Object of Desire: Rapha Classic shoes

Cyclingnews takes a closer look at Rapha's timeless Classic road shoes

What is a hands on review?
Rapha Classic shoe
(Image: © Graham Cottingham)

Early Verdict

Effortless style and sensible design from one of the leaders in cycling fashion


  • +

    Simple-yet-bold aesthetic

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    Well-considered unassuming design

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    Excellent build quality


  • -

    The silver colour is very loud

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    Laces aren't for everyone

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Last week's object of desire was the ultra-exclusive Rapha x Palace POC helmet and, whether you liked it or not, the collaboration kit will be remembered for years to come for its polarising bold aesthetic and hyped-up status. This week we are taking a look at Rapha’s Classic road shoe, with its timeless looks we think it could be the best-looking cycling footwear on the market.   

Design and aesthetics

Rapha made its name making retro-styled kit that combined clean classic looks with technical performance. The Classic shoes are no different and are unmistakably Rapha with the signature contrasting band across the front of the shoe and smooth classic shape. In a market where cycling shoes are exploring futuristic design blueprints and high-tech materials, the Classics are refreshingly simple when compared to the hyper designs of Specialized’s brand new S-Works Ares with its layers upon layers of material and dials which make riding seem very serious. In comparison, the Classic's aesthetics are effortless with a beautiful simplicity that is unmatched.

Rapha Classic shoe

Under direct light the classics go full disco slipper (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Rapha offers the Classic shoe in four colours that should appeal to a broad range of riders. The black and white options complement any kit but - if you want to make more of a statement - you can opt for the Black Pearl or go full disco slipper with the silver version we have here.

While the black and white options are understated, the silver is quite the opposite. The colour is extremely striking in direct sunlight which gives the shoe a grainy iridescent finish. This creates a dynamic effect when riding with the light and colours interacting with each other across the shoe as you pedal. The toe strap and heel tab are made from a matte material which provides a contrast to the outrageous shiny daylight finish as well as offering reflective detailing for better visibility at night.

Performance and fit

Rapha hasn’t just nailed the neo-classic aesthetic either. The shoe design has been carefully considered for performance and livable practicality, too. Rapha’s previous generation of shoes was made in partnership with Giro, however, the brand’s current three-shoe range is the first to be made completely inhouse. The Classic and Explore shoe were developed together, both featuring a double-walled outer which uses cut-outs at the fold to form lace eyelets. Made from a single piece of microfibre, the upper features perforations along the outside and inside of the foot for ventilation.

Lace-ups won’t be for everyone but the simplicity and effectiveness of a traditional fastening system have plenty of benefits to outweigh the constraints. Laces are simple, lightweight and, if they break, are super-easy to replace. Laces also offer a broader range of adjustment across the foot for a more tailored fit. Sure you can't quickly nip them tighter while riding but if you find yourself needing to do this you are probably racing and would be better served with the Boa-equipped Rapha’s Pro Team model anyway. 

If you do fancy a little racing the Classic's full carbon sole has already proven itself stiff enough and has been ridden by Lachlan Morton at races like the Tour Down Under. Other than the cleat mounting area, the carbon sole is encased in a thermoplastic material which protects the shoes from damage and should avoid any dancing on ice at the cafe stop.

Rapha Classic shoe

The full foot carbon sole is protected by a TPU finish and adds grip (Image credit: Graham Cottingham)

Our verdict

The asking price of £180/$250 isn’t cheap but with the detail and quality of workmanship, the pricing seems very reasonable and that’s before factoring in Rapha’s excellent after-sale support. Against other comparable lace-ups - some of which we consider being the best cycling shoes on the market - the Classics are competitive on spec and weight, yet retail for significantly less money. You might have guessed, but I also think they look better than options from other manufacturers especially in the coruscating silver. 

On paper, this makes the Rapha Classic a notable option for those in the market for a new road shoe. Does the performance match the looks? We have been riding the Classics for a while now and are so far impressed with the quality and performance of the shoe and will be bringing you a full review in the coming months.

Shop at Rapha.com (opens in new tab).

Tech specs: Rapha Classic shoe

  • Price: £180 / $250
  • Weight: 250g (claimed EU42), 340g (actual, including cleat EU43)
  • Retention: Laces
  • Sizes: EU36-47
  • Colours: Black, White, Black Pearl, Silver

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Graham has been part of the Cyclingnews team since January 2020. He has mountain biking at his core and can mostly be found bikepacking around Scotland or exploring the steep trails around the Tweed Valley. Not afraid of a challenge, Graham has gained a reputation for riding fixed gear bikes both too far and often in inappropriate places.

What is a hands on review?

'Hands on reviews' are a journalist's first impressions of a piece of kit based on spending some time with it. It may be just a few moments, or a few hours. The important thing is we have been able to play with it ourselves and can give you some sense of what it's like to use, even if it's only an embryonic view.