Whether you follow cycling style or not, you’ll likely have noticed that footwear has been moving in one direction for a good few years. We’re talking lightweight technical knits or weaves, built to give you the best bang for your buck – or stiffness to your gram, to be specific. The aesthetic has changed, too, with fibres providing a rather different canvas to that of a traditional shoe. A change is as good as a rest after all.
Rapha have been in the footwear game for years, initially riling up the hipsters with their first iteration Climber’s Shoe, then produced in conjunction with Giro. The perforated upper and slightly school-shoe reminiscent velcro straps, divided opinion. Did straps have a place on a top-end road shoe? That still remains largely unanswered, though most top end shoes wouldn’t be seen dead with more than one velcro strap now. That aside, the Climber’s Shoes were light and pretty, in a retro sort of way, and saw mass adoption from Rapha’s dedicated global cycling club, the RCC, as well as weight-weenies, people riding steel bikes and anyone else looking to stand out from the bunch.
Years on and Rapha have parted ways with Giro, releasing their first standalone footwear collection back in 2018 with the Classic and Explore shoes, catering to roadies and gravelies (that’s a thing, right?) respectively. They featured the ultimate hipster-inspired closure system, laces, which performance aside, look very cool. I recall the launch of that particular shoe – held at Rapha’s trendy HQ in North London – and particularly the short and titillating teaser for the Pro Team shoe, then in the early stages of development and now sitting in Rouleur Towers.
Enter 2020. Rapha and EF Education have made tie-dye cool again, Lachlan Morton got lost in the UK countryside of his own volition, and the pros have spoken. “We want boas,” they said, and not the feathered kind.
Rapha has answered with the Pro Team Shoes. Sitting firmly within Rapha’s pinnacle kit collection, the Pro Team ‘brand’ is unashamedly performance-focused – built for the pros but ultimately destined for you.
Finding comfort in the chaos
The Pro Team shoe is the result of thorough research (they were first teased a few years back) and – Rapha claim – 30,000 km worth of testing from their sponsored athletes.
“Finding comfort in the chaos” – a fitting mission statement for a shoe designed and built to withstand the rigours of professional cycling. So how does Rapha find that aforementioned comfort? Well, it starts up top.
Powerweave, a proprietary woven upper, is at the core of this shoe. The seemingly seamless construction reduces pressure points, breathes well, and ensures a snug, form-fitting, foot embrace. All with less weight than many traditional equivalents (these come in at 250g in a size 42).
Rapha have been quick to dispel similarities with knitted shoes, while any material engineers among you (what, no one?) will note that the strength and support provided by a weave dwarfs that of a knit, due to the layup of the fibres. We’ll take their word for it, but it’s difficult to argue when the adoption from the pro team has been unanimous.
Closure is taken care of by the excellent Boa dial system, chosen for the ability to micro-adjust fitting on the fly, and now seen on anything from Adidas trainers to tennis, golf and skiing footwear. A full-carbon sole takes care of business down below.
Finally, a word on design. Not a criticism per se, but I found myself a little underwhelmed by the colours, perhaps as I was holding out for a bright pink pair. We do get an on-brand EF Education colour scheme with the – now recognisable – pink and purple of their kit, as you’ll see in issue 20.4 of Rouleur Magazine. It’s stylish, jazzy enough and likely to appeal more to the many than the few, so fair choice. Safe white and safe black (not their official names) are along for the ride too; the white (actually called light grey) manages a particularly appealing sheen in certain lights, and is sure to be a summer staple for many. Especially with the DWR water-resistant treatment.
You’ve come for Rapha and you’ll get Rapha. Detailing is sleek, understated, familiar while also refreshing. The fit is refreshing too – very comfy in fact, even on the longest days – as is the price. At £260, we think they are good value, considering they sit at the top-rung in the range. Quality footwear comes at a price, and is not to be skimped on. Rapha has delivered the goods here.
For more from Rapha visit Rapha.cc and to buy a pair of Pro Team Shoes click here.
We featured the Rapha Pro Team shoe in issue 20.4 of Rouleur Magazine available at shop.rouleur.cc or digitally via our app.