Rapha quietly rolled out a major overhaul to the RCC this past week, cutting annual dues in half and restructuring member benefits in a bid to make the club more accessible to a broader cycling audience. Rapha has held rider engagement and overall growth of cycling as their major goals since the founding of the clothing brand, so the idea of the Rapha Cycling Club has always been close to the heart. By significantly lowering the cost of entry into the RCC, Rapha hopes to reach out to more riders and build even stronger local & international communities of cyclists.
Rapha Cycling Club, international cycling community made local
To cyclists who have never joined, RCC has always seemed like an odd step to make – why would more than 13,000 cyclists pay a clothing maker to join their club to be allowed to buy more of their clothing? And there’s no debate, Rapha clothing is expensive, making it the choice of an elite class of consumer cyclists. Surely RCC is going to be packed with cyclists riding super expensive bikes who think they are better that everyone, right?
Well, that actually doesn’t seem to be the case.
I’ve ridden with a number of RCC members at Rapha organized rides in Berlin, Munich, Mallorca, the Dolomites, and my home Czech Republic, and it has always been a super communal & welcoming vibe. Don’t get me wrong (and I’m not trying to #humblebrag), I am clearly privileged to be working in the cycling industry and to live in a beautiful place in Central Europe with tons of great riding a reasonable drive or short plane ride away. But I don’t ride the distance on the road of many cycling friends, and I’ll almost always take a slow off-road detour over a fast-paced road group ride. Yet every RCC ride I’ve hopped in on felt like I was being welcomed with open arms into a friendly group ride.
On the last RCC ride I did, a cyclist from South Korea realized before the start of a descent that she had under tightened and lost 2 of 3 bolts that held her cleat on. Two riders she had never met, from different continents, each took a bolt out of their own shoe, so she could finish her ride safely. She didn’t ask. They just offered. That pretty much seems to be the vibe.
Oh yeah, that and a lot of super nice, expensive road bikes.
So what does RCC cost now?
Annual RCC membership dues have gone up and down over the years as Rapha tried to find the sweet spot of matching costs to benefits for the cycling members. It settled to a pretty high figure that last year was £135 / 160€ / $200. For that you got a present when you join (something like a cap & an essentials case, etc.) plus a bunch of some VIP deals like one free coffee a day, low-cost premium bike rental, access to member-only RCC kit & early Rapha sales, and of course the weekly club rides & special member-only events.
Now it’s pretty much half that. For £70 / 85€ / $100 you still get most of the same VIP, RCC member-only kit access, early Rapha sales, and all the member club rides & special events. The difference is you now pay half price for coffee (because Rapha asked members if they really cared, and they said whatever) and now you pay slightly more to rent an AXS-equipped Canyon from the clubhouses (now £35/40€ a day vs. £20/25€ before.)
So why would you join RCC?
Beyond just building a community of like-minded, welcoming bike riders, RCC is about bridging the global & the local. I’m an expat living in the Czech Republic and it took a long time to find road & gravel cyclists I enjoyed riding with. The local club team scene here isn’t really my bag, so a more international group seems to make a better fit. Prague doesn’t have a local chapter or clubhouse, so rides are a bit less regular with around 10 local RCC members. But Rapha still has 200 ride leaders organizing regular rides around the globe in more than 60 locales. Sometimes this happen close to me, sometime I would have to travel to join in on the fun.
If you live near one of the 23 clubhouses, it’s probably an easier sell, and definitely worth dropping in and checking it out one of the regular rides.
For those that live further away, a RCC members-only app connects riders, letting any member plan a ride anywhere to bring others in. It’s a pretty nice tool, not so different than creating your own club on Strava, but it seems like is brings together more like-minded riders. And while Rapha might always seem like a road-only brand…
The RCC seems incredibly open to getting dirty. Rapha even touts their ride leaders as being “armed with local knowledge of the best back roads and trails”. That’s something I can get behind when visiting a new place to ride.
RCC also offers some other interesting benefits like support at big global sportive rides, a new Yellow Jersey health & bike coverage insurance that protects you when traveling internationally, and partner company discounts from the likes of Wahoo, Zwift, Sherpr & more.
And maybe if you join, it will be a good excuse to travel somewhere cool and far away to ride a bike. This year they had a members-only RCC Summit in Mallorca, next year it will be in Japan!