Van Winkle and the Rapha Grand Tour Shoes Apr 10, 2012

Look, I’m going to be honest. Rapha gave me these shoes and sure, doing a write up was part of the “deal”. I’m a journalist in many ways and part of that is promoting products. But I’ll never pump up the hype on something I’m not into. Like nice cycling shoes, a nice bottle of bourbon needs no hype. While, going for a cheap bottle can result in a great night, you’re better off going for the good stuff if you’re into enjoying the evening. That doesn’t mean you can’t buy cheap bourbon and not have fun.

Hell, Fighting Cock is a great $15 bottle and Bookers or Basil Hayden’s is a good mid-range, coming in at $30-$40. Jim Beam is out of the picture, leave that shit to the sports bars. Makers is perfect for a bourbon and ginger, as is Buffalo Trace but Van Winkle Special Reserve, like the Rapha Grand Tour Shoes are just a step up from the rest. Giro‘s line of cycling shoes are like bourbon: there’s something for everyone. It just so happens that the Grand Tour shoes are the Van Winkle of the line. The bourbon’s good to go but how have the shoes been holding up?

Check out more below

I’ve been riding these shoes, almost every day, for over a month. When I go out to the hills, I like to get off my bike a lot and take photos. Sometimes, this means walking through mud, over rocks and other places that a road shoe might not take a liking to. I have cleaned them once, when I stepped in limestone mud and after that cleaning, I treated the leather.

As you can see, they still look great.

There is minor wear and very little tear, aside from some tire marks from overlap. Again, I walk places many wouldn’t in their road shoes and it shows but like a good bottle of bourbon, it’s for drinking, not looking.

The Yak leather only wears where the buckle rubs, but it’s covered when the strap is engaged.

Finally, the heel cups are breaking in.

After hundreds of miles, the Grand Tour Shoes have kept their shape and given me zero problems. They’re what you would expect from a high-end cycling shoe, much like a high-end bottle of bourbon. Get that scotch shit outta here! No one needs spices and rubs on their oak barrels.

Minimally-branded and packing a punch, you don’t need gaudy labels or excessive branding to sell a great product.

Take one for the road. That’s what I’ll be doing this weekend as we embark on a 120 mile, 8,000′ ride out to C.B.S.P.

The Rapha Grand Tour Shoes are now available. At $450 they might require some budgeting but again, they aren’t a $20 bottle of bourbon.

  • Guest

    brilliant but did you pay for that bottle?

    • Oh yes. But I waited for a while before I actually forked out the money for it.

      • eljimberino

        In this context, that is, waiting a while before you fork out the money, do you think it wise to wait until the MKII of the grand tour shoe is released? It’s been six months, wait another six, or go for it?

  • sam


    • There are dozens of other bourbons I didn’t list. Bulleit is very good and very available. But I prefer Buffalo Trace over it. The Rye is too sweet IMO. 

      Other good bottles: Woodford Reserve, Russels…

      • sam

        re: dozens of bourbons, for sure. seen you write about bourbon before, just wondered what your thoughts on bulleit were. 

        btw, love the added road riding and touring content. Keep it up.

  • Buffalo Trace is the fucking jam. And Woodford Reserve is as good as it gets for $35 IMO. I’m still waiting on my bottle of Pappy and this thread is making my mouth water. Oh and those shoes don’t look so bad either…

    I’d love to see a post like this once a week – a new product and a new bottle of bourbon? Just sayin’…

    • Talk about an expensive post! I can barely afford to develop film. haha.

  • I ain’t saying it’s good.  But I downed several gallons of it my sophomore year.  Budgeting is what SunnyBrook does best!

  • yosoieeeeeeee

    Is this just a page for try hards to show other try hards that they are elitists, or..?

    • No, I leave that for comments like yours. ;-)

    • No, I left that for comments like this.

  • i like bourbon, but i love scotch. sorry, but i’ll take oban over any bourbon

    • I agree. Bourbon is great, but I’ll never love anything more than Scotch. Even my lady friend. Those shoes are also just what I was looking for, gotta hand it to Rapha.

    • Bourbon = no additives, whiskey at its purest form. Scotch = dozens of ingredients added to a weaker mash in an old-ass barrel.


      • TJ

        Bourbon is a decent cocktail base at best.

  • Lloyd

    They have Pappy Van Winkle 20 year reserve at East Side Showroom.  It’s incredible.

  • Chadshack

    The guys at Bulleit are great, just like the guys at Rapha. Great comparison here John.

  • Van Winkle’s whiskeys are actually distilled by Buffalo Trace, small world and all that.  Depending on what you’re after there are some decent bourbons from other parts of the US (most Kentucky bourbons come from one of eight or so distilleries).  Peach Street bourbon from Palisade Colorado is about $59 a bottle and has strong caramel notes and a nice finish, for example.  As for good and cheap, I’d take Four Roses yellow label over Bulleit or Buffalo Trace, though I rather like all of them.  Maker’s is considered a “wheated” bourbon due to the high amount of red winter wheat (and no rye) in the mash bill, which may or may not be to your liking. I rather enjoy the spice of rye and haven’t really fallen in love with wheated bourbons. The Van Winkle Rye’s are awesome too. Anywho… good post.

    • There was a great article in last month’s Whisky Advocate with the grandson who is running the Van Winkle brand now.  Talks all about the old distillery and when it was sold and how and where they distill now.  Bottles from the original distillery are hard to find and collector’s items.

  • Gob

    Jesus, Prolly, this article and the comments make it hard to be on the wagon. (only 27 more days to go…)

  • Jake

    Bourbon all the way! I’ve never tried Van Winkle, but now it’s on the list. Those shoes are beautiful

  • Jefferson

    Drink Scotch!  
    Last thing we need is more competition for Blanton’s (omitted from this excellent thread so far).  
    Anybody heard yet where cyclocross World Championships are next year?  
    Rapha Grand Tour shoes are sublime.  Possibly Pappy’s 23 sublime.

    • I have given Blanton’s much love! Completely neglected that one from the list. So far, I have B L T in the horse characters.

      • Jefferson

        I will trade you A and N for your left shoe.

  • vopop

    A comparison wrt Prolight SLX is missing here…

  • Chipper

    The ultimate puke slippers

  • Great post.
    I would love a pair in black.  They’re expensive, but I’d almost be willing to do it.  Any idea where to try them on in NYC??  Seriously.  How do they fit?  I need a big toe-box (or cut one off).
    But John, you can’t make a Negroni with Bourbon.  :-)
    Eagle Rare is nice and less sweet than most, and has a nice oaky backbone.

    • Blakebski

      Signature Cycles. Last Rapha dealer in NYC. They have full stock in both colors.

  • K-Train

    Elmer T Lee 90th Birthday Edition, with Van Winkle 23 year a close second.  Scotch is a whole different animal.  If you want to try them all to formulate anything close to a rounded opinion, you’re looking at thousands of dollars just in single pours.  There’s a bar here in Denver called Pints that has the “largest collection of single malt scotches in North America” and they have the list to prove it.  Some of the pours are $750 (you likely purchase the entire botle), so you know those are once in a lifetime experiences.  On the other hand, I’ve been to maybe a dozen bars in town that have all years of Van Winkle, Elmer T Lee, George T Stagg, and all the rest on hand very affordably.  I’d like to think that Bourbon trumps Scotch for flavor, but I don’t believe this is possible.  What it does trump Scotch on is the ability to give anyone of any income level the ability to taste world class product.  

    • That’s essentially the same argument I’ve been giving people for scotch relative to wine.  I can spend $50 on a bottle of scotch that will kick the ass of a $50 bottle of wine.  This article makes the same argument for beer relative to wine, where the difference between a $12 bottle of beer and a $12 bottle of wine is enormous: