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