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25/12/2010 // INFO Leave a comment

Rapha Winter Socks and Solo Luxury Merino Wool Sock Review

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Rapha and Solo Winter Socks

Warm cycling socks have transformed my cycle commute this winter. Everything changed when I wore a pair of long, thick, woollen Turnbull & Asser socks instead of my normal cotton ones.

Gone were the days of finishing a ride with frozen feet: almost unable to walk. Wearing the woollen socks opened my eyes to the importance of the cycling sock. I am now a convert.

[see also our 5 tips to stay warm whilst cycling]

However, these were clearly not designed to be cycling socks. Turnbull & Asser are a traditional British outfitter favoured by the Prince of Wales.  However, the socks kept my feet warm and were long enough to stuff my trousers inside (meaning I did not have to roll up my trousers and get cold legs). The T&A socks immediately became the standard by which I would judge all “cycling socks”.

Rapha and Solo

I don’t think Rapha or Solo would be offended if I compared their products with Turnbull & Asser. The comparison certainly rings true in terms of quality and price. As a result, it seemed appropriate to test out their cycling socks, the Rapha Winter Socks (RRP £20) and the Solo Luxury Merino Wool Socks (RRP £13.50), and compare them against my T&A pair.

Testing was undertaken in the middle of one the UK’s coldest winters in living memory.

Warmth

Warmth is where my sock odyssey began. Both the Rapha and the Solo exceeded expectations. They are noticeably warmer than the T&A socks whilst riding in the cold. In addition, once out of the cold they warm up faster.

The Rapha socks are specifically designed for cold-weather riding and are the thickest and warmest sock on test, particularly around the padded toe. However, the Solo socks did a great job of keeping my feet warm whilst the temperature plunged. An impressive performance for a sock that is not designed specifically for winter riding.

Fit

Both the Solo and the Rapha socks kicked ass on fit. They each contain fabric that allows the sock to stretch (Lycra in the Solo and Elastane in the Rapha) and this results in a good, snug fit. There is no risk of bunching or the sock slipping down the leg with either sock.

Both socks have a thicker sole than top. This feels right, particularly when wearing cycling shoes when I want to feel locked in to the shoe. I got a better sensation of the foot being firmly held by the shoe with the Solo sock, because it is less thick. However, the quid pro quo of this is that it is less warm than the Rapha sock.

The Solo sock is very comfortable. The merino wool feels good and the support on the sole of the foot makes a difference. Putting on the Rapha sock is like smothering your foot in a warm duvet cover…it really is that comfortable and warming.

If you are an advocate of the Team Sky concept of marginal gains then you will chase improved comfort on the bike in every area and will want a comfortable sock.

Freshness

Solo says that that merino wool “has natural anti-microbial properties which inhibit the growth of odour causing bacteria” and Rapha claim their socks are “itch free, anti-bacterial and odour resistant”. The sceptic in me doubted this marketing pap.

I was wrong.  In order to provide a thorough and complete test of these claims I wore each sock for 3 days consecutively. Including: in bed at night, cycling around town and wearing them to the pub. I was amazed at how fresh they remained. The T&A socks did not fare nearly as well and I promise not to deny the anti-microbial powers of merino again. In fact, I am considering only ever buying merino clothes in the future.

Length

Neither the Rapha or the Solo socks are long enough to stuff my trousers down. This is not surprising. Both brands are inspired by road racing and you don’t see Lance stuffing his jeans down his socks whilst climbing the Galibier.

Whilst the length is not ideal for my commute they are otherwise an excellent length for cycling.

Style

Solo’s styling generally has a retro feeling to it and the socks are no different. They come in a light cream colour with a red with gold coloured band and a black “Solo” logo on either side of the ankle. They look every bit as luxurious and smart as they feel to wear.

The Rapha winter sock are black, which is a practical choice for winter riding. The styling is discreet, with a pink line or two and a pink rapha logo in evidence when you turn the “cuff” over.  A nice touch.

For a style comparison with the T&A sock I refer you to my comment that they are one of the Prince of Wales’ favourite tailors. Do you want to look like him on a bike?

What I liked about the Rapha Winter Sock:

  1. Warm and comfortable – like a duvet.
  2. Discreet styling.
  3. Fresh as a daisy after hard wear.

What I would change about the Rapha Winter Sock:

  1. This is a winter sock and would be too warm for summer cycling.
  2. Extra thickness does take away the “feel” from the shoes and consequently the pedals/ride.

What I liked about the Solo Luxury Merino Sock:

  1. Such a good fit, it makes you want to ride hard and fast
  2. Retro styling
  3. Can be worn in winter and summer

What I would change about the Solo Luxury Merino Sock:

  1. For the coldest rides I need more padding and warmth.

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