Rapha is genius. You’d find few people who would argue that Rapha invented a whole new cycling retail atmosphere. And that term captures the brilliance of the marketing and storytelling. The moody landscapes, the poetic hardship, the honest suffering, the joy in the journey.
In terms of pure branding, Rapha was the king, the only actual, well-defined, richly developed, thoughtfully created brand in cycling apparel. They are the gold standard. A brand so strong, so rock solid, so complete, that they could charge according. Any communications expert would simply bow down and say Chapeau, Rapha.
Naturally, that runaway success has led to some very smart, skillful followers. Some are tapping the same artistic style of photography and storytelling, some are carving out their own variation on a theme, some are just taking the Rapha inspiration and sprinting up a mountain of their choosing.
Take a look at the websites, writing styles and visual language of Cafe du Cycliste from Nice, France, Velobici from Leicester, England (Rapha junior?) and even Boulder, Colorado’s 7Mesh. All owe at least a ceremonial bow to what Rapha created and continues to evolve with smart, intentional marketing.
It’s an exciting time for all cyclists who appreciate a quality product, thoughtful design, a focus on style and performance and brilliant marketing.
We’ll be reviewing some new apparel from all three Rapha killers over the next few months. Not that Rapha is feeling the least bit afraid.