Rapha: The Ride of A Thousand Cols — This Thing and Why I Like It #3:
I’m a fully paid up member of the ‘all the gear, no idea’ club when it comes to cycling. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a weekend ride. But to be entirely candid, I love the aspirational lifestyle trappings (and indeed, the expensive stash) just as much. I’m fairly confident I’m not the only one.
For me, no brand taps into this need (in the loosest sense of the word) quite as well as Rapha. I’m not going to bring much new to the table in terms of analysing their brand strategy that hasn’t already been written elsewhere, so I won’t go into any depth on that, but Rapha’s latest film The Ride of a Thousand Cols just sums up for me why I like them so much.
It’s unashamedly lofty, almost to the point of pretentious, but they know their audience. They also know that their brand is all in the art direction. It’s the shot selection, light, pace and tone that makes it feel like a Rapha film. It’s not colourways, logos, fonts and CTAs. There are a few slightly clumsy bits of brand-dropping now and again — if you’re familiar with Rapha you’ll note that the good old ‘drinking an espresso in Lycra’ shot is a fairly well established trope in the oeuvre and clearly a nod to a venn diagram someone drew once — but it’s entirely forgiven because it’s just so nicely captured.
This film was directed by Too Soon Too Late; a team who specialise in cycling film and photography. And it shows. The familiar light clicking and whirring of a well-tuned bike, the tyre-rubber on damp asphalt that sounds like peeling off sticky tape, the clunk of cleats clipping in — these sounds are left prominent enough in the mix and create an atmosphere with the sound design that reflects the meditative feel of a solo ride.
But beyond these specifics the reason why this piece works so well, as my colleague Sam (himself an excellent filmmaker and lunatic when it comes to impressive feats of endurance) pointed out to me, is that the film is more about the motivation than the challenge itself. It’s about the ‘why’ not the ‘what’. That’s why it manages to do that tricky thing of feeling simultaneously aspirational and attainable.
Nice work Rapha, I doth my treasured-yet-pricey cycling cap at the.