Rapha’s Grand Tour Shoe kit (Matt Pacocha)

Today, Rapha launch their
Grand Tour Shoe, the first product born out of a partnership with Giro.

While not specific to this project, the two companies have
worked closely since the launch of the Rapha-Focus cyclo-cross team. The
new US$450 (£300, €360) Grand Tour Shoe melds Giro’s performance slanted
designs with Rapha’s philosophy that pure-bred performance isn’t the
be-all and end-all to every rider.

Yes, Rapha’s product must perform, but Rapha may argue that
the feel of real leather has intrinsic value to some riders; and that the use
of a natural material sourced from a respected brand — footwear manufacturer Ecco supply Rapha the Grand Tour Shoe’s Yak
leather — can create a product that performs on a different level than one produced to simply be the lightest, stiffest shoe on
the block.

“I think Rapha’s customer base and our customer base share a
similar enthusiasm for things that perform well, and are pro-caliber, but don’t
necessarily look like something straight out of the peloton,” Eric Richter,
Giro’s senior brand manager told BikeRadar.

Rapha Grand Tour Shoe video unboxing

Have we drunk their kool-aid, you ask? No. We can’t argue
that the Grand Tour Shoe is the lightest (a single shoe weighs 309g/42.5), or
deny that the Yak leather will stretch over time, or when wet. But on the
other hand, Rapha have a strong following who will undoubtedly find the
Grand Tour very appealing, in both its look and feel, and in that sense this
shoe is already a winner.

The Grand Tour shoe will be available Tuesday 10 April, at
selected stores (see below) in full and half-sizes from 38 to 48 (save for one
half size omission of 47.5); Rapha offer them in white or black with a contrasting toe strap.

Rapha’s Grand Tour shoe

One part high

Giro bring their WorldTour proven Easton EC90 unidirectional
carbon fiber sole to the table to anchor the Grand Tour shoe. The 6.5mm thick
sole is the same found on Giro’s ProLight SLX and Factor shoes, and has been
ridden over thousands of miles since Giro launched their cycling shoes in 2010.

Pair the high-tech sole with Giro’s adjustable-arch
SuperNatural fit system — like Giro’s top offerings, the Grand Tour comes with
three levels of interchangeable arch support — which Rapha massage through the
use of cork, for both the footbed and arch support, rather than the all
synthetic version Giro use.

Rapha/Giro include three sets of SuperNatural arch supports
to customize the feel of the shoe

“The shoes fit like our shoes,” said Richter. “They’re built
on the same last, and the footbed uses the same SuperNatural fit kit

Finally, add some of cycling’s precious metals to the
package for good measure; Rapha spec titanium d-rings, and an anodized and
etched alloy buckles for the shoes’ closure.

One part (almost)
mythical material…

If Giro bring their high performance features to the table,
Rapha’s decision to use real Yak leather for the shoe’s upper seems to leave no
room for any other to top — in regards to style, spinning a tale, and sheer
exotic nature.

“Using natural materials wasn’t a
mandate, but we honestly never spoke of anything synthetic for this shoe at any
point in the process,” Slate Olsen, Rapha’s US general manager told BikeRadar.
“We love the notion of the leather breaking-in and getting better with age,
versus breaking down. The same is true for the cork used in the footbed. When
Giro presented us with these options it was immediately clear there was no
other options.”

Rapha say they selected Yak leather for its supple, but
extremely durable, nature, and an array of performance features that make it
superior to any other form of leather. Rapha claim the leather to be lighter,
more water resistant, possess a higher level of moisture transfer, and higher
tensile strength than any other ‘bovine leather.’

“One of the lines that was bantered about was, ‘a shoe that
breaks-in, but doesn’t break down,” said Richter. “With any natural hide there
are going to be different properties than with a synthetic, I mean, synthetics
are engineered to be water proof or water resistant; not stretch; not fade
(color); all the things that associate with something that ages — but I think
that some people want that.

“I think the fact that Rapha started with Merino,” Richter
continued. “There’s a certain feel, emotional and tangible, that comes with
things that are natural.”

On top of that, the Yak hide as used by Ecco, Rapha, and
Giro, here, requires next to no break-in period; we can attest the Grand Tour
comes out of the box feeling soft and comfortable.

Leather requires care, and Rapha provide a sample of their
leather conditioner with the shoes

Then there’s the story of the Yak — Asia’s beasts of burden,
found high on the Tibetan plateau, and in Mongolia. Rapha say, these beasts
“are highly prized by the area’s indigenous people for their ability to survive
in severe weather and barren conditions.” In a word, they’re tough, and Rapha
infer these traits make their shoes similarly tough.

And a healthy dose of
Rapha style…

Rapha dose each shoe with four logos, however, we challenge
you to find them at first glance. Despite their subtlety, we imagine any
cycling enthusiast will be able to peg these shoes as Rapha.

Their perforated leather, and single black toe strap scream
‘Rapha,’ which is exactly how they want it — subtle, but unmistakable.

Inside the footbed is emblazoned with a description of
Fausto Coppi, his riding style, and how his pedaling cadence evoked the
semblance of “the elegant strokes of a bird in flight.”

And the upper features two logos, on the rear and on the
black toe strap

On 10 April, in the US, the Rapha Grand Tour shoe will be found

  • La Bicicletta Pro Shop – Vancouver, Canada
  • Studio Velo – Mill Valley, CA
  • Bike Effect – Santa Monica, CA
  • Contender Bicycles – Salt Lake City, UT
  • Signature Cycles – New York City, NY
  • Rapha Cycle Club – San Francisco, CA

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