According to the manufacturer, the Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoe is the first choice for fast-paced off-road adventures and is now available in two colours for € 310. Can the new Powerweave material and BOA Li2 ratchets deliver on gravel as well as asphalt roads? Read our review to find out how the new gravel shoes perform.
After debuting with the Explore Shoe, Rapha have now released their second pair of gravel-specific shoes, relying on BOA Li2 ratchets and functional Powerweave fabric for the so-called Explore Powerweave Shoe. Compared to their predecessors, the second iteration is more performance oriented, though not at the cost of comfort. Thanks to the new TPU-reinforced Powerweave material, Rapha promise long-lasting durability and weather resistance combined with minimal weight and high levels of comfort. The carbon reinforcement deliberately doesn’t span the length of the soles to keep the areas around the heel and toes flexible. For that special touch and also to keep the weight down, the threaded inserts for the cleats are made of anodised titanium and feature an oil-slick finish.
The Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoe in review
The design of new Rapha Explore Powerweave gravel shoes is a lot techier compared to the elegant looks of their predecessors, which won’t be to everyone’s taste. The moment we tried the shoes on, we were impressed with the adjustable arch support of the removable insoles, offering a comfortable suede-like feel and plenty of grip to keep your feet securely in place. With the new BOA Li2 ratchets, the shoes can be opened wide enough to simply step into the shoes while standing. Slipping them on couldn’t be quicker and easier. In addition to a finely adjustable locking mechanism, the BOA ratchets also offer easy adjustment while riding. Engaging and disengaging or rather tightening and loosening the ratchets is no problem at all and you never have to open them completely if you don’t want to.
Gravel riders with wide feet will love the shoes’ roomy fit. The toe box features a classic design and is slightly pointed towards the front, yet the shoes are sufficiently wide around the balls of your feet. Thanks to the ratchet closure mechanism, the shoes conform to the shapes of your feet, securely wrapping around slender feet just as well as wide feet. As such, the Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoe will offer a good fit for a very wide range of riders.
On a gravel bike, the Rapha shoes delivered an impressive combination of comfort and performance. The upper material feels very supple compared to other materials and it has the advantage that it easily conforms to your feet, offering a snug fit. That said, there’s not too much give and you won’t feel the material stretch during a hard sprint. This makes sense as the shoe is clearly trimmed more towards performance than its predecessor, which was designed for comfort first. The design of the heel also plays into this, effectively holding your feet in place despite the lack of special non-slip materials – we didn’t slip out once during tests. If you occasionally experience a lot of toe overlap on your bike, you’ll have to be careful since the rubber sole doesn’t wrap very far around the toe box. The upper Powerweave material will easily come into contact with the gravel bike’s knobby tires, which could ultimately lead to cosmetic damage.
The sole is sufficiently stiff for those who don’t have to rely on winning gravel races to put food on the table, covering around 99.9 % of the world gravel riding population. On the other hand, the Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoe proves to be a very comfortable shoe to walk in, allowing you to push your bike when needed. Regardless of whether it’s a fast-paced multi-day or week-long bikepacking adventure or the Atlas Mountain Race, this is where these gravel shoes feel at home! The soles offer a lot of grip and the cut-outs for the cleats are recessed deeply enough within tread so that you walk on the rubber sole instead of the cleat.
Concluding thoughts on the Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoe
Rapha’s new gravel shoes are great performance all-rounders and a good choice for fast-paced bikepacking trips or long-distance races. In these situations, the Explore Powerweave Shoe offers a good fit, a finely adjustable closure mechanism, sufficient grip and good comfort. Only the world’s top performers might want a stiffer carbon sole. The new Rapha shoes are a useful addition to the existing Rapha Explore Shoe, which is much less performance oriented.
- a good fit for a wide range of feet, regardless of whether they are wide, flat or big
- excellent closure system thanks to finely adjustable BOA Li2 ratchets
- adjustable arch support
- insole and heel don't slip
- great combination of comfort and performance
- the supple upper material is comfortable yet suitable for sprints
- toe box is susceptible to damage should you experience toe overlap
For more information about the Rapha Explore Powerweave Shoe, visit rapha.cc
Did you enjoy this article? If so, we would be stoked if you decide to support us with a monthly contribution. By becoming a supporter of GRAN FONDO, you will help secure a sustainable future for high-quality cycling journalism. Click here to learn more.
Words: Photos: Tobias Hörsch