Seventeen years after its founding, cycling apparel brand Rapha seems to be aging in reverse. In its first year, the company released its Classic Jersey, a riding top defined by a stripe over the left arm. In 2020, it teamed up with Palace Skateboards to make a race kit that's most aptly described by the phrase "trippy as f**k" (the collab earned EF Pro Cycling a 4,500 Swiss Franc fine for being non-compliant, too).
Now, in 2021, Rapha is embracing a different type of bike riding altogether, with the launch of its mountain biking-oriented Performance Trailwear collection. And the brand just added new items that look like nothing else you'll see on single-track. The limited-edition Digital Woodland Trail capsule includes a three-quarter sleeve jersey, technical tees for men and women, a tank top, full frame shades and a helmet in collaboration with Smith. The whole lineup is splashed with digital camo-fied magenta and purple, as if the designers rode Rapha's signature pink through the mud — fitting for the brand's first foray off road.
The latest color treatment nicely complements last month's initial rollout of mountain biking essentials: a three-quarter sleeve jersey, a short-sleeve jersey, a lightweight jacket, riding shorts and bib liners. There's also an accompanying accessory collection that includes sunglasses, a helmet, a six-panel cap, a hip pack and socks.
As is to be expected from Rapha, an emphasis on style is apparent in every piece (yes, the aforementioned armband is present and accounted for). So is a high degree of attention to detail. The jerseys, for example, have bonded collars that we've found during testing of early samples sit more comfortably than typical ribbed ones. Similarly, designers placed the four pockets on the shorts — which have an adjustable waist — with riding position in mind.
With Trailwear, Rapha is also making an explicit play for durability. High-end, abrasion-resistant fabrics were a given, but the rip repair patch kits that come with the new apparel were not. Rapha uses fabric scraps from production to make them, so they match the fabric and color of the piece they are packaged with and come in various sizes. (Rapha also offers a free repair service for many of its products.)
As it does with road cycling, Rapha also plans to advocate for mountain biking and trail stewardship to build a community alongside the new apparel it's making. "We're confident we can have an equally meaningful impact on the future of the sport," says Rapha's MTB general manager, Jake Rosenbloum, in a press release.
Rapha also insists that mountain biking apparel is part of the brand's natural progression. "Our guiding principle has always been to make cycling the most popular sport in the world," Rosenbloum says. "And to achieve that goal, we can't (and won't) focus on one width of tire or only use the road market as our white space."