Rapha Grand Tour Shoes
Partnering with the Giro brand, Rapha’s first foray into the world of velo-cobblery has birthed a stylish range of high performance cycling shoes for the well heeled. Not to say the suggested retail price of $450 is higher than expectations given the shoes are such fine looking kit, but the brand does carry a level of kudos amongst fashionistas with commensurate pricing attached.
Whenever you buy Rapha from their online emporium, or their selected retailers, you enter into a sensual experience of upmarket sophistication that just ‘feels like its worth more’. This brand is deliberately pitched at the top end of the market. Even the packaging carries the Rapha attention to detail, but it’s detail that lifts this brand to a lofty status. For example, if you visit the Rapha website www.rapha.cc you’ll see classy, conceptual images promoting each product in the range. Countless photos taken on location and in the studio, backed up by a casual but elegant sales pitch. At first, the on-site shoots and glamorous models may seem extravagant, excessive… but the close ups, landscapes, and personal, evocative shots of cyclists in the city and out on country roads are convincing and compelling. The result is that you leave any preconceptions of an upper class aloofness or pretentious brand behind, and lower your guard as you pass through. You may find you then leave the site impressed, perhaps gratified, but likely comfortably familiar and befriended by the brand, partners in the ‘glory and suffering’ of cycling.
Handcrafted from yak hide, the Grand Tour shoes have the glorious aroma of leather. It’s rich and evocative, like dark chocolate or freshly ground coffee. Inside the box each shoe is slipped inside its own black, brushed cotton pouch with a pink drawstring closure; pink and black are both colours distinctive of the brand. The bagged shoes are nestled in pink newsprinted tissue, pages evidently garnered from the Italian cycling sports section, and sealed with the Rapha imprimatur.
The understated elegant lines of seams tightly drawn and finely stitched, the subtle sheen of satin alloy buckles and art deco perforated vamp with black contrasting straps languidly croon of timeless style. These shoes are for the cycling connoisseur.
But enough of the marketing hype. Shoes have to fit well and cycling shoes must also perform. The Rapha shoes don’t disappoint on either front. These shoes are designed with an eye on both form and function, delivering a distinguished look and the feeling you’ll never be under-gunned.
Yak leather is said to be up to three times stronger than cowhide and as soft as kangaroo leather, but far more robust. The heel cup is lined with very soft untreated yak leather and as with most leather shoes you might wear, the Grand Tour shoes ‘wear in’ over time, the uppers moulding to the shape of your foot for a very comfortable fit. These uppers feature a fine perforation for a refined appearance. Rapha claim these perforations improve breathability, though ventilation is not the strongest suit of these shoes.
Again with the detail; the shoes come with a sample pot of shoe cream, a concoction of beeswax, carnauba wax and silicone oils to condition and protect the leather against weather and road grime.
Some carbon fibre soled race shoes are so uncompromisingly stiff you might think you were wearing plates of steel. Not the case here. The carbon outsole is the result of collaboration between Giro – shoemakers of distinction andEaston– world-leading composite experts. The linkage with Giro serves Rapha well as the resulting sole is very stiff and light, has a stack height of only 6.5mm, and provides maximum power transfer to the pedals. These size 46 shoes weighed in at 392g a piece with cleats attached.