Rapha Classic Review
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$250.00 at REI
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|Pros||TPU outsole provides traction and protection, tight heel, stylish, comfortable upper||Lightweight, stiff, affordable, simple||Natural fit, extra padding, very light, available in wide sizes||Surprisingly light, good comfort, quality strap design, affordable||Affordable, snug, lightweight|
|Cons||Laces are long, tongue and collar might dig, can be warm in the summer||Limited comfort, one fastener, mid-range power transfer||Could be stiffer, tongue rubs, upper can fold, tongue might slip down||Limited stiffness, low breathability, upper can crinkle||Fit's not universal, can be warm, lower power transfer|
|Bottom Line||A stylish retro shoe with laces and a serious carbon sole to look good and perform better||Sturdy and simple, this is the right shoe for serious road riders on a budget||A super light, top-range choice for those looking to maximize performance within a reasonable budget||This is your standard quality road bike shoe — nothing fancy, but enough to get you on the bike and spinning in a reasonable degree of comfort and efficiency||An entry-level road shoe with a few finer features to get you over the hills|
|Rating Categories||Rapha Classic||Fizik Tempo Overcur...||Bontrager Velocis||Bontrager Solstice||Shimano RC3|
|Power Transfer (25%)|
|Specs||Rapha Classic||Fizik Tempo Overcur...||Bontrager Velocis||Bontrager Solstice||Shimano RC3|
|Measured Weight (Pair)||22.8 oz||20.8 oz||16.4 oz||20.0 oz||19.4 oz|
|Outsole||Sole footplate: carbon fiber; outsole cover: thermoplastic polyurethane||Carbon reinforced nylon||Silver series carbon/fiberglass||PowerTruss||Fiberglass reinforced Nylon|
|Upper Material||Microfiber||PU laminate, mesh||Synthetic||Synthetic||Synthetic leather|
|Closure||Laces and hook loop velcro strap||BOA and hook and loop strap||BOA IP1 dial||2 hook loop velcro straps||Boa L6 dial|
|Width Options||Regular||Regular||Regular, Wide||Regular||Regular|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Rapha Classic has a pretty interesting design for a modern road shoe. It's simple in that it uses a seamless microfiber upper with a humble polyester lining fastened together with lacing to get a snug, comfortable shoe. It definitely harkens back to the shoes of the early days, except now it uses a carbon fiber sole with a protective TPU outsole. The remainder of this review will look at the design and performance of these shoes as we break them down across our performance measures after spending hours riding and researching them.
This area is very hit-or-miss for the Rapha Classic. It depends on how your foot and ankle are configured. This shoe has a good deal of thought and design going into creating a stylish, comfortable upper that seems to work for a lot of riders. It's a snug fit, largely owing to the double-wall lacing design that pulls the upper together around the whole foot in a hug. Rapha says that the toe box is roomy, but that's not something we'd necessarily agree with, especially for riders with longish toes. Still, if you prefer a snug ride, it's a nice fit.
The flaw for some of us is in the rigid neck of the upper that saws against the ankle, even with thicker socks. Rapha actually went out of its way to design an upper with a lower-cut to save the ankles from grinding, so it's doubly unfortunate that some riders still get the chafe.
The other point of discomfort here is with the coarse, hurty tongue. It's a design that a lot of road bike shoe companies use for some reason. Most riders wear thin cycling socks that don't protect against pokies and serious abrasion, and the hard-edged tongue conducts both of those assaults against the top of the foot and ankle. Riding in low-cut socks down the block or on the trainer is right out.
22.8 ounces in Men's size 45 (Euro sizing) is slightly heavier than the other competitors in its price and performance range, but it's also a little more supple. There's also a thermoplastic polyurethane outsole protecting the carbon fiber sole. That adds some weight, but it's a good tradeoff for durability.
The sculpted heel cup is important here. It's a deep cup with a good lip of padding to catch and gently clasp the heel. You still get a bit of slippage, but not enough to be a problem. Rapha does a good job of mitigating energy loss without sacrificing comfort with this design.
The sole is also really solid. It's not perfectly inflexible how some of the high-end models are (well, they tend to allow a certain amount of ergonomic flex), but it is stiff enough that you're not really feeling the watts sap away like you would in a nylon composite sole. We should also mention that the microfiber upper and lacing come together to hug the foot and press out any excess space that might reduce efficiency. There's very little sliding around in these shoes, making for a pretty efficient ride.
Our view is that lacing isn't always the best fastening choice because they shift, readjust, and can loosen as you ride. They're certainly not as precise as a BOA dial, but it's a personal preference, of course. Lots of riders just love laces. Most of us are also runners, hikers, walkers, and cross-trainers, and there's just something so familiar and comforting about lacing up. Plus, lacing does allow you to push and reapportion slack at just the right spots over the toes and top of the foot - as long as you can get it to hold. You'll get the set-it-and-forget-it experience, though, which robs you of giving away your intentions to other riders when they hear your shoes clicking as you tighten them down ahead of climbs and sprints.
While laces themselves have limited longevity, they're the ultimate replaceable fastener. There's nothing as heartbreaking as having to replace an entire pair of shoes because a fancy buckle or dial breaks and can't be replaced. If the lacing frays, you can simply and cheaply replace it. The only structural concern would be the eyelets that anchor the lacing, though they're well-reinforced.
Another great design they use is covering their carbon fiber sole with a layer of thermoplastic polyurethane. This protects the carbon from abrasion and also provides a little more traction when you're off the bike walking around in coffee shops, breweries, and lobbies. With its polyester lining, microfiber upper, lacing, and velcro toe strap, we expect the Classic to last a few years with typical use but might see a little more wear than some of the premium models.
We think the Rapha Classic is worth the price under a few conditions. Your heel and ankle need to be shaped to fit the collar of the Classic; otherwise, you'll get some chafing and discomfort. You should prefer snug, warmer shoes. You should be about laces. And you should place a premium on retro style. (Even the least stylish among us here on the writing staff concede that these shoes look pretty sweet.)
The Rapha Classic didn't win any of our awards, but that's not to say that they aren't cool shoes that bridge the straightforward simplicity of early designs with the new era of advanced high-performance materials. They are and do. They tend to come up a little short against shoes that are now industry standards. This review is, after all, an inherently comparative exercise, and these aren't necessarily meant to be Grand Tour competitors, though pro rider Lachlan Morton said he's done racing in them. (Rapha has great videos on Youtube with Lachlan Morton and other pro riders - they're good programming for indoor trainer days.) They're somewhat quirky, stylish shoes that come with serious performance.
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