Membership of the £200-a-year Rapha cycling club will be limited and be by application only

By Trevor Ward

Rapha, the luxury cycling clothing brand and kit supplier to Team Sky, will in January launch its most ambitious project — a global cycling club with an annual membership fee of £200.

But in a style more befitting an exclusive golf club than the traditionally egalitarian spirit of cycling, those applying for membership are warned: “In order to maintain the very highest levels of service, membership is limited. We regret that not all applications will be successful.”

The final question on the application form appears to be the deal-breaker, asking would-be members to define ‘the perfect ride’ in fewer than 100 words.

Regular Rapha customers were emailed this month inviting them to apply for membership of one of the club’s 16 worldwide ‘chapters’. These include two in the UK, London and Manchester, where Rapha operates shops — or what they prefer to call ‘stylish clubhouses’.

Members of Rapha CC will get complimentary coffee and priority invites to events at these venues. The Manchester clubhouse, for example, was last week advertising a screening of Brandon Loper’s superb A Film About Coffee.

Members will also be able to hire top-end bikes from other clubhouses — in cities including New York, Los Angeles, Tokyo and Hong Kong — and make use of each club’s concierge, who will be armed with key contacts, local insider knowledge and be able to take you out on a local ride.

The club motto is Ex Duris Gloria — ‘Through Suffering Arises Glory’, though it’s not clear whether this is a reference to the hefty membership fee or not.

Rapha declined to make any official comment about the launch of its new club, but brand manager James Fairbank once said: “Given that our over-arching objective is to help make road cycling the most popular sport in the world, being exclusive for any reason certainly isn’t in our interest.”

Critics might argue that Rapha CC sounds almost as exclusive as the £95 Chris King-designed espresso tamper the brand once sold.

Club values

So how does Rapha CC compare with a more traditional local cycling club?

Rapha cc
Annual membership fee: £200
Clubhouses: London and Manchester plus 14 more in cities around the world.
Club rides/races: “Club rides for all abilities and races organised by the RCC team near each club.”
Benefits: Complimentary coffee and biannual magazine, free cap with membership card.
Motto: Ex Duris Gloria (Through Suffering Arises Glory)
Contact: www.rapha.cc

Angus Bike Chain CC
Annual membership fee: £16 (£7 OAPs and unemployed)
Clubhouse: Kingsmuir Hall, Forfar, for club meetings and turbo sessions in winter.
Club rides/races: Four club rides a week from Forfar and Arbroath, plus APRs and time trials during summer. Club also organises the Nick Hardy Memorial Road Race and a winter duathlon series.
Benefits: 20 per cent off club kit, 10 per cent off bikes and accessories at Angus Bike Chain shop, Arbroath.
Motto: 100 per cent Angus.
Contact: www.angusbikechaincc.com

  • c_j_drawbridge

    I didn’t realize Rapha was such a polarizing brand. And though I have yet to find any reason to dislike the company, I can see both sides of the argument.
    I found the brand a year ago through some random Google search. I ordered a few items – everything offered was classic in style – nothing garish. Basically exactly what I was seeking. How often I see out-of-condition middle-age folks pedaling their quasi-mountain bikes on local bike paths covered head to toe in over-branded lycra.
    The initial items I bought were on sale – but still represented a fair value given the quality and the customer service provided when required to exchange or refund. The company’s service is unmatched imo. The website’s quality too is unmatched. No other athletic brand’s website offers as much inspiration. The films and inside stories (ex. Thrivor) are spectacular. They are not Prada, Gucci, or Rolex.
    As a RCCC member last year, I was offered a membership. I think the concept is genuine, though admittedly pricey. But I see no way that they could offer the membership at 1/10 the price to ten times the number of people and manage the club with the same level of service – impossible. So in fact they are smart enough to say we can offer this to as many as “X” people, and we will need to charge so much for it. It’s partly exclusivity, but also capacity.
    How do I justify the membership cost? Basically I don’t try. But I drive a Toyota – it requires nothing other than oil and fuel – cheap to drive cheap to fix. I do not drive a BMW or an Audi. My bike is not a carbon Specialized costing 3 months salary, rather it is a 1996 steel Marinoni. I own Rapha clothing. But not exclusively. And when I wear it, it’s not to flaunt it and throw it in other rider’s faces – not nearly the way a rider atop a $8000 carbon bike flaunts his paycheck.
    Who can get down on a company which provides such service, is continually building cycling clubs offering coffee, and has what appears to be genuine passion for the sport. Rapha is, in effect, bringing the great history of the sport back to the surface in an open format for all to see. They further recognize and acknowledge the quality and efforts of dozens of frame builders through their Continental bike project. They manufacture not solely in China, but in the UK, Italy, and the US…….
    So much unjustified anger and disgust over the cost to join the RCC. I’m happy to “waste” my money on this, when I “waste” it no where else.

  • Jono_M

    Well that’s pretty cool. Are the kits nice? I’ve been flying a local club’s colors the past few years, so the bar is pretty pretty high. (That’s not actually me)

  • John Ireson

    2 in the past 2 years 1 of which was cancelled.

  • Chris Bradley

    If you don’t like the Ferarri, don’t buy the Ferarri, buy the Honda. it drives just like any other car, just shut up about it.

  • Chris Bradley

    they organize quite a few cycling events.

  • Chris Bradley

    you shouldn’t ride in their gear then.

  • Chris Bradley

    As opposed to other companies that are so virtuous for the cycling community like, oh i don’t know Specialized, who rape and pillage wherever they can trying to shut down shops using names of 100 year old European races that they think they own and what not….hahaha Hilarious what people care about and what they look past.

  • Chris Bradley

    Might i add that the exclusive club kits for members only are quite a bit cheaper to buy than the regular Rapha gear, so there is some value in that as well. Actully if you bought a pro team jersey and a bib and along sleeve, the cost you’d save compared to a non-club kit is more than half the membership fee.

  • Chris Bradley

    I know a few people who didn’t own any Rapha and got in the club. i think membership probably had more to do with the essay you are asked to write at the end of the application. Not quite sure how they judged this, but hey I got in so my essay must have been amazing! hahaha

  • Chris Bradley

    Well put!

  • Chris Bradley

    yes Rapha garments are a bit pricey. Try hitting them up on their sales. they do 50% at the end of every season when new stuff comes out. at 50% off it;s pretty much the same or less than lame Dick’s Sporting goods non-quality garments.

  • Chris Bradley

    Erik, your reply is kind of ridiculous in and of itself. Cycling at it’s very core is about reaching other planes of enlightenment. it’s got ner’ to do with status or superfluous ends. Please. It’s got to do with drive for excellence in all things and passion for sport and style. I mean with all do respect, to each his own. I wear nothing but Rapha on the road because I like it a lot and I pretty much despise super logo-nascar effect-looking stuff which is 99% of what’s out there. I like quality, craftsmanship and I believe in acquiring quality, nice things and keeping them forever, as long as you actually use them. I ride everyday in Rapha gear and it’s got nothing to do with anything except the pursuit of the best ride that I can have, feeling the most comfortable on the bike that I can so that I can take in the views, work through the suffering…and look damn good doing it. haha. @etcdaman What exactly is Rapha RCC promoting that Cycling is not about? There’s no pressure to “Acquire” anything other than some camaraderie, and some great time on the bike with new people you meet within the club. The club enthusiastically promotes travel to other chapters for rides and hangs. Is that not what cycling is about? Maybe it’s not, who knows, but everyone has a different experience with it and some choose to share it with each other in a different manner.

  • Chris Bradley

    free espresso anytime you visit a club anywhere in the world. I had 3 americanos today at the RCCNYC. Boom that’s $12 right there. I figure in 2 weeks here I’ll have drunk up at least $125 worth of espresso. haha.

  • James Heath

    In my book anyone wearing Rapha has always been simply a target to overtake. I’m not surprised by this latest endeavour, just saddened. Most cycle clubs are non profit making democratic members’ clubs – this is far from that. Perhaps others would like join the democratic “Grind Down that Guy Wearing Rapha Members’ Cycle Club”?

  • Kurtz

    Yeah, but oh how those Trek sales shot up when GW Bush would tool around Texas w/ Lance.

  • John Ireson

    Whoopie do….At grass level we are trying to make cycling less exclusive not more. Maybe Rapha’s efforts would be better spent promoting and Organising some cycling events….. I understand they are a commercial business but this sits very uncomfortably with me.

  • Erik Van Bommel

    Cycling is all about the Ride. Most participants are happy with what a Ride is while others haunt higher planes of enlightenment. It is the pressure to either resist the simplicity and acquire a status, or pursue superfluous ends which undermines the value of the Ride. Sorry, being reading back issues of Rouleur, again.

  • matt griffiths

    I might add, this is a fine example of some really poor journalism. Terribly subjective.

  • matt griffiths

    This strikes me as a very cynical attempt to ensure that the wealthiest people spend more money at Rapha. Whatever you think of the brand, (i personally love it) it has a little responsibility for the current surge in cycling that we are witnessing.

  • Leonard Lee

    Didn’t Groucho Marx once say something about not wanting to be in a club that would have him as a member? Sounds like a bit of clever reverse psychology marketing to me. It will probably have all of these City types signing up in Droves: People who have never ridden a bike in their lives but who, in the last fortnight, have kitted themselves out with all the latest Rapha kit and a 5 grand bike and have announced they will be riding this years Etape.

  • Simon

    They do say cycling is becoming the new golf. Well, this is proof, the attraction of the pompus ***** to clubs like these.

  • Travis

    As been said many times before, it is the new golf. What that brings is contacts and possibly exclusivity. Now, if that sits comfortably with you or not, is your own choosing. I personally, have help the company I work for grow, by cycling (really slowly) with the CEO of another company, now, if the company would like to pay my Rapha membership fees, I don’t mind at all.

  • RoseRose

    I’ve paid around €200 to join a cycling club in the past, but it included kit, insurance, and a UCI license, plus the club covered entries to local races as long as you committed to fundraising efforts. In the end, you actually made money.

    This is different. If you joined in a city with a Rapha shop, ok, I get it. I could drink the entry fee in espresso in a year, and you could join club rides and have a community. That’s worth something.

    But to join the RCC virtually, I’m not so sure I see the value.

  • Simon E

    If Rapha wants to do this then there must be a market for it. There are expensive, ‘exclusive’ versions of everything – jeans, t-shirts, furniture, and now cycle clothing and accessories. So what?

    It’s funny how no-one complains when Ferrari, Mercedes or whoever produce yet more expensive cars. I don’t see how driving itself becomes “exclusive” simply because chelsea tractors or Audi TTs are popular.

    Loads of people are forever on about their n+1 bike, upgrading wheels, 11 speed, Di2, the latest Garmin wondergadget or using their fancy smartphone for sat-nav because they’re too lazy to read a map blah blah blah… I don’t understand the difference.

    If you don’t like it don’t buy it.

  • BillK

    This is the UK. What Obama demands is irrelevant.

  • BillK

    USA is unimportant.

  • Nick Senechal

    I don’t care to belong to any club which would have me as a member…

  • Jay Kay

    Let’s not forget…Rapha.cc have the choice to include you in (or is that exclude you FROM) their club…it’s only open for limited numbers…you could in theory (I don’t imagine this would happen in reality – rapha doing background checks to see the applicants suitability – financially or otherwise…) never own one article of Rapha merchandise and still qualify for this exclusive club (not likely…!!). If you have time to pen (max)100 words that include such superlatives as ‘epic’, ‘monochrome landscape’, ‘elite’ etc…then this may be for you..if, however, you just want to go out and ride…save about , say £200 and do just that…vote with your pedals and don’t entertain the exclusivity and cocked head, down nose looks from those that may be ‘fortunate’ to attain membership….

  • nortonpdj

    I can’t afford it, but it’s a free world (or, in this case, an expensive one).

  • ian franklin

    I’m not entirely comfortable with Rapha’s take on the new cycling. Out here in Thailand (and elsewhere) they organised rides that Rapha did not deny were ‘races’. This completely bypassed the traditional ways of organising events and was kept rather exclusive. From what I understand the participants were not necessarily locals but expats and tourists who could afford to join this venture. Elitist cycling. Also dangerous because from what I understand there was no great emphasis on safety and police cooperation and so on. I think that the idea of Rapha coffee bars is a good one but an exclusive club goes against the spirit of cycling that us older riders have experienced all our lives. I hope that the cycling community treats this venture with the contempt that it deserves.

  • Jono_M

    How much free coffee do you get? If it’s a cup a day, then it seems like a good deal.

  • Eduardo

    What is cycling all about etcdaman?

  • Eduardo

    Careful bfaz, the idea is not ridiculous but I am sure that many will share your oppinion. In the USA you have Walmart, you have Rapha, and you have everything in-between. Nothing wrong with having choices. Cheers brother!

  • Eduardo

    The good news is that you don’t have to join. Believe it or not Obama will not demand that you to sign up for the Rapha club…not yet!

  • etcdaman

    Rapha promotes everything that cycling is not about … Boo to them … Boo

  • Dabber

    What a pretentious load of twaddle.

  • Erik Van Bommel

    ‘Being exclusive for any reason certainly isn’t in our interest.’ Good. With my 64cm 2001 Cannondale (I’m 5″11) with 8 speed 12-28 Shimano 105 and different rims, in my Castorama/Fignon kit (regularly voted the least tasteful EVER) I’m sure I’ll fit in.
    Just feckin’ ride, people, and save your money to enter charity rides.

  • Soho House meets cycling. Perfect for their target audience i.e. people who are members of Soho House

  • Peterg

    What an absolute load of pretentious, status-driven bollocks!!! Rapha has always been more about being “cool” & showing off how much money you’ve got, not about cycling, and here’s yet more proof. Cycling is historically inclusive, not exclusive – Numpties!!

  • Jim

    Hey, Rapha, here’s a thought: GO FUCK YOURSELF!

  • Clovis Glapthorn

    Fantastic. A free cap! But do you get one every year or only when you join?

  • Tom Bachmann

    Agree 100 per cent. Seems to me Rapha is trying so hard to become something cycling like what Apple is to consumer electronics. They have a great product, but the brand becomes more and more ridiculous.
    Concerning the article: For me this is pure promotion for Rapha. A journalist is a gate keeper who has to decide what is worthy to report and what not. Trevor made exactly this decision before writing this “news”. It was a poor decision.

  • bfaz

    To be fair the article is hardly gushing in support of the concept. And though i agree it’s not news, i’m not sure the coverage will do Rapha any favours because….
    … the idea is ridiculous. I’m sure a few people with more money than sense will sign up, and so it’ll prove to be a commercial success, but honestly. They produce some great quality kit but their brand is quickly becoming a pastiche of itself. Sod exclusivity: cycling shouldn’t be pompous, or snobbish. And this is just that. The more seriously rapha take themselves, hopefully the less seriously the cycling community will take them.

  • easynow

    Gross.

  • Tom Bachmann

    Looks like Trevor Ward is a true fan boy. Sorry, but this is neither news nor journalism. That’s a disgrace. Mark it is advertising for god’s sake.

  • I am all for Rapha, I confess to owning some Rapha stuff but this concept does not sit particularly comfortably with me..