Slate Olson speaking at Rapha Sydney
Years ago, during my ‘London phase’ I covered the opening of a cycling-themed pop-up store that I thought was a lot of fun, but would never last. And it didn’t since it was a pop-up, but that original Rapha Club was so successful that they’ve become permanent, and even made it to Sydney.
Wednesday night, I dropped in to Sydney’s Rapha Club to check out what CMO Slate Olson had to say about the Rapha Travel offering. You won’t be surprised to hear that it’s a) expensive and b) luxurious. If you’ve ever wanted to ride the great climbs of Europe, see the places where cycling history was made, and be treated like a pro complete with support vehicles and post-ride massage from a pro-peloton soigneur, then Rapha can sort that for you. The images that Slate showed and the experiences he spoke about on the rides made even this penny-pinching, hairy-legged non-racer want to sign up. Options range from ‘Retreats’ based out of a single location where non-cycling partners can relax at the resort while you ride each day, up to the ‘Cent Cols Challenge’ if you really want that glory through suffering experience. Most of the tours are in Europe, but according to Olsen there are plans to broaden the offerings, including rides with Team Sky personnel, and talk of giving it a go in Australia around the Tour Down Under 2015.
Sipping my complimentary beer and listening to the presentation, I couldn’t help but marvel at their success. Clearly, the cycling market is on the up (bikes outselling cars, more cyclists each year etc.), but Rapha seems to be particularly adept at picking new and disparate ventures while maintaining a cohesive brand. From CEO Simon Mottram starting out wanting to make a better jersey and sell it online only, Rapha now has their own bricks-and-mortar stores on 4 continents selling their wares, print a hefty mag on actual paper (take that, print-is-dead brigade!), jumped into pro-cycling as the top levels of the sport reeled in the wake of Armstrong, and can now even organise your holiday for you… Clearly Mottram’s idea of a cycling emporium has hit a mark, and the luxury branding has been well maintained in everything they do… but what’s next? Rapha real estate selling time-shares in cycling destinations? Raphunerals to scatter your ashes atop Tourmalet? (If either of those come to pass, I want credit!) The 99u.com article linked to above mentions Mottram’s 5 year forecasts for the company, and how he predicted everything back in 2005 – I wonder how close they are to the 2015 vision… and what he’s planning for 2020?
The other big announcement of the evening was confirmation that Supercross will be back again in Sydney Park in November, bigger, better, and hopefully less puncture-y than last time.