FOUNDED BY: Simon Mottram
HOME BASE: London
WHY WE CO-SIGN: Rapha brings fashion to the enjoyable yet grueling world of road cycling. The London-based brand does it, however, without sacrificing function. The result is a fine collection of style-conscious tops, bottoms, outerwear, underwear, and accessories that help professionals as well as amateur cycling enthusiasts maintain and improve performance when pedaling through long distances.
Keep reading for our interview with Founder/Head Creative Simon Mottram and his five Spring essentials. Our picks from Rapha's most recent collection are also after the jump...
Complex: What are your five non-cycling related Spring essentials?
Simon: Small collared, slim fit button down shirts by Paul Smith; 1947 cut vintage 501s by Levi's; White brogues by Trickers (I'm a bit of a dandy when it comes to shoes); Lacoste polo shirts (ubiquitous, but still the best colors and shape); Prada trainers (bright green).
Complex: We hear you on the Lacoste polo shirts. Moving on, Rapha is based in London. Tell us how that influences the way you design and manufacture the line.
Simon: For a city that seems designed against rather than for cyclists, London is probably the cycling capital of the world today. More than 500,000 trips are made by bike every day. The cultural mix of fashion, the bespoke tailoring heritage, fixed-wheel riding and more traditional cycling is a great source of ideas.
Complex: Interesting. Why do you think Rapha pulls off the function x fashion combination so well?
Simon: We try to keep things simple and elegant and always use the best fabrics and trims we can find. When you put those ingredients together and approach products from a rider's point of view, it's surprisingly simple to produce clothing and accessories that really work but also look good.
Complex: On that note, share with us one super-technical fabric that Rapha employs.
Simon: Sportwool. It is a merino/synthetic hybrid that we've been using for most of our jerseys since we started in 2004. Perhaps, surprisingly, the merino wool used in Sportwool is probably the most 'super-technical' fabric we use! It's amazingly effective at pulling moisture away from the skin, to leave you dry and warm or cool, depending on the temperature.
Complex: Let's talk collaborations. You've worked with Paul Smith in the past.
Simon: We continue to work with Paul Smith and are developing a co-branded range of city riding products for launch this October. We're very excited about that! We are also developing cycling shoes with British cobbler Tim Little.
Complex: Awesome, we can't wait to see that line. Changing gears a little bit, what are some musts for cyclists in the Spring?
Simon: White shoes! They are as important as white socks for the true roadie; Embrocation—it gets the muscles warm and is a strangely addictive ritual too (Rapha's own embrocation line launches this summer); Arm warmers and knee warmers—particular to cycling but they're incredibly useful and functional.
Complex: Embrocation. We definitely have to get on that. For those us who have not had the opportunity, tell us what biking in London is like.
Simon: It's challenging and sometimes scary, but also energizing and essential. It's the only way to get around. London's traffic is pretty awful, but I can get to anywhere in Central London in less than 30 minutes.
Complex: The drivers in New York can get quite hostile toward cyclists. London?
Simon: The drivers here are often dangerous and sometimes quite aggressive. But it's great to be able to flow through the traffic with ease, serene and unruffled, faster and more satisfied than any driver. And the varied architecture of London's 'villages' is often beautiful and fascinating. I get to take it in every day.
Complex: Do you have some favorite trails/routes In London that you would like to share with our readers?
Simon: There's a nice loop of North London (where I live), that takes in Hampstead, Highgate and the challenging (though short) climb of Swaine's lane; Richmond park, to the southwest of the city has a great 4 mile loop through beautiful parkland. There is an annual 32-mile ride for charity that crosses 14 of London's historic bridges—from Tower Bridge to Kew. It's a great way to see the city.
Rapha Performance Roadwear
Complex: Thanks for the tips. Any other places you like to bike outside of London?
Simon: The climb up to San Baronto from Vinci in Tuscany through olive groves is sublime; There's also a small road through the Alpilles hills near the Camargue in the South of France; The Route Impériale des Cimes runs from Biarritz on the Atlantic into the Pyrénées. The snow capped mountains of the high Pyrénées beckon you from the east.
Complex: Wow. And we thought the ride along the West Side Highway was dope. Lastly, how do you feel about the growing fixed-gear scene ?
Simon: The fixed-wheel scene is fantastic, vibrant and a great shot in the arm for cycling. But in the last 6 years it has become younger and more and more about tricks and fashion. When I was attracted to fixed in 2002, it was because of the simplicity of the machines and the character of the hardcore messengers who rode them.
Complex: Ah. Messengers.
Simon: They were the closest thing I could see to the heroes of bike racing in the past: covered in dirt, facing down the hazards of London traffic every day for 70 miles or more. Rapha is inspired by the glory and suffering of road racing, so these guys really resonated with me. As the fixed scene has moved away from that idea it has naturally become less interesting to me and Rapha.
WHERE TO FIND IT: Mellow Johnny's, Paragon Sports, Signature Cycles, Palo Alto Bicycles, River City Bicycles, University Bicycles, Studio Velo, Contender Bicycles, plus many others and Rapha's Online Store.
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