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Rapha Classic cycling shoes review

13 Oct 2020

The Rapha Classic cycling shoes go beyond style by providing supreme comfort and performance too

Cyclist Rating: 
Supreme comfort • Class looks • Responsive sole
Laces could slip undone

The Rapha Classic cycling shoes were the British brand's first attempt at producing a set of cycling shoes from start to finish and personally, I think Rapha's knocked it out the park, first go.

The London-based purveyor of enviable cycling kit had previously relied on the likes of American brand Giro to provide the lasts or carbon soles for popular products such as the Climbers shoe.

Buy the Rapha Classic cycling shoes from Rapha for £180

However, four years ago, Rapha made the decision to bring the entire process – from design to manufacturing – in-house, creating its Classic and Explore shoe ranges that have, at least with the Classic shoes, managed to find the perfect balance of comfort, performance, fit and style. And at £180, they’re not even astronomically expensive.

Style and substance

Classic by name, classic by looks is very much the case with these Rapha cycling shoes. With a perforated upper, laces and, with the set I reviewed at least, black colourway, they have the feel of cycling shoes of old, like a set of the old Adidas kicks Eddy Merckx used to race in.

There is an undeniable elegance to them, something that screams ‘mid-60s Italian man who rides everywhere at 60rpm but never gets dropped’. I think it’s the perforated uppers that do it, a look I could picture Dean Martin or someone equally as cool in.

The perforated upper is actually quite technically advanced for its looks. It’s made of one piece of microfibre, seamless faux-leather. It’s perfectly breathable and as it lacks any stitching it's very comfortable on the foot, too.

This is a fact that had me counting my blessings when I used these shoes on a 262km pedal a week after wearing them for the first time.

The looks are also helped along by the use of laces. Yes, laces on cycling shoes are a contentious subject. Recently, ultra-cool Deceuninck-QuickStep directeur sportif Brian Holm commented that laces on cycling shoes were for ‘hipsters and fat tourists’.

What we think he meant by that was that laces were very much style over substance compared to other closure methods such as the modern Boa dial.

Buy the Rapha Classic cycling shoes from Rapha for £180

Yes, the Boa is a superior closing system on a set of cycling shoes, but I do think that the laced system used by Rapha here is almost as good as it will get.

This is mainly thanks to the two-wall closure system used by Rapha. Rather than tight eyelets, the laces feed through wider pieces of leather that, sitting flush to the foot’s upper, secure the top of the shoes much more evenly and distribute pressure better across the foot, preventing the foot from feeling any pinch points.

In fact, the laces provided a perfect fit on my foot’s upper that was truly as comfortable as I’d ever felt in a set of cycling shoes.

Also, doing away with said eyelets reduces the chance of a snapped lace, something I have come a cropper with on my beloved Giro Empires, my usual cycling shoes of choice.

The only thing stopping Rapha’s laces from perfection is their tendency to loosen. I think this is down to being 100% polyester, as this doesn’t have the necessary friction to stay done up and so is liable to unfurl after hard efforts. Luckily, the elastic loop on the middle of the upper did enough to prevent the lace falling into the bike’s drivetrain.

My final word on the shoe’s upper goes to the velcro strap across the toe box. While it did little to secure the shoes, it does aid aesthetics and provides a neat strip of hi-vis for night time riding.

The qualities of the upper are also matched on the bottoms with a quality sole and effective rubber heal.

Rather than a partial plate, Rapha has used a full carbon footplate across the shoe’s sole which, while light enough to keep the overall weight to a respectable 250g, also provides a rigid platform for power transfer through the pedal stroke. Put it this way, I couldn’t feel any flex while stamping 90kg through the pedals and I expect you wouldn’t either.

This plate is then wrapped in a thermoplastic rubber heel tread that prevents you from slipping over and largely protects the base of the shoe from scratches and damage.

This is a modern convenience that could really do with making its way to modern dress wear, as anyone who has worn leather-bottomed loafers in a nightclub will attest to.

Buy the Rapha Classic cycling shoes from Rapha for £180

At £180, the Rapha Classic Shoes are also less expensive than a good quality set of Loake slip-ons as well as most cycling shoes, many of which range north of £250 these days. Yes, I’m calling £180 affordable, which is insanity I know, but this is cycling, the sport in which we justify elaborate purchases on the basis of very little.

And because the Rapha Classic cycling shoes were seriously as good as I’m suggesting, £180 seems like an incredibly sound investment.

All reviews are fully independent and no payments have been made by companies featured in reviews


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