Core to Rapha’s huge growth around the world, in both city and road markets, has been a glorious aesthetic, premium price and its inspirational founder Simon Mottram.
Prior to launching Rapha, Simon worked for 15 years in brand consulting and marketing, including as director of brand consultancy Interbrand and as a partner at a number of agencies. Rapha was founded in London in 2004, launching its debut range with a month-long exhibition in East London’s Truman Brewery. Entitled ‘Kings of Pain’, it showcased six heroes from cycling’s golden era and beyond: Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Raymond Poulidor, Tom Simpson, Eddy Merckx and Bernard Hinault. As well as representing the suffering (and joy) of cycling, they dressed in a style that provided the inspiration for Rapha’s breakthrough into the cycling apparel market. A style that LeBlanq proudly showcases on all of our experiences.
At the time of Rapha’s inception, the road cycling scene in the UK was a shadow of its current state, Mottram said, with just a handful of quality retail stores, poor choice of cycling clothing brands, and very little cycling content for consumers to devour.
That image has since been wiped away, in part thanks to the influence of Rapha and its unashamed embracing of cycling culture, as the UK now more closely resembles a true cycling heartland like France, Belgium, or the Netherlands. But what impact has Rapha had on the cycling world in the eyes of its outgoing Founder?
“I think we’ve helped pioneer that resurgence of confidence in cycling,” Mottram said, “by making it better quality and by pushing standards and by making it a bit more aspirational. It’s quite cool to be a bike rider now. We’ve celebrated the culture of cycling in a way that nobody had done before and made that legitimate too. I’m pretty proud of the impact we’ve had. But let’s be honest, within cycling we’ve had impact, but the bigger question is, what about outside of cycling? Cycling is still this niche pursuit and that frustrates me.”
After almost two decades running the ship, Mottram stepped down as CEO in 2022. Despite taking a step back Simon remains on the board and has a keen eye on Rapha as it aims to become the brand for the cycling lifestyle. Looking back on his career with Rapha, Mottram said the toughest times for the company were always the early years, like running out of cash and borrowing from friends to be able to pay a factory. “In the early days supply chain issues or design problems were existential – “probably the hardest challenge,” Mottram said.
But his fondest moment stands out like a lone mountain on the horizon: “It was probably Mont Ventoux in 2013, being [at the Tour de France] with 100 customers, friends and investors, Chris Froome coming around the corner in yellow, riding for Team Sky in Rapha kit and dominating that stage. That was our first time in the Tour de France. I mean that’s pretty hard to beat as somebody who’s madly keen on the sport.”
It was a remarkable two decades for Rapha and Simon, which has accomplished so many firsts for a cycling brand and upped the stakes for performance apparel in the sport. Mottram added: “Rapha for 18-19 years was a total obsession. I now keep my diary as clear as possible so that I can just enjoy every day. It’s like the old race analogy of burning matches – I think I’ve burnt most of my matches.”
Experience Joyriding for yourself alongside Simon as we head to Norway to tackle the Trollstigen, feast on the finest Norwegian produce and enjoy a luxurious long weekend of relaxation at the 62º Nord's finest hotels.
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