Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Rapha Makes For An Extraordinary Ride

ralphaWhen does a bicycle become something more? Rapha, a small but rapidly growing U.K.-based bicycle apparel and gear company, found the answer with the limited release of four handmade bicycles designed by four master frame builders.

The teams behind the machines include Chris King, Beloved Cycles (Portland, Oregon); Ira Ryan and Tony Pereira, Breadwinner Cycles (Portland, Oregon); Independent Fabrication (Somerville, Massachusetts); and Cinelli (Caleppio di Settala, Italy). Each partner was selected for mastery of the craft and each model was designed for specific riding purposes.

The Everyday Bike.

The first promises to deliver something more than a commuter bike. It's designed specifically for city racing, with a brazed lug and fillet brazed construction with a Columbus SL tubeset (Spirit headtube and stays). Complete details can be found here. Each order takes approximately eight weeks. About $5,200 plus shipping.

The Continental Bike.

Designed as a collaborative effort, each bike will be built with Columbus steel and a blend of Zona and Spirit tubing. The all-weather, all-terrain bike makes for a serious cross country racer. The bike will only be offered twice a year, with no more than 50 being made with each offering. Complete details can be found here. Each order will take up to four months to complete. About $5,000 plus shipping.

The Independent Fab XS.

Designed by the team headed up by Lloyd Graves, the special collection bike puts a modified spin on the infamous XS. Constructed with carbon fiber and titanium, and a choice of Campagnolo Super Record, SRAM Red, Shimano DuraAce, or internally routed Di2 packages. Complete details can be found here. Each order will take eight to ten weeks to fulfill. About $6,800 plus shipping.

The Criterium Racer XCR.

One of the best-known bike makers in the world, the team at Cinelli has a history of reinvention. Built with Columbus XCR stainless steel tube sets and fork, the bike is limited to only 30 frames per year due to the scarcity of material. Complete details can be found here. Each order will take approximately four months. About $4,500 plus shipping.

All four bicycles share a Rapha color palette as interpreted by the makers. And each includes a custom Rapha head badge, inspired by the serial plate of the Rapha H-Van. The Continental are bikes that Rapha Continental riders have been using for the last five years touring some of the best rides in the United States. I've included a clip from one of the short films Rapha occasionally puts out (above).

While there is no possible way to write a timely review for a bike that requires at least eight weeks to four months to deliver, I have ridden bikes built by two of the four manufacturers in the past. Their reputations are rock solid. Rapha's decision to team with them was smart and helps add enthusiasm for the sport.

Rapha Bike Collection Makes Its Mark With 8.1 On The Liquid Hip Richter Scale.

What truly stands out about this collection is the uniqueness and, in some cases, extreme exclusivity backed by a business that works very hard to earn respect as an apparel and gear company. The company even supports books on the sport, including the Rouleur Photography Annual 2009 and Rouleur Photography Annual 2010.

In addition to the new bike collection, Rapha developed a special application for the iPhone. The app is designed to invite other friends and riders to share routes and follow riders in real time. Rapha Rendezvous is free on iTunes.
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