Rapha has launched a new flagship road shoe, the Pro Team. It’s described as the brand’s first shoe designed specifically for road racing and, most significantly, features a woven upper said “to deliver year-round comfort, power and performance.”
Rapha says these shoes have been in development for two years and the eagle-eyed among you may have spotted the Pro Team race slippers on the feet of EF Education First riders through the early part of the WorldTour season.
The Pro Team shoes join the Classic and Explore shoes in Rapha’s range – both were released last year and were the first shoes designed in-house by Rapha (the original Grand Tour and Climber’s shoes were developed with Giro).
Whereas the Classic is an all-rounder and Explore is designed for gravel (or exploring, if you’re a multi-terrain rider who would rather not be pigeon-holed), the Pro Team is wholly focused on performance.
While, at first glance, it may look like Rapha has followed the crowd by launching the Pro Team, this isn’t another knitted shoe. The upper is made from a woven polyester – not a knit – and that, according to Rapha, makes all the difference.
Rapha worked with fabric technology company Avery Dennison to develop the Powerweave fabric used on the Pro Team. As you’d expect of any self-respecting product launch, this jacquard woven fabric is said, in Rapha’s words, to “set a new benchmark for cycling footwear”.
What’s the difference between a knitted fabric and a woven fabric? In a knit fabric, one continuous yarn is looped repeatedly to create a braided effect; in woven fabric, multiple yarns cross each other at right angles.
And what does that mean when it comes to cycling shoes? The key difference is the amount of stretch, according to Rapha.
Knit is inherently stretchy, particularly along its width. However, while a weave still has enough stretch to hug the foot, it’s a lot less flexible, and has apparently allowed Rapha to build in comfort where it’s needed and strength where that’s most important.
This, along with the low-profile of the upper, results in a sculpted, “glove-like” fit, according to Rapha, while offering significantly more stiffness than a knit. It’s also enabled Rapha to create a rather jazzy finish.
The weave on the upper is very dense – much more so than that of a knitted shoe – but Rapha says it will still provide some natural air conditioning in warm weather.
It’s also received a hydrophobic treatment to add water resistance, although how that truly holds up in bad weather is to be seen. These look like racing slippers for fast summer rides, not the depths of winter.
Box-section sole and Boa dials
The upper may be the main talking point here, but let’s take a look at some of the other details on the new Pro Team shoe. Most significantly, this is Rapha’s first shoe to use Boa dials – the firm’s shoes have typically used laces or Velcro straps.
Boa dials are extremely common on top-end shoes and offer the kind of on-the-fly micro-adjustability that you just can’t get from other closure systems.
The heel cup wraps all the way around the back of the shoe – this, according to Rapha, ensures a more secure fit and reduces weight – while the top of the heel is pretty narrow. In fact, the back end of the shoe looks a lot like the Specialized S-Works 7. No bad thing, it’s a very good shoe.
The sole is a full carbon fibre affair, as you’d expect, and Rapha says the trapezoidal cross-section is inspired by box-girder bridges. Whether you’re a box-girder or suspension bridge kind of rider, you can expect the sole on these shoes to be extremely stiff.
In fact, Rapha describes the sole as “incredibly stiff”. At least there’s not the arbitrary, self-defined ‘stiffness scale’ conjured up by most shoe brands.
There are also bumpers on the toe and heel to provide a little extra protection when walking or putting a foot down at a junction. The heel bumper looks like it’s replaceable via a screw under the in-sole.
The in-sole itself has some typically Rapha branding on it – inspiring or not, it adds a little interest – and has an antibacterial, microfibre top which feels soft to touch, almost like velvet.
The fit is customisable via three arch supports supplied with the shoes, with neutral medium and high options that Velcro onto the bottom of the in-sole.
Claimed weight for the Pro Team is 220g per shoe for a size 42. We weighed our size 43 sample at 269g.Simon Bromley/Immediate Media
Price, weight and colours
The final questions are, how much do the Pro Team shoes weigh and how much do they cost?
Claimed weight for a size 42 shoe is 220g per shoe but our size 43 sample weighs 267g on the BikeRadar scales. That’s the best part of a 20 per cent difference – not insignificant, even bearing in mind the single step up in size.
As for the price, a pair of these will set you back £260 / $355 / AU$450 / €310, and if this purple colour doesn’t do it for you, there are also black and light grey options.
BikeRadar's editor, George, has been writing about bikes for a decade and riding them for much longer. He's a road cyclist at heart and is happiest in the mountains, even if he can't climb them particularly quickly. George has ridden the Etape du Tour, Maratona dles Dolomites and Haute Route, but is now beginning to venture off-road on his Mason Bokeh gravel bike and Canyon Spectral AL long-term test bike.