In Coppi We Trust

Photo: Colin O’Brien/

If you’re not into cycling, there’s a lot to mock in a roadie’s wardobe. But more than the lycra, more than the helmet, more than the weird shoes that are impossible to walk in, the single most derided item in a cyclist’s outfit must be the glasses.

Nearly all of the non-riders I know will joke about the skin-tight clothing, but they get it, more or less. It’s about performance. And the helmet? It doesn’t look as cool as that old cap you have from a pro team long since past, but it provides a whole lot more protection in the event of a spill. So they get that too. It’s a safety thing. Even the shoes and cleats, once explained, make sense. But the sunglasses?

Upon arriving back from the Giro d’Italia, I happily added a pair of team-issue only pink Oakleys to my shades shelf. “What are those?” inquired my significant other. “New glasses,” I replied, while offering to show them off. I didn’t even need to get them all the way out of the case, never mind model them, to await her review. It was one word, and ruthless: “Gross.”

For the record, I still think those Oakleys are cool AF. But then, I would, wouldn’t I? I also think it’s OK to hang bicycles from living room walls and leave a stack of Rouleur back-issues in the bathroom. But it was interesting to note the reaction I got not long after, when I came in sporting a pair of new Rapha Classics. This time it was five words, and curious: “Let me try those on.”

An homage to Coppi

The model in question was the Coppi Classic II, a twist on the British brand’s Classic glasses that includes the same Carl Zeiss glass lenses – these ones are a deep green – and the same handmade acetate frames made by Italy’s Mazzuchelli 1849. Where they differ is in the details, with Coppi’s signature inlaid in chrome on one temple, and a pink tinge to the Havana brown acetate in the right light, which is more pronounced towards the ends of the temples and earpieces.

If you’re this deep into a post about cycling eyewear, you probably don’t need an introduction to Fausto Coppi, Italy’s most successful, and stylish, champion. The pink flourishes are an obvious nod to Italy’s grand tour, and the styling harks back to a time when cyclists could still look effortlessly cool. The glasses form part of a mini-range of items currently on offer from Rapha that all tip the hat in some way to the Campionissimo, and all come in pleasing, subdued tones with at least a hint of that timeless pastel pink.

So far this summer, they’ve been left on at the coffee stop – something I’d never do with sportier models – and taken away on weekend breaks when the closest I’ve gotten to a bike was checking some race results online. In other words, I’ve worn these glasses off the bike as much as on it, and I can’t think of a bigger compliment that I could pay.

Bottom line?

With the solid Zeiss glass, there are lighter options you could go for, and at $295, cheaper choices, too. And if you’re really particular about cleaning lenses, the tiny etching of Coppi in the right-hand corner of the right lens might occasionally catch your eye and make you reach for a cloth. But these are all minor concerns compared to their biggest selling point: They really look great.

The build quality is second to none and the elegant, ageless styling means that they wouldn’t look out of place in a line-up of the sexiest shades from Persol or Ray-Ban. Which means you’ll get a lot of wear out of them, even when you’re not riding. And best of all? There won’t be a disgusted look, or a dismissive “Gross,” waiting for you when you get back home. That alone must be worth the purchase.

Photo: Colin O’Brien/