In my opinion, you don’t need racing shoes to do rides. Back when we started riding ‘cross bikes on singletrack and fire roads, the only real options were stiff ‘cross racing shoes. Footwear tech and ideologies have come a long way since with the case in point being the latest from the Rapha apparel line, the Powerweave Explore Gravel Shoes. I’ve been lucky enough to get my grubby hands on a pair to check out and post up a quick first impressions review of these beautiful shoes.
When I see packaging like this, it makes me want to be more thorough with our own presentation of our goods we sell in our webshop! The shoes come double-boxed with printing on each boxes. In an era where a lot of our local shops are out of stock of various goods, we’ve had to order some things online and nothing came presented like this. Not even my ski boots. It’s just one of the ways that Rapha excels at design.
They even come with a storage baggie and heel inserts. Best of all, no plastic. Everything is recyclable.
Out of the Box
Once you open the packaging, it’s hard to not first be overwhelmed by the Powerweave upper material. Rightfully so too! It’s quite busy, like static from a cathode ray tube television. This 3D printed material features TPU-reinforced yarns of the fabric, resulting in a weather-resistant upper that is reported to be durable and resistant to abrasions, all while keeping the weight down. While they don’t feel feather-lite, they ain’t exactly heavy.
For reference, the size 46 I have weighed in at 850g for the pair with cleats. Yes, with the cleats, because that’s how you ride in them, right?
While the upper looks like something out of a performance basketball shoe, the sole is what really caught my attention. With carbon shanks, a lot of ‘gravel’ or ‘adventure’ shoes can be too stiff to scramble around on rocks. These shoes feature a carbon footplate and a plush rubber sole and deliver a surprisingly comfortable ride quality.
Sizing, Fit, and First Impressions
Typically, I wear a 47 across the board but the 47 in these shoes were pretty big. I had to size down to a 46. Once the sizing was sorted, I headed out for a dirt road loop from my house where I like to spend my mornings if I have a few hours to kill. Even just walking around my house getting ready to ride, I was amazed at how comfortable the shoes were. After three hours on the bike in some considerably rough terrain, I felt like I was riding MTB trail shoes, in a gravel shoe package.
Over the past few years, I’ve gravitated to MTB shoes that are a bit narrower than normal for my gravel rides. This is because I’ve never been a fan of overly-stiff riding footwear, yet I understand why people love a good-n-stiff sole. Maybe it’s because I’m always scrambling up rocky escarpments for photos, or rummaging around looking at rocks, or ya know, just being a weirdo. Long story short, I find MTB shoes infinitely more comfortable than “gravel” shoes.
These shoes feel like a good in-between and I’d argue they’d make a good XC, bikepacking, or touring shoe as well. Time will tell how they hold up to rocky abuse and desert shenanigans but so far, I don’t think I’ve owned a more comfortable gravel shoe. As for width, they aren’t super narrow, nor are they super wide. They’re mid-range in terms of both width and stiffness. The BOA closure can be polarizing, some love it, others hate it, but I got no beef with BOA. I was able to get them dialed in, hop on my bike, and ride away without any adjusting.
Pricing and Etcetera
Hold onto yer butts: $355 USD retail
-High-performance Powerweave upper
-Lightweight carbon sole, cut shorter for flexibility at toe and heel
-Precision-fit BOA® Fit System – Li2
-Durable and grippy natural rubber tread
-Lightweight anodized titanium hardware
-Signature reflective Rapha toe strap
-2-bolt compatible cleats
-Reflective heel for visibility at night
-Reinforced toe and heel for durability
-Black (pictured) or navy blue options
-Upper: 100% woven polyester
-Sole footplate: carbon fibre
-Insole: EVA insole with soft antimicrobial microfibre top layer
-Outsole cover: 100% rubber
-Cleat bolts: 100% titanium
See more at Rapha.