The Explore is a brand new gravel and adventure shoe from Rapha. By the lofty standards of the brand, it isn’t ridiculously unaffordable and it’s accompanied by a new Classic road shoe which costs a little less.
Rapha has been out of the shoe game for a while but the brand is back with a new road model called the Classic (which our colleagues at Bikeradar first spotted at the Tour Down Under), and the Explore, designed for two-bolt cleats and aimed squarely at gravel and adventure riders.
The Explore is a lace-up, walkable design with a chunky natural rubber tread. A carbon plate aims to give road shoe stiffness but, critically, it doesn’t span the full length of the shoes.
Instead, it ends 3cm from the heel and 2cm from the toe, allowing a little bit of flex at either end that’s supposed to make walking easier.
The carbon plate is mostly hidden (and protected) by the rubber tread, but it’s visible at the sides of the shoe and around the cleats, where it lends the shoes a touch of highly-scratchable class.
The cleat plates themselves are titanium for lightness and feature oil-slick style anodising, as do the titanium D-rings through which the Rapha signature faux toe-straps thread.
The Explore’s upper is seamless microfibre (i.e. a synthetic leather-like material) and its matt finish gives the shoes a very premium feel.
Rapha designer Joël Salamin describes the upper’s construction as being “double layered and folded back on itself to create a double wall”, which is designed to distribute lace tension more evenly across the top of the foot for a secure but comfortable fit.
The fitted laces match the upper, but Rapha also includes a more eye-catching pair — the choice is yours. In case you’re worried about laces fouling chainrings, there’s an elastic strap to keep them tidy on the bike.
Shoe fit is obviously a very personal thing, but the Raphas ship with interchangeable arch supports, so there's some scope for riders to tweak things to their needs.
This pair of size 44s weighs 722g, which is decent for shoes with a chunky tread, but unexceptional.
It’s easy to scoff as more and more product categories go gravel-specific, but more shoe options that don’t look overtly sporty are always welcome. The Explores are pitched at adventurous riders, but doubtless affluent commuters will want them too.