Riding 630km in the Brevet Insulated Gilet

A Testing Weekend

Rides like the Bryan Chapman Memorial Audax, a 630km brute that traverses the length of Wales and back, require remarkable strength and willpower. They require remarkable kit too. The 12 Rapha riders on the start line at this year’s event in Wales this May were wearing the Brevet Insulated Gilet, an innovative product from Rapha now back in stock after immediately selling out upon its launch in February. Here, we look at why it is the perfect garment for this ultimate of testing grounds.

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Pioneered by Polartec

The Brevet Insulated Gilet takes the form of a normal cycling gilet, but the front and rear panels are filled with a synthetic down insulation, pioneered by Polartec. The fabric was developed at the request of the US military, who wanted something that would eliminate the need for shedding layers during activity, by providing warmth and breathability at the same time as being lightweight – a very difficult combination to achieve.

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All-day (and night)

Brevet riding, where cyclists have to be fully self-sufficient, and can encounter a broad range of weather conditions, are the trickiest rides to dress for. The British springtime temperatures offered a typically wide range during the weekend. Roll out at 6am on Saturday morning was 5 degrees Celsius, which rose to a warm 20 degrees in the late afternoon. The warmth and breathability of the Brevet Insulated Gilet meant that some riders didn’t take it off once throughout, although it is packable enough to store easily in a back pocket.

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Lanes Less Travelled

Wales is a beautiful country of lost lanes and green pastures, and when the weather is right, there is no better way to see it than on the Bryan Chapman. Rapha employees have been taking part in the event since 2011, when a trio of hardy souls rode it as part of their qualifying for Paris-Brest-Paris, wear-testing new products in the process.

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‘Smart in its simplicity’

“Like all the best ideas, you wonder how it took so long to crack, but it wasn’t until the technical Polartec fabrics met the Brevet philosophy that the magic happened,” says one of the riders about the Brevet Insulated Gilet. “It is smart in its simplicity. Wear it under or over a jacket, open, closed or somewhere in between. It is reflective at night and visible during the day and it works in the broadest conditions.”

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Into the night

As the riders faced the longest climb of the day, the Llanberis Pass under the crook of Mount Snowden, the sun was setting on Saturday. With it went the day’s warmth.

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The ‘embrace cape’

When tiredness creeps in on longer rides, feeling comfortable and snug can provide a real psychological boost: “Wearing this gilet is a unique feeling – like a warm hug! That was extremely comforting as the sun dipped and we rode through the cold of the night. We should rename it the ‘embrace cape’,” said another rider.

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Halfway house

At 11pm, the group reached the halfway mark, a small community hall at the Menai Bridge in Anglesey. Aching bodies sprawled on the floor like forgotten corpses and middle-distance stares contemplated the remaining 300km. Was the glass half full, or half empty?

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Flashes in the dark

After half an hour of drinking tea and scoffing baked potatoes, the group gingerly saddled up to ride into the night. There was still 100km until a bunkhouse in the middle of the countryside would offer them a few hours of sleep before dawn.

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Bunkhouse blues

Glassy-eyed and glamourless – that’s the brevet way. It takes a certain type of person to be able to look the cold morning in the eye with 400km already in the legs and say: ‘let’s go’.

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The finish line dawns

“I needed the gilet most when we woke up and left the bunkhouse at 07.00 in the damp morning air, knowing that the first thing we’d be doing was descending. For something that isn’t big and bulky, it’s an incredibly warm layer. You can’t fold a Pro Team Jacket up and put it in a jersey pocket, but the insulated gilet is tiny. Like all great products, I didn’t know how much I needed this until I started using it.”

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Home and dry

At 6pm on Sunday, 36 hours since the start, the riders finished as a group. It was a monumental effort by all, made easier by teamwork, unwavering commitment and excellent kit choice.

Brevet Insulated Gilet

Insulated-Black

Brevet Insulated Gilet

Coming soon

“A highly versatile piece of kit, in particular for the colder months… The real star of the show is the Polartec insulation and you will be amazed by how well it actually works. This is an essential piece of kit. 5/5”

- The Times, March 2016