An Open Road

Rapha founder and CEO Simon Mottram pens an open letter to mark the start of 2020.

Since this January marked the beginning not only of a new year but of a new decade, I thought it only right that I take a little longer to take stock. Ten years is a long time but looking back, it’s the same values that underpin everything we do, day in and day out. It’s the same behaviours that transform mad ideas into incredible projects, initial prototypes into finished products, and raw ambition into reality.

Our first film of the new decade celebrates those values and reaffirms what we stand for as we begin the next chapter in our story. It served as a reminder to me personally that Rapha has only just scratched the surface of a sport that still has so much to offer. If you have a little time to spare, you can watch the film here before looking forward to all that lies ahead this year.

Following the huge success of last season’s EF Pro Cycling team kit, this year’s iteration was met with universal acclaim at last week’s Tour Down Under. Though EF riders still stand out from their rivals, the cosmic kit we have designed for the CANYON//SRAM team has to be the most striking in either professional peloton. Our designers worked closely with the team’s riders and a renowned comic artist on the collection, which will be available to fans of the team – men and women – from next month.

Close collaboration with our teams has been key to this season’s biggest launches, the first of which will be the highly anticipated Pro Team Shoes in February. The brief from our pro riders was to create a shoe that stands up to the rigours of racing without compromise on comfort. And their involvement didn’t stop there. Feedback from Lachlan Morton has been instrumental in the development of a shoe built around a one-piece woven upper made of our new, proprietary Powerweave fabric. The same technology, which provides a better fit at a lower weight, is used in our brand new Pro Team Attack Bib Shorts, developed with EF road captain Mitch Docker. The new model is a complete departure from our existing race bibs with all-new fabrics and construction; look out for the launch in June.

It’s not just the Grand Tours and the Classics that EF will be riding this season. After the knock-out success of last year’s alternative calendar, the Gone Racing team will be covering eight events from around the world to bring you the best of bike racing. Starting in March with two familiar friends at the world’s most gruelling mountain bike stage race, we’ll be heading to new races with a cast of fresh faces not only from the EF team but also from CANYON//SRAM and Legion of Los Angeles. I for one cannot wait to watch.

Led by Justin Williams, Legion will be one of many teams around the world riding in Rapha Custom. Here too, there are exciting new developments. For this year, we have more products than ever – with new additions from our Classic, Core and Pro Team collections – as well as dedicated design support from our team of world-class designers who’ll help you create the kit of your dreams. It’s not just teams riding in Custom, with some of the toughest events around – from Scottish sportives to Midwestern gravel grinders – designing special edition jerseys with us. Look out for them on the road this year.

Within the four walls of our head office, perhaps the most hotly anticipated launch of all is our collaboration with Outdoor Voices in April. For those unfamiliar with the brand, OV creates beautiful technical clothing for a broad range of recreational athletes from cyclists to runners in pursuit of their aim to get the world moving. With a unique approach to design and a brand mission so closely aligned to our own, working with OV was an obvious choice and we are excited to present a collection for women quite unlike any other we’ve made so far. Finally, in June, we’ll celebrate the launch of our completely overhauled eyewear offering, which includes two race-ready Pro Team frames, a gravel-specific Explore frame and the successor to our much-loved Classic sunglasses.

Much further up the road, there’s a launch that’s been coming for a long time. Back in 2004, Rapha started out with a small exhibition in East London where every photograph was taken on the tarmac. Since then, we have grown into something much greater with a mission to support cycling in all its forms. Though the cycling world seems at times to be divided into tribes, we believe we can have a legitimate place in each of them. In 2021, Rapha will launch its first collection of mountain bike clothing, making the most of our design expertise and a new office in a mountain biking mecca, to take the brand somewhere entirely new. More specific details will follow over the course of the year before this exciting new chapter gets fully underway in 2021.

It goes without saying that all the aforementioned releases will be available first to the Rapha Cycling Club whose members have another busy year of riding and new benefits to look forward to. This year, we are redoubling our efforts to have ride leaders and partner cafés in locations without a Clubhouse so that you can make the most of membership wherever you live. As well as early access to main range products, RCC members will also have access to exclusive collaborations including a bike bag by Scicon, a new Giro helmet and a special Annual Jersey.

Though RCC membership is more compelling and affordable than ever, there are plenty of ways for everyone to ride with Rapha. Our Clubhouses are more focused than ever on keeping their calendars full with regular rides and all of our best-loved events return for 2020. We kick off in April with our ode to Paris-Roubaix, A Day in Hell, for which we have a new look collection and events around the world. In July, we’re back at the most prestigious event of them all – the Etape du Tour – as official apparel provider before signing off the summer with the Women’s 100 in September. Our partnership with Grinduro also goes from strength to strength as we continue as their apparel partner. For me, the Etape is always a highlight and I hope to see you there.

That’s the year ahead but, to sign off, I’ll share an update on a couple of initiatives whose impact I hope will last for many years to come. The Rapha Foundation enters its second year in 2020 and will issue funds to a second round of grantees. We’ve already heard exciting updates from our existing grantees and I can’t wait to see what difference we can make working with new beneficiaries. Last but by no means least is sustainability. If there’s one word to define the next decade, this is it. Whilst cycling is a fundamental force for good and inherently sustainable, the cycling industry must do more to minimise its impact on the environment. As such, we have published a full breakdown of the materials we use, the impact they have and how we intend to reduce that impact on our Sustainability Hub. While we are well aware that sustainability is a long-term objective for us, having a plan in place gives me the confidence that we can get to where we want to be soon.

It gives me a sense of great satisfaction that cycling’s future's so bright. I am looking forward to riding throughout the year and meeting many of you along the way.

Simon Mottram