By Simon Smythe
Rapha has launched the off-road version of its knitted Pro Team shoe. The Rapha Explore Powerweave is a “high performance all-terrain shoe purpose-built for fast-paced off-road riding.”
In the British brand’s words, the new shoe combines a high-traction, durable carbon sole with a reinforced version of its proprietary Powerweave fabric and the unrivalled Boa Fit System for a fit that’s dialled in for dirt.
Rapha says the Explore Powerweave shoes have been tested over tens of thousands of kilometres on bikepacking expeditions and ultra-endurance races, from Dolomite trails to the sands of the Sahara by pro riders and amateurs alike.
Rapha’s Powerweave fabric was first used by the Pro Team shoe, launched last year. In this Explore version, the 3D woven polyester is bolstered by a TPU yarn, which gives it a smoother but tougher feel and provides, according to Rapha, high durability and weather resistance, while keeping weight down and comfort high. Rapha says the new upper is designed to supply a combination of sock-like comfort and locked-in performance.
Closure is via Boa’s incremental Li2 dial platform, which is very neatly integrated into the shoe’s upper, featuring Boa laces that match the knitted texture of the upper. Rapha has designed the toe box to be spacious for all-day comfort, while the heel cup is closely sculpted. They come with optional arch support inserts for high arches.
The sole, however, represents the biggest departure from the Pro Team road shoe. For two-bolt cleats only, it is constructed from what Rapha calls a carbon “footplate” that’s set into an “extremely grippy rubber sole” with a recess for the cleat. Aimed at supplying a degree of flexibility while walking, the carbon sole, or footplate, finishes before the toe and heel. This style of sole has previously been seen in the older lace-up version of the Explore shoe.
The Explore Powerweaves will be available in two colour ways – black or navy – and will cost £260/$355, the same as the Pro Team shoe. They are available immediately via Rapha.cc
Lael Wilcox, ultra-endurance rider and Trans Am winner, put the Explore Powerweaves through their paces in mountainous Redington Pass, Arizona in some snowy conditions. She said: "I love the new Powerweave shoes. They're extremely comfortable for all day riding. I particularly like the material and Boa Fit System. They're lightweight, roomy and sharp looking – unlike any other cycling shoes I've ever worn. They kind of feel like a combination of loungewear and performance.
EF Pro Cycling’s Lachlan Morton wore the Explore Powerweaves through the Sierra Nevada of southern Spain for his triumph at Badlands 2020, remarking: “For the sort of riding I do most days, they’re the perfect shoe. Walking is super easy, which is kind of the trade-off normally. Shoes can be comfortable to walk in, or they’re stiff. These have the perfect middle ground – you can walk five or 10 kilometres in them. On the road they just feel like road shoes. I’d happily race in them, but people would laugh at me. They do it all. You can wear them on any day, on any bike, for any kind of riding, and you’re covered. It’s one less decision. They’re also fast."
We have a pair of Explore Powerweaves ready to test and are looking forward to finding out how they fare here in the UK. So far we can say comfort is high, build quality exceptional, the fit is excellent and they look great in the flesh. Keep an eye out for our review.
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