Rapha’s new Explore Powerweave gravel bike shoes combine all of the best tech they’ve put into their own shoes, with a few new highlights for good measure. Add up the comfortable yet supportive Powerweave upper, a stiff carbon sole that is still walkable, and a new version of Boa Li2 closure with braided cords, these could be the best all-around shoes Rapha has yet to make…
Rapha Explore Powerweave carbon-soled gravel bike shoes
From the day Rapha first launched their first Powerweave road shoes, I was counting the days until their woven tech got a walkable Explore version too. And apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Education First pro rider Lachlan Morton who’s been moonlighting as an adventure racer has been testing & bikepacking this gravel-ready version all last season…
“For the sort of riding I do most days, they’re the perfect shoe. Walking is super easy, which is kind of the trade-off normally. Shoes can be comfortable to walk in, or they’re stiff. These have the perfect middle ground – you can walk five or ten kilometers in them. On the road, they just feel like road shoes. I’d happily race in them, but people would laugh at me. They do it all. You can wear them on any day, on any bike, for any kind of riding, and you’re covered. It’s one less decision“, says Morton.
Rapha’s carbon-soled Explore Powerweave gravel shoes hot a hybrid sweet spot just like gravel bikes often do. You get the secure fit and efficient power transfer you expect out of a premium road shoe, the off-road grip and hike-a-bike capability of a mountain bike shoe, plus there’s even all-day comfort and surprising versatility in a wide range of weather conditions.
It doesn’t hurt that there’s the easy adjustment of the latest & greatest BOA Li2 dials with a new wire style. And they’re also Rapha’s lightest gravel shoes.
Rapha calls the upper a “reinforced version” of their proprietary Powerweave fabric and gives the shoes a new Boa retention system that’s been “dialed in for dirt”.
That upper feels very similar to the almost sock-like fit of the Pro Team Powerweave road shoes. The one-piece 3D-woven upper is highly flexible, adapting to each individual’s foot, but also provides support since it doesn’t actually stretch. It also does a good job of being both well-ventilated and water-resistant.
The big upgrade in the upper over the road shoe is the move to two new micro-adjust Boa Li2 dials. But more than just better Boas, the Explore Powerweave shoes replace the plastic eyelets & wire with all-new webbing loops and 1mm diameter braided paracord laces. The elimination of plastic in the laces & loops makes them more impact-resistant and better able to work well when the riding gets muddy.
Rapha says the standard 100% polyester Powerweave yarn here is reinforced with thermoplastic polyurethane (TPU) for added durability, which can be seen especially in the striped sections over the toe and outsides of the shoes. The Explore shoes get a softer heel cup (than the plastic of the road shoes), still offering support to prevent heel lift.
The light carbon composite sole and natural rubber tread are the same as on the standard Explore gravel shoes, which is good. The stiff carbon section stops just before the front-most toe tread block, and the same just before the last heel lug. It delivers complete pedaling efficiency and just-enough flex so you can comfortably climb or descend steep & loose hike-a-bikes.
Relatively new Rapha athlete and ultra-endurance rider/racer/crusher Lael Wilcox has been riding the new shoes all winter, “I love the new Powerweave shoes. They’re extremely comfortable for all-day riding. I particularly like the material and Boa Fit System. They’re lightweight, roomy and sharp looking – unlike any other cycling shoes I’ve ever worn. They kind of feel like a combination of loungewear and performance.“
The new off-road-ready Explore Powerweave shoes are just a shade lighter than the original Explores that share the same sole. Our pair of size 43 shoes weigh in at 714g (357g per shoe) which is just six grams less than the perforated synthetic upper lace-up version.
The new shoes are also compatible with mountain bike-style SPD cleats & pedals, with a rainbow ano titanium cleat plate. They include Rapha’s velvety-soft EVA foam insoles with adjustable arch support inserts, get webbing pull tabs on the heels, and reflective detailing for improved visibility in low light.
Rapha Explore Powerweave shoes – Pricing, options & availability
The new Rapha Explore Powerweave shoes sell for $355 / £260 / 310€ making them the same price as the road-going Pro Team Powerweave shoes, or about 20% more than the more conventional perforated upper Explore gravel shoes. They come in whole sizes 36-47, plus halves from 40.5-45.5.
They are offered in two color options – black with white & gray sole details, or navy blue with white, orange & tan sole accents – both of which are up for RCC member-only early access now for the next 48 hours. The general public can order the shoes starting on Thursday, Mar 11 at noon.
First Impressions – Gravel is great, winter road is good too!
I’ve been riding a black & white pair of the new Rapha Explore Powerweave shoes in everything from sun to snow for the past month, with plenty of mud in between. We’ll publish a full detailed review of the shoes for you to read with my thoughts on their versatility & expected durability in time for when they go up for sale to everyone on Thursday morning.
Update: Read our detailed review of the highs & lows of Rapha’s new gravel shoes here.
But suffice it to say, these have become my go-to shoes for pretty much any gravel riding when I don’t need to break out fully-insulated winter boots to keep my toes warm. And they’re vying for my choice as all-rounder winter road shoes as well, because there’s no real sacrifice while pedaling and I can walk across wet, slippery surfaces without ending on my butt.