Rapha are the cordon bleu of cycling – they create beautiful garments that stand out from the drab flavours available elsewhere, without having to shout.
The British brand, which continues to maintain its primary office in central London, was launched in 2004 and is markedly different in its refreshing attitude to equality in production.
What is appealing is that they rarely shout about their women's provision, moreover they act like creating high quality women's kit for a waiting market is a given
The young age of the company might explain some of its attitudes, since Rapha’s explosion onto the market coincided with the rapid growth in women’s cycling. What is appealing is that they rarely shout about their women's provision, moreover they act like creating high quality women's kit for a waiting market is a given.
All but a few items are available in a fit designed for a woman’s frame, often with a range of colourways. Rapha don’t turn their back on traditional pink (even in their men’s ranges) but nor do they make it the only option, with a rainbow of options appearing in the 2016 collection.
Dedicated to celebrating the ‘glory and suffering’ of road riding, Rapha don’t appeal to every rider – and their price tags don’t suit every budget, but they’ve got a clear audience in mind and unlike many such high end brands, don’t assume women are removed from the world of sweat, blood and tears on the bike.
It’s not just the kit that Rapha produce with seeks to include women. The company take marketing very seriously, every single word or picture that represents the brand is filtered via the head office to ensure the essence of Rapha is not distilled or watered down.
The essence they produce is one of reverence towards cycling – in which those partaking are fulfilled through pedal strokes, their prayers answered by hairpins and still mornings where layering creates the perfect body temperature.
Rapha’s women’s images ooze sophistication, respect for the church of cycling, and they always collect together a peloton of women riding together in happy community
Rapha’s women’s images ooze sophistication, respect for the church of cycling, and they always collect together a peloton of women riding together in happy community, as opposed to one token woman in a sea of red mist and testosterone.
The brand show women riding together in just the way many want to – a touch of competition between riders, but underpinned by a respect and a love for each other that comes from sharing the same passion.
Women aren’t sexualised by Rapha, but nor are they wrapped up and devoid of attraction. In short, the women they shoot always look like normal women – the kinds we’d like to be friends with.
As well as creating beautiful imagery that fills us with a desire to get on the bike, and write passages laden with superlatives on return, Rapha have also taken practical steps towards getting more women riding by launching the Rapha 100.
The now annual celebration of women’s cycling encourages women all over the world to group together to ride 100km – a challenge that some train for, whilst others ride with smiles on their faces and with ease, in celebration of sisterhood.
With an office in central London, Rapha is a company which tries to keep all operations as close to its heart as possible.
The attractive offices, with in-house coffee shop, roll-in-by-bike ramp and ample bike storage, are heavily populated by women – sadly not a common sight in the cycling industry.
To create a product and a brand that appeals to women, you need to understand them, and the best way to do that is to be a woman
To create a product and a brand that appeals to women, you need to understand them, and the best way to do that is to be a woman. Rapha understand that, and they ensure that a high percentage of their employees are female, creating a balance that is severely lacking elsewhere, and is evident in what the brand produce.