Rapha has launched a new flagship road shoe, the Pro Team. It is described as the brand’s first shoe designed specifically for road racing and, above all, features a textile upper that says “to offer comfort, power and performance all year round”.
Rapha says these shoes have been in development for two years and the eagle eyes among you may have spotted the Pro Team race slippers at the feet of the EF Education First riders during the first part of the WorldTour season.
The Pro Team shoes join the Classic and Explore shoes of the Rapha range – both were launched last year and were the first shoes designed internally by Rapha (the original Grand Tour and Climber shoes were developed with Giro).
While the Classic is an all-rounder and Explore is designed for gravel (or exploration, if you are a multi-terrain driver who would prefer not to be drilled), the Pro Team is entirely focused on performance.
Rapha Pro Team Shoes | key features
- Upper in seamless one-piece braided fabric
- Buoy retention system
- Carbon sole with heel and bumper
- External heel
- Microfiber sole with adjustable arch support
- Purple, black and light gray color options
- 267g (size 43)
- £ 260 / $ 355 / AU $ 450 / € 310
Go, go to Powerweave
Knitted cycling shoes have been around for some time – Giro launched Empire Knit in 2017 and a number of other major brands followed suit, including the likes of Fizik, DMT is Bontrager.
While, at first glance, Rapha may seem to have followed the crowd by launching the Pro Team, this is not another knitted shoe. The upper is made of a polyester fabric – not a shirt – and this, according to Rapha, makes the difference.
Rapha worked with fabric technology company Avery Dennison to develop the Powerweave fabric used in the Pro Team. As one would expect from the launch of a respectable product, this jacquard fabric is said, in Rapha’s words, to “establish a new reference point for cycling shoes”.
What is the difference between a knitted fabric and a fabric? In a knitted fabric, a continuous thread is repeatedly wound to create a braided effect; in fabric, several yarns cross at right angles.
And what does it mean when it comes to cycling shoes? The key difference is the amount of stretch, according to Rapha.
The shirt is intrinsically elastic, particularly along its width. However, while a plot still has some stretch, it is much less flexible.
This, together with the lowered profile of the upper, apparently helps to produce a sculpted fit, similar to a glove, while offering significantly greater strength and rigidity than a shirt. It also allowed Rapha to create a rather jazzy jacquard finish.
The texture on the upper is very dense – much more than that of a knitted shoe – but Rapha says it will still provide some natural conditioning in hot weather.
It also received hydrophobic treatment to add water resistance, although you can see how it really feels in bad weather. They look like running slippers for fast summer runs, not in winter.
Box section sole and Boa dials
The upper may be the main talking point here, but let’s take a look at some other details on the new Pro Team shoe. Even more significant, this is Rapha’s first shoe to use Boa dials: the company’s shoes have typically used Velcro laces or straps.
Boa dials are extremely common on high-end shoes and offer the kind of micro-adjustability on the fly that you can’t get from other closure systems.
The heel cup completely wraps the back of the shoe – this, according to Rapha, guarantees a more secure fit and reduces weight – while the upper part of the heel is rather narrow. In fact, the back of the shoe looks a lot like the model Specialized works 7. Not bad, it’s a great shoe.
The sole is a carbon fiber affair, as you would expect, and Rapha says that the trapezoidal section is inspired by the beam-box bridges. Whether you are a type of box-beam or suspension bridge rider, you can expect the sole of these shoes to be extremely rigid.
In fact, Rapha describes the sole as “incredibly rigid”. At least there is no arbitrary, self-defined “stiffness ladder” evoked by most shoe brands.
There are also bumpers on the toe and heel to provide some extra protection when walking or lowering a foot at an intersection. The bumper on the heel seems replaceable via a screw under the sole.
The sole itself has a typically Rapha branding on it – stimulating or not, it adds some interest – and has an antibacterial microfiber top that feels soft to the touch, almost like velvet.
The fit is customizable through three arched supports supplied with the shoes, with neutral medium and high options that velcro on the bottom of the sole.
Price, weight and colors
The final questions are: how much do Pro Team shoes weigh and how much do they cost?
The declared weight for a size 42 shoe is 220 g per shoe, but our size 43 sample weighs 267 g BikeRadar weight scale. This is the best part of a 20 percent difference – not insignificant, even taking into account the single increase in size.
As for the price, a couple of these will bring you back £ 260 / $ 355 / AU $ 450 / € 310 and if this purple color doesn’t do it for you, there are also black and light gray options.