Rapha founder and CEO Simon Mottram has outlined the North London-based closing brand’s plans for 2020 and beyond – including, next year, the launch of its first ever clothing range specifically for mountain bikers.
That shouldn’t surprise anyone who follows the brand closely – it’s something we’ve been predicting since an investment vehicle controlled by Wal-Mart heirs Steuart and Tom Walton bought a controlling stake in Rapha 18 months ago.
Both keen mountain bikers, the pair have helped build, through the family's charitable foundation, a network of trails in Arkansas, the state where Wal-Mart has its headquarters in the city of Bentonville.
Last month, in the first instalment of a three-part interview with Mottram, he said that he believes mixed terrain riding is the key emerging trend in cycling, with people seek “a looser, more experiential” kind of riding.
During that interview, Mottram dropped a clear hint that Rapha would move into off-road clothing, which has been confirmed today.
“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,” he said in an open letter published on the Rapha website.
“More specific details will follow over the course of the year before this exciting new chapter gets fully underway in 2021.”
In the letter, Mottram said: “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.”
Rapha continues its kit sponsorship of EF Pro Cycling, but it’s the brand’s clothing for Women’s WorldTour team Canyon-Sram that Mottram singles out for particular praise, saying that it “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.”
On the product side, Rapha’s eyewear collection will have a complete relaunch in June, including a gravel-specific frame.
Prior to that, in April, a collaboration will be launched with Outdoor Voices (OV), which Mottram said “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.”
First, though, is the launch of Rapha’s Pro Team Shoes next month. “The brief from our pro riders was to create a shoe that stands up to the rigours of racing without compromise on comfort,” Mottram explained, “and their involvement didn’t stop there.
“Feedback from [EF Pro Cycling rider] 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 immediately after a limited edition kit switch-out for the EF team at the Giro d’Italia.”
Mottram highlighted “the knock-out success of last year’s alternative calendar,” which saw EF Pro Cycling riders take time off the road to compete at races including GBDuro, the Leadville 100 and Dirty Kanza.
“The Gone Racing team will be covering eight events from around the world to bring you the best of bike racing,” he said, “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.”
Also on the horizon are the identities of the next wave of recipients of grants for The Rapha Foundation, now in its second year, as well as an initiative focused on sustainability.
“If there’s one word to define the next decade, this is it,” Mottram explained. “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.”
He concluded: “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 has been news editor at road.cc since 2009, reporting on 10 editions and counting of pro cycling’s biggest races such as the Tour de France, stories on issues including infrastructure and campaigning, and interviewing some of the biggest names in cycling. A law and languages graduate, published translator and former retail analyst, his background has proved invaluable in reporting on issues as diverse as cycling-related court cases, anti-doping investigations, and the bike industry. He splits his time between London and Cambridge, and loves taking his miniature schnauzer Elodie on adventures in the basket of her Elephant Bike.