It’s not often that I enter an office and feel that, even inside, walking is the wrong mode of transportation – that I’d be much better off on two wheels, rather than two legs.
The HQ of cycling clothing and accessories company Rapha (second and third pictures) in King’s Cross gave me that sense immediately: the entrance of the newly refitted building – surrounded by the area’s frantic building construction on every side – is a shallow downward ramp.
I walk uncertainly down it, conscious that bikes might speed past at any moment. At the bottom are long rows of racks with cycles hanging neatly from their front wheels. To the right are changing rooms and showers. At the back is the in-house mechanic.
This would be the perfect setup had I arrived by bike – indeed, 90 per cent of Rapha staff commute by bike every day. “We were very fond of the old offices in Kentish Town,” says Rapha founder Simon Mottram, “but we didn’t have the ground floor, and everyone had to carry their bikes up and down narrow wooden stairs every day. I’m surprised there weren’t more accidents to be honest.”
Rapha has exploded in popularity since it launched 12 years ago, as a designer of premium-quality cycling clothing. The original team in Kentish Town was just three people, but by the time everyone moved out, there were 85 people across three floors. “It was sad to leave the old place, we were very attached to it,” says Mottram. “But what a fantastic opportunity to design our own workspace, built around how we get to work and how we function when we get there.”
The floors themselves are set up with collaboration in mind. So, merchandising sit right in the middle of the floor, surrounded by the supply chain team, by retail operations and by e-commerce. The decisions the merchandising team make are informed by the people all around them.
Everyone on the staff is encouraged to talk to each other and give their feedback on the product. They all get a certain amount of Rapha clothing for free, but on the understanding that they are a testbed for new products. Everyone from IT to customer services chips in. “This can lead to a little bit too much discussion sometimes,” admits Mottram. “But I’d much rather have it that way round.”
Among other collaborative activities are an office ride each quarter, and the freedom to take Wednesday mornings off if you’re training – something that was introduced when the company first started and has held onto impressively ever since.
Rapha has also moved on with its clothing since the move, with the launch of a water-resistant Shadow line for ultra-serious racers (Pro Team short-sleeved jersey, £220, Pro Team bib shorts, £260, both first picture), and a more accessible Core collection. It means jersey tops now range from £75 all the way up to £220, with at least five price points in between. The staff may all arrive at work in the same way, but at least they don’t have to all wear the same thing.