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The Strava Effect

Strava Banner

Graphic courtesy of Road Bike Culture

There is no doubt that Strava has driven the phenomenon of social cycling, and sociable competition.  Millions of cyclists track and share their rides on the Strava website.  And in doing so, many strive to better their times on each ride, thereby hopefully outdoing their friends on a favorite sector, or even claiming a coveted King of Mountain or Queen of Mountain crown.

How many millions exactly?  With secrecy typical of a Silicon Valley start-up, Strava does not disclose precisely how many users it has, preferring to say that it has “tens of millions”, with a million joining every 40 days.  Wikipedia reports that as of March 2015 there were an estimated 1 million active Strava users.  Extrapolating from Strava’s own estimate of the rate at which people join, there are about 126 million active users today.

Not bad for a company which was founded in 2009.

Rapha festive500 Banner

Graphic courtesy of

Companies selling cycling-related products have noticed the ever-increasing popularity of Strava, and are using the app to connect with existing and potential customers.  One such company is Rapha.  In 2010 Rapha launched the #Festive500, an event in which participants challenged themselves to ride 500km / 311mi between Christmas Eve and New Years’s Eve.  That year there were 84 participants.

In 2011 Rapha started offering woven fabric roundels to everyone who successfully completed the #Festive500 challenge.  Strava was an obvious partner because their app made it easy for participants to record their rides and track their progress, and for Rapha to manage the challenge, from sign up to verification that participants had successfully completed the challenge.

Rapha Patches

Roundels courtesy of Rapha

To say that this partnership is a success is an understatement.  The modest number of  #Festive500 participants, 84 in 2010, had mushroomed to 83,130 in 2017.

Rapha Feastive 500 (1)

Data courtesy of Strava and Rapha

There were 19,120 successful finishers for the 2017 Rapha #Festive500.  That is a lot of roundels for Rapha to ship out.  Each one creating a link between Rapha and a cyclist.

In recent years Rapha has capitalised on the increasing popularity of the #Festive500 by offering prizes for the best #Festive500 stories.  The 2017 prizes included a Rapha Travel trip and Leica D-Lux camera, a 3T Exploro Team road bike, a Wahoo Bolt GPS Bundle, and a Wahoo Kickr Snap turbo trainer.  The winning entries can be seen here.

In 2017, the year-on-year growth in #Festive500 participants leveled off.  Perhaps because of the very cold winter in the northern hemisphere.  That has not deterred the folks at Rapha.  They have already asked roadies to make the #Festive500 their end of year challenge for 2018.

I wonder what the 2018 roundel will look like?


My biker chick and I spent the weekend in Tokyo.  She planned everything, including getting us a flat in Sendagaya via airbnb that was around the corner from the Rapha Cycle Club Tokyo.

That was the first stop for us.

Rapha 01

Rapha 02

We needed lunch, and the café obliged.

Rapha 08

Having refuelled, it was time to go downstairs into the store.  An Aladdin’s cave for Rapha fans.

Rapha 04

Rapha 03

I picked up just a few items for my Flipside friends and for myself, and a model of la voiture-balai  for my biker chick.

Rapha 05

After loading up at the Rapha store, we headed north to explore the Shinjuku and Harajuku districts.  Less than 300 meters from the apartment is Crown Gears.


Crown Gears 01

Stuffed to the gills with very nice stuff.

Crown Gears 02

Crown Gears 03

The next day we headed west towards Minami Aoyama to find the flagship Hakuhodo store.  My biker chick had her list of ‘must see’ places too.

On the way we passed Athlonia.  A specialist triathlon shop established by a professional triathlete.

Athlonia 04

Athlonia 01

Photograph courtesy of Athlonia

It is not just the bike shops that make Tokyo a cycling city.  Bicycles are everywhere.

Bikes 02 Bikes 01

Bikes 03

We even ran across a childrens’ cycling event in the area around the national Olympic stadium.

Bikes 04

I am bringing my bike the next time I visit Japan.

Rapha Grand Tour Shoes Extended Use Review

I wrote a review of my Grand Tour shoes in June 2013.  I had ridden about 11,000 km / 6,835 mi in them at the time.  At the time I concluded that the Rapha Grand Tour shoes are worth their weight in gold.

Since then I have covered another 7,500 km / 4,660 mi.   My opinion is unchanged.

Of course the shoes are showing a fair degree of wear.  Largely cosmetic in nature.  The soles have scrapes in them.

GT Soles

The toes are scuffed.

GT Toes

As are the heel cups.  The left heel cup shows the result of being scraped along the tarmac in a crash.  The rubber bumpers on the soles are very worn.  Not all the way down to the sole, but well on the way there.

GT Heels

The uppers are no longer the brilliant white they were out of the box, but they are still in good condition.

GT Side

As are the insoles.  The images and the text are still legible.

GT Insoles

The shoes have soaked up all the abuse I have thrown at them.  They require very little care.  Admittedly I could have cleaned them more frequently than I have done.

These shoes have remained the most comfortable pair of cycling shoes I have owned.  They still fit like gloves.  The velcro straps and buckles continue to work faultlessly.  I wear them on every ride.  Rain or shine.

In my previous review I said I expected to get at least 11,000 km more out of these shoes.  I have no doubt that these shoes will carry me the remaining 3,500 km to meet that target.  These Rapha Grand Tour shoes are still worth their weight in gold.

Oh 🔥💀💣💩⚡!!

I started riding a road bike in January 2010.  Since then I have ridden more than 28,000 km.  I have had some close calls, but had never crashed.  I commented on this fact last week to my biker chick.  Perhaps a bit too smugly.  I should have known better.

About a dozen of us were at the mid-point of the Janamanjung Fellowship Ride.  We had just restarted a pace line after a rest stop.  I was second or third wheel.  I don’t know why, but we started to slow down.  31.5 kph became 20 kph over the span of about 60 metres.  I don’t remember slowing down.  I do remember glancing to my left for a second to look at a rider who seemed to be struggling.  That split second of inattention was all it took.  I touched wheels with Mark, and went down.



I landed on my left thigh and hip, and banged my head hard on the tarmac as I rolled at least once onto the grass verge.

Once I got over the initial shock I checked for damage.  I had a grazed left knee, a long graze on my left hand, a graze on the point of my left hip, a rapidly swelling bruise on my upper left thigh, a small cut on my left eye brow, scratches on both palms, and a long graze on my right forearm below the elbow.

This photo was relatively soon after the crash.  The medics hadn’t arrived yet, and I was still in a bit of a daze.

Photograph courtesy of Keat Wong

Photograph courtesy of Keat Wong

The medics were soon on the scene.  Thy put iodine on the visible grazes, and a bandage on my knee.

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

Photograph courtesy of Marco Lai

If I were a true cyclist I would have checked my bike for damage before worrying about myself.

Immediately obvious to me was the broken right brake / shifter body.  The shifter was twisted inward, so it took a hefty hit.

JMFR 2014 Crash Shifter

Fortunately the brake and shifter still worked, despite the body being held in place by cable tension.

My buddies noticed that the chain had slipped off the chain rings and below the chain catcher, and that the front derailleur was out of alignment.  They whipped out hex wrenches and very quickly got the chain back onto the big ring, and running clear of the front derailleur.

As bike and I were getting patched up, I was told that Chon, also went down behind me.  He had a broken right shifter too.  Chon’s son, Kai Yang, and Jason had in turn ridden over my bike, but stayed upright.  Kai Yang had a flat tire to deal with as a result.

I did two little repair jobs.  The first was to straighten my handlebar, which was facing left of centre.

The second repair came after I got going again.  The front wheel was out of true.  As I was fiddling with a spoke wrench (never leave home without one), Jason told me that he had ridden over my front wheel, and that Kai Yang had too.

Needless to say I am impressed with the durability of my Boyd wheels.  The only evidence that two guys had ridden over my front wheel, apart from it being out of true, are some marks on the brake track.

JMFR 2014 Crash Front Wheel

No broken or loose spokes.  I was able to reduce the wobble enough for the wheel to turn without rubbing against the brake pads.  And that wheel carried me the remaining 60 km to the finish line.

I took a look at the rest of my kit once I got home.  My helmet did its job.  The damage looks cosmetic only, but this is a good excuse to get a new helmet.

JMFR 2014 Crash Helmet

I landed hard on my left hip and upper thigh.


I would have expected a hole or two in my cycling kit.  What surprised me was that my bib shorts show no sign of scraping along some tarmac.


It was fortunate that I had arm screens on.  I am sure those helped me keep skin on my arms.  I have some grazes on my right elbow, and some marks on the back of my left upper arm, but again, minimal evidence of a fall on the arm screens.  A small hole in one arm screen is all.


I’ll be writing to both Boyd and Rapha to commend them on the durability of their products.

I am not as durable.  I’ve been pretty sore for a few days.  The good news is that the doctor at Gleneagles Accident & Emergency confirmed that I haven’t broken anything.  It is just a matter of waiting for the haematoma on my thigh to reduce.  I also have a slightly separated shoulder, which will sort itself out on its own.

Some would say that given the amount of group riding that I do, a crash was inevitable.  My crash was the result of a schoolboy error on my part though.  I would have avoided it if I hadn’t been distracted and took my eyes off the rider in front of me.

So my mantra while cycling will be . . .

Graphic courtesy of Rouie at

Graphic courtesy of Rouie at

Rapha Grand Tour Shoes Review

My Trek FX 7.5 had platform pedals.  I didn’t need special shoes to ride it.  My steel Alchemy would be delivered with clipless pedals.  Any shoe would no longer do.  I needed cycling shoes.  Some research on the internet pointed me toward the Sidi Genius 5-Pro Mega.  The “Mega” designation indicates that this shoe is wider than the standard Sidi Genius 5-Pro.

Sidi Genuis 5

I was guilty of showrooming with this purchase.  I tried the shoes for size at a bike store, but bought online.  A practice that does not support local retailers.  A practice that I try not to repeat.

Despite being “Mega” the Sidis are slightly narrow in the forefoot for me.  This isn’t a problem on shorter rides, but I develop “hot foot” once the ride exceeds about 60 km / 37 mi or so.  At times I have had to completely unfasten the caliper buckles and loosen the velcro straps to get some relief.

The Sidis came with me to Den Haag.  I swapped out the insoles, which helped a bit with the “hot foot” problem.  Perversely the shoes didn’t keep my feet warm enough in the Dutch winters.  There wasn’t enough room in them for thick woolen socks.  A pair of Endura neoprene  shoe covers delayed, but didn’t prevent, the onset of frozen toes.

My next cycling shoe purchase was the Shimano SH-RW80 Winter Road Shoe.  I liked those shoes so much that I wrote a review that appeared on roadbike  I took the advice of other reviewers and went two sizes larger than my Sidis.  That gave me plenty of room in the toe box for my wide feet and thick socks.


As Spring 2012 approached I saw posts in cycling blogs about a new shoe.  The Rapha Grand Tour shoe.  First John Watson posted thirty nine captioned photographs of these shoes in his excellent Prolly is Not Probably.  Soon after Wade Wallace ran a review and posted more photographs in his equally excellent Cycling Tips.

I looked at the Rapha site.  I was smitten with the version of the shoes in white.  My biker chick liked them too.  All of a sudden I needed new shoes!

Rapha Grand Tour New 2

It was my good fortune to be in the UK in April 2012.  I went into Condor, Rapha’s retail partner in London.  They had a pair in my size.  The shoes smelled soft and warm in the way that only leather does.  The perforated uppers had style.  The single black strap and the absence of large logos gave the shoes a minimalist look.

I love my Grand Tours.  I still have the Genius Pro-5s, but they are very much my back-up shoes.  The only time I wear them is when the Grand Tours are sitting in a cool airy spot, tongues flipped up and insoles removed, drying out after a wet ride.

You can read the online reviews of these shoes or go to the Rapha site to get all the technical details.  For me the winning qualities are the fit and comfort that make these shoes unnoticeable when I am riding.

I have put almost 11,000 km / 6,835 mi into these shoes in fourteen months.  They get better with age.  Like the leather in Brooks saddles, the leather in these shoes breaks in with use.  The Grand Tours have moulded to the contours of my feet.  The customizable cork / EVA footbeds have also formed themselves to the soles of my feet.  These shoes fit like gloves.

Robust gloves at that.  This is what the sole of the shoe looks like out of the box.

Rapha Grand Tour Sole 1

These are the soles of my shoes today.

Rapha Grand Tour Sole Now

The heel cups and toes are scuffed, and the soles are scratched from the times I walked on stones and gravel.  The white rubber bumpers on the heels show the most wear.  These are non-replaceable so it will be interesting to see how long it is before they wear down to the carbon soles.

Rapha Grand Tour Toe

One buckle bears evidence of a low-speed fall.

Rapha Grand Tour Buckle Now

Apart from that the shoes are holding up very well.

Rapha Grand Tour Now

Even the insoles, with their homage to Fausto Coppi on the left and Jacques Anquetil on the right, show little sign of wear.  These are the insoles before any use.

Rapha Grand Tour Insole New

These are mine now.  The images and text are still legible despite thousands of kilometers in all weathers.

Rapha Grand Tour Insole Now

The Grand Tours have not needed any special care.  Just a wipe down with a damp cloth, careful drying when they get soaked, and the application of some shoe cream once in a while has kept them looking good.   I expect to get at least another 11,000 km out of these excellent shoes.

Apart from a proper bike fit and quality bib shorts, shoes are the key to a comfortable ride.  In that regard the Rapha Grand Tour shoes are worth their weight in gold.