The Rapha Explore shoes are a well designed, quality option for the off-road rider. They are exceptionally comfortable with the laces providing a secure fit, although they make adjustment more tricky than a dial or Velcro closure
Easy to walk/run it without losing pedalling efficiency
Laces can’t easily be adjusted when riding
The Rapha Explore shoes follow the usual route of surrounding a carbon sole unit with a grippy rubber sole. In their case, the carbon is almost completely enclosed by the outer sole, so it’s barely obvious that it’s there: there’s just a rectangular section under the cleat and a couple of slithers at the side visible. That’s a good thing, as carbon soles are prone to scuffing and can quickly look tatty.
The outer sole has a series of deep lugs – with signature Rapha-pink flecks in them – to provide plenty of grip. Unlike some off-road shoes, you can’t screw in toe studs though. Although the soles are stiff, the carbon shank doesn’t run the full length of the shoe. So there’s enough give that the Rapha Explore shoes are comfortable to walk or run in off the bike, with a bit of extra spring in the toe box and the back of the heel.
The lace-up microfibre upper has a quality, durable feel. There are small perforations for ventilation. Laces lead to a comfortable closure and are augmented by a reflective Velcro strap at the toe, although I found that I really didn’t need to use this. The laces give a secure, comfortable fit with no pressure hot spots. There’s a double layer of upper material that forms the lacing eyelets and also adds extra support and resistance to stretch over the mid-foot. There’s another reflective element at the top of the heel.
The fit of the uppers is really comfortable, with good enclosure of the foot. Arch support can be adjusted by swapping out a spacer, which is velcroed in place under the insole. But all laced shoes have the issue that, if you don’t get the tension right before you start out, they’re difficult to adjust when on the move. There’s a little elastic strip half way down the upper, with a helpful tab, to tuck the laces under and out of the way of the chainrings.
Although they’re a bit heavier than some off-road shoes (which are always heavier than road shoes due to the extra grips in the soles), the Rapha Explore shoes make up for this with the solid feel of a pair of cycling shoes that will hold up well to many miles of rough treatment.
I tested the all-black version of the Rapha Explore shoes, but they also come in dark green, a pearlescent black which I secretly lusted after and, for the Rapha lover who likes to clean their shoes after each ride, a signature pink option.
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Paul started writing for Cycling Weekly in 2015, covering cycling tech, new bikes and product testing. Since then, he’s reviewed hundreds of bikes and thousands of other pieces of cycling equipment for the magazine and the Cycling Weekly website.
He’s been cycling for a lot longer than that though and his travels by bike have taken him all around Europe and to California. He’s been riding gravel since before gravel bikes existed too, riding a cyclocross bike through the Chilterns and along the South Downs.
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