Rapha makes a return to cycling shoes, this time developing both on-road Classic & off-road Explore models entirely in-house. Both shoes share the same supple, synthetic upper and have efficient-pedaling carbon soles with molded rubber tread that makes them easy to walk in whether riding your gravel bike or road bike.
Rapha carbon-soled Classic road & Explore off-road shoes
Since creating their own branded shoes, produced by other big names in cycling footwear, Rapha had thoughts of doing things a bit differently. Their plan had been to develop new shoes from the ground up that combined the Rapha look & premium fit, with efficient pedaling and the ability to actually walk around a bit off the bike. Don’t forget that Rapha kit has to work just as well at the post ride café stop as it does on the ride.
So what Rapha did was create an all-new one piece upper design with doubled over folds of the perforated microfiber fabric that forms the basis for lacing & fit across the mid-foot. The result is a traditional lace-up shoe that doesn’t use added on eyelets, yet allows a nicely adjustable fit without having to pull too hard on the laces. A toe strap up front gives a bit of extra adjustment of the higher than average toes volume, and together with a mid-foot elastic loop, helps keep long laces in check.
Then equally as important as the upper, both Explore and Classic shoes get discipline specific carbon soles for stiff, efficient pedaling. And then both get their actual carbon plates almost entirely covered in molded rubber so that the carbon is protected, and grip is great whether walking your road shoes across gravel roads & terrazzo floored coffee shops, or hiking your gravel shoes over slippery wet down trees & up rocky trails.
Rapha Explore gravel bike shoes
Rapha built the Explore shoes to mix pedaling efficiency & real world off-road and bikepacking usability. So in addition to the shares synthetic upper, Explore shoes get a 3/4 length carbon sole plate. Rapha claims that gives road-worthy stiffness, but the carbon plate stops 2cm from toe at the front, and 3cm from the heel at the back to allow more natural flex in your foot when you have to get off an hike-a-bike up the steepest slopes.The upper of the shoes is perforated on the entire length of the side for ventilation (as is the tongue), but the shoes are still likely to be a bit warm riding in hot climates with the doubled up material around the middle of your foot. The shoes get a molded heel cup for foot retention, a large volume toe box, a thin & low cut around the ankle to minimize chafing, and a split-topped padded tongue for comfort when they are tightened down.
That carbon reinforcement plate is then molded inside a continuous rubber outsole that also includes a tiny bit of extra toe & heel bumper protection. Large soft lugged tread blocks surround the outside edges of the shoe and offer a stable platform for walking. It’s not necessarily the wide open design you might see on a proper MTB sole, really being meant for grip on dirt and gravel roads. The tread is ~7mm in height offering recessed placement of cleats for quiet, slip-free walking on hard surfaces.
The $295 / 260€ Explore shoes are available in a wide range of sizes, 36-48 with all half sizes in between. They also come in several different finishes to meet your individual style. The mostly matte black version with the dark silver toe strap that I’m wearing at the top of the article are probably the most low-key. If you are looking for more flash, the high-gloss color changing Black Pearl version will catch eyeballs, as will the classic Rapha hi-vis pink. This last pair in dark green might be another staid option too.
All of the shoes include reflective toe straps & heel tags, plus a bit of color molded into the outsole rubber, and rainbow ano titanium toe loop & cleat bolt plate hardware. The shoes are 2-bolt SPD/MTB pedal compatible with a claimed weight or 300g (size 42.)
Rapha Classic road bike shoes
In the traditional road department, the Classic shoes shares much of the same features. In fact the synthetic upper, double-wall overlap lacing setup, velcro toe strap, and fit are identical.The difference in the shoes comes just in the sole itself. While the gravel shoes had a partial carbon plate, the Classic road shoes have a full-length, full-carbon sole for even higher stiffness and pedaling efficiency. Inside the Classic shoes share the same soft foam insole, with which Rapha includes a removable/adjustable instep insert for variable arch support.Rapha still wraps that carbon entirely in a molded rubbery TPU covering that delivers grip on and off the bike. The soft but durable thermoplastic protects the carbon underneath when you get off to walk when you double flat on those Italian white gravel roads, but also makes you more sure footed when walking around the café post-ride.Surprisingly cheaper with the more simple outsole (even with the full-carbon plate) the $250 / 215€ Classic shoes also come in the same wide 36-48 size range (with half sizes). They also feature similar color options, including the glossy Black Pearl & hi-vis pink, plus more toned down black or white versions. The Classic shoe also includes a RCC edition in all black with pink detailing exclusively for club members. All shoes include the reflective toe straps & heel tags, ano titanium toe loop & stainless cleat bolt hardware. The shoes are 3-bolt road pedal compatible with a claimed weight or 250g (size 42.)
Both Classic road & Explore off-road shoes are available now.