped into a load of tight-fitting polyester and tested the two to find out which performs best out on the open road.
Rapha Brevet Lightweight Jersey vs Le Col Pro Jersey: Price and availability
The Rapha jersey is also available from various retailers worldwide, with pricing from around $180 in the USA. However it does not appear to have penetrated the Australian market just yet. Le Col Pro Jersey is more widely available, and will set you back $175 or AUS$230. See the pricing widgets below for the best deals on both.
Rapha Brevet versus Le Col Pro Jersey: materials and fit
Let’s face it, road cycling gear is always tight but some manufacturers are wildly off the mark when it comes to sizing. Le Col gear, which like a lot of Italian-made garments, comes up extremely small and it’s worth ordering one or two sizes above what you normally would in t-shirts and jumpers.
Rapha isn’t much better and it pays to err on the side of caution and order one size up on all tops. Bizarrely, its bib shorts seem to be more on point. In short(s), unless you are built like a whippet up top, you’ll find you have to crowbar yourself into these pro spec luxury jerseys.
The Rapha Brevet is fashioned from 100 gsm lightweight polyester, which doesn’t sound particularly premium, but it is a high performance fabric that offers plenty of stretch and breathability, meaning you stay cooler on the more punishing rides. There are also mesh sides for extra fresh ventilation.
Le Col opts for 91% polyamide and 9% elastane, so it immediately feels a little more snug when first donned and its silicone gripper at the back does a good job of clinging on to the bib shorts when riding and staying in place, even when rear pockets are packed.
Rapha’s jersey generally feels slightly more relaxed and its gripper isn’t so aggressive, yet I found it didn’t ride up or come unstuck with equally bulging pockets.
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Rapha Brevet versus Le Col Pro Jersey: features and style
Rapha has recently redesigned its Brevet Jersey so there are now more pockets than ever, making it brilliant for completing those really long rides or getting a bit adventurous with maps and compasses. On top of the traditional trio of cargo pockets at the back, there’s a neat zipper on the chest, which is big enough for stashing some cash for the bus home and a few credit cards if it goes majorly wrong.
Meanwhile, there’s a larger secret zipped pocket on the left hand flank, which is well within easy reach while on the bike. Sticking anything too large in here does make things quite bulky, but it’s good for maps, directions or the odd protein bar.
Finally, the zipped pocket at the back seems perfect for a compact gilet or waterproof jacket, while the traditional cargo pockets are plenty strong and deep enough for keeping tools and puncture repair kits safe. Granted, with all the pockets full, you do start to resemble the Michelin Man, but it’s handy to have the options.
The Le Col Pro Jersey is a bit more traditional and features a trio of cargo pockets at the rear, one of which has a very small zipper section at the front, which is only really big enough for a key and some credit cards. I resorted to stuffing my phone in the right hand cargo pocket, which has a neat waterproof lining and a hole for poking headphone wires through.
Both jerseys feature reflective details for low-light riding, although Rapha steals a few points for its stylish integration. One of its signature Brevet stripes on the chest is high-vis and the other is reflective, while a further reflective band is located on the left arm. This is a bit of an oversight for UK riders, where traffic will largely be overtaking on the right. Alternatively, the Le Col’s reflective stripe is bang in the middle on the rear pocket, so makes more sense.
Styling is really down to personal preference, but I feel Rapha has its branding on-point and the Rapha logo carries so much cachet in cycling circles. The Le Col Pro Jersey, particularly in striking black and gold, looks properly smart, but I’m not as much of a fan of the embroidered logo on the chest or the patch on the rear.
It looks a bit naff and the rear of the 'Le Col' embroidered design is a bit messy, with some wayward fabric backing that tickles the chest a bit. This backing dies down and comes away after a few washes but it’s tangible on the first few outings. There’s also a large embroidered patch below the neck at the rear and again, you can feel it when riding. I personally would have thought pro peloton jerseys like this, apparently wind tunnel-tested to within an inch of its life, would do away with patches and embroidery in pursuit of maximum comfort and aero gains.
That said, the remainder of the interior stitching is exceptional and the flatlock seams are nice and soft against the skin. Although I did find some wayward threads around the rear pocket zip.
Rapha Brevet versus Le Col Pro Jersey: performance
Without building my own wind tunnel in the garden, it’s difficult to say which one is statistically better. It all comes down to personal preference, but I’d say the Rapha Brevet feels like it is more geared up for riders putting the miles in, rather than racing flat out.
More consideration has been paid to how it looks and particularly how it marries up with the brand’s collection of stylish bib shorts and cycling shoes, while its plethora of pockets and small details make it good for loading up in preparation for al long day in the saddle.
The Le Col gear feels more purposeful when donned and elements such as its silicon hem and sleeve grippers ensure it stays put when pedalling hard, while a racy collar design make it feel fast from the get-go. The Rapha Brevet has a raised collar to protect necks from the sun, so you can see how designers have approached each item with different riding styles in mind.
Rapha claims its garments can be washed and dried overnight, while an antibacterial coating means his doesn’t get too smelly if worn for multiple days on the trot. However, the Le Col gear is so light, it also dries incredibly quickly.
Personally, I found the ultra-lightweight Brevet to be the slightly more comfortable jersey for longer rides, purely because the fit isn’t as racy or aggressive, while the myriad vents helps to keep things nice and cool. Plus, the lack of embroidered elements meant it all sat against the skin against the skin very comfortably. But these are really very minor differences.
Let’s not ignore the fact that these jerseys cost £120 or more, which is staggeringly expensive for a slither of polyester, so realistically it is down to which item keeps its shape best and remains functional over time. I’ve personally found that anything with aggressive silicone hems can disintegrate with lots of washing, especially if it accidentally finds its way into a tumble dryer.
Rapha Brevet versus Le Col Pro Jersey: verdict
The two jerseys take a slightly different approach and the Le Col gear is most definitely designed for marginal gains. The company claims it has been thoroughly road tested by its founder and former pro racer, Yanto Barker, while time in the wind tunnel means it is genuinely faster in terms of the wattage saved over a set distance than its predecessor.
But does any of that really matter to the everyday rider? I don’t think so and the Rapha Brevet is by far the more practical model. Despite Le Col’s lovely cardboard presentation box, Rapha gear still feels more premium and better designed for longer hours in the saddle.