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Rapha Classic Review

A stylish retro shoe with laces and a serious carbon sole to look good and perform better
Rapha Classic
Photo: Rapha
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Price:  $250 List | Check Price at REI
Pros:  TPU outsole provides traction and protection, tight heel, stylish, comfortable upper
Cons:  Laces are long, tongue and collar might dig, can be warm in the summer
Manufacturer:   Rapha
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 22, 2021
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59
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 10
  • Comfort - 25% 5
  • Weight - 15% 6
  • Power Transfer - 25% 8
  • Adjustability - 20% 4
  • Durability - 15% 6

Our Verdict

Rapha puts out a lot of interesting shoes that appeal to a pretty broad array of riders across the riding spectrum. The Rapha Classic seems to capture the intersectional spirit of the company. These are road shoes, but do great on trails and just buzzing around town on errands. These shoes have a practical elegance to their upper that makes them a little easier to rough up on the trails while their TPU outsole protects the carbon sole so won't have to cringe walking through gravel and woodsy terrain. Read on to see how they do across our performance measures.

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Rapha Classic
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Rapha Classic
Awards  Best Buy Award    
Price $250 List
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$160 List
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Pros TPU outsole provides traction and protection, tight heel, stylish, comfortable upperLightweight, stiff, affordable, simpleStiff, large toe box, uses two-way BOA dialAffordable, snug, lightweightSolid comfort, durable, great for walking, stylish
Cons Laces are long, tongue and collar might dig, can be warm in the summerLimited comfort, one fastener, mid-range power transferLess comfortable, limited adjustability, upper can create hotspotsFit's not universal, can be warm, lower power transferPremium price, can be too snug, toes hard to adjust, limited breathability
Bottom Line A stylish retro shoe with laces and a serious carbon sole to look good and perform betterSturdy and simple, this is the right shoe for serious road riders on a budgetIf you’re looking for an affordable carbon sole and don’t mind sacrificing comfort, these are for youAn entry-level road shoe with a few finer features to get you over the hillsNice bike shoes with a lot of versatility for commuting, spinning, and even a little offroading if you don’t mind getting these pretty things dirty
Rating Categories Rapha Classic Fizik Tempo Overcur... Specialized Torch 2.0 Shimano RC3 Giro Republic R Knit
Comfort (25%)
5.0
7.0
5.0
5.0
8.0
Weight (15%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
9.0
4.0
Power Transfer (25%)
8.0
6.0
7.0
5.0
5.0
Adjustability (20%)
4.0
7.0
5.0
4.0
4.0
Durability (15%)
6.0
6.0
5.0
5.0
5.0
Specs Rapha Classic Fizik Tempo Overcur... Specialized Torch 2.0 Shimano RC3 Giro Republic R Knit
Measured Weight (Pair) 22.8 oz 20.8 oz 21.4 oz 19.4 oz 26.7 oz
Size Tested 45 45 45 45 45
Outsole Sole footplate: carbon fiber; outsole cover: thermoplastic polyurethane Carbon reinforced nylon Carbon, rubber Fiberglass reinforced Nylon Co-molded nylon and rubber
Upper Material Microfiber PU laminate, mesh Mesh, TPU Synthetic leather Xnetic Knit
Closure Laces and hook loop velcro strap BOA and hook and loop strap Boa IP1 Fit System Boa L6 dial Lace
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.

Performance Comparison


The Classic brings a quirky retro look to the upper but conceals a...
The Classic brings a quirky retro look to the upper but conceals a stiff carbon sole for serious hammering.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Comfort


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.

This coarse edge is perfect for scraping and chafing. Unfortunately...
This coarse edge is perfect for scraping and chafing. Unfortunately, it's used for exactly that purpose against your skin, even through a sock, unless you scrunch the tongue down or to the side.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Weight


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.

22.8 ounces in Men's size 45 is about what you'd expect for a shoe...
22.8 ounces in Men's size 45 is about what you'd expect for a shoe of this sort.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Power Transfer


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.

Not perfectly rigid, but their sole has great transfer.
Not perfectly rigid, but their sole has great transfer.
Photo: Ryan Baham

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.

Adjustability


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.

We did say laces, right? You get all the adjustability you'd ever...
We did say laces, right? You get all the adjustability you'd ever expect from a laced shoe. There's also a toe strap, but it's more for aesthetics.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Durability


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.

Value


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.)

Conclusion


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.

Laces might not be for everyone, but don't be fooled into thinking...
Laces might not be for everyone, but don't be fooled into thinking the Classics aren't serious road shoes.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Ryan Baham