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Rapha will relocate North American HQ from Portland to Bentonville, Arkansas

Posted by on February 11th, 2020 at 2:19 pm

(Photo © J. Maus/BikePortland)

Another piece of Portland’s vaunted local cycling industry is soon to be gone: High-end cycling apparel and lifestyle brand Rapha Racing LLC is moving its North American operations from Portland to Bentonville Arkansas.

According to North America Marketing Director Jake Rosenbloum, the move will be finalized by March 1st. “Portland has been an incredible home for the Rapha brand over the last 10-plus years,” he said in an email today. “Throughout our time here, the Portland-based team have helped to inform and define what Rapha is and means not just to the US, but around the world.”

Rapha made Portland for its U.S. headquarters in February 2008. Back then I asked company co-founder Luke Scheybeler why the London-based apparel brand chose Portland, he said, “Portland is so obviously a center of cycling, there’s an amazing bike culture here and a real appreciation for it. It just feels right.”

One reason for the change of heart is that the company was purchased by RZC Investments 2017, which is controlled by heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune, who are based in Bentonville. Bringing the popular company to Arkansas is part of a larger push by RZC’s Steuart and Tom Walton (grandsons of Wal-Mart founder Sam Walton) to make Bentonville a mecca for cycling of all types.

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“We understand the Portland cycling community might be a little disheartened with this news.”
— Jake Rosenbloum, Rapha North America

With a solid footing in the road cycling market, Rapha’s latest move is to launch a line of mountain bike apparel in 2021. Rosenbloum made it clear in a statement today that Rapha feels Bentonville’s off-road cycling opportunities (which Bicycling Magazine has likened to “Disneyland for mountain bikers“) figured prominently into their decision to leave Portland.

“With this [mountain bike apparel launch] in mind, we need to make sure that our office has a home that best supports this strategy. So after much careful consideration, we’ve decided to relocate… to serve these aims most effectively. The proximity to the emerging OzTrails MTB network, the incredibly fast-growing gravel landscape and the continuing emergence of Northwest Arkansas as a cradle for all kinds of cycling development will help to foster this direction and the impact that Rapha North America can have in the US and beyond.”

Rapha’s Portland office on NW Kearney and 19th is just a mile or so away from the 5,000 acre Forest Park. Unfortunately, mountain biking isn’t welcome there. Despite years of advocacy and promises to improve off-road cycling access in Forest Park and other places, the City of Portland has largely failed to do so.

Like many of us, Rapha is tired of waiting.

“We understand the Portland cycling community might be a little disheartened with this news,” Rosenbloum said. “But we’d like to thank all of our friends, fans and collaborators here for over a decade of warming support and hospitality.”

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org
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NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

79 Comments
  • Avatar
    Champs February 11, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    Amazing things happen when when billionaires throw their money and clout around. Everyone else gets to wait for scraps to fall off the table.

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      TOM MARTIN February 11, 2020 at 3:01 pm

      I wonder how much of that billionaire money was used to lobby Portland city council and METRO?

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      Steve Scarich February 12, 2020 at 8:55 am

      Yes. Despite the talk about being located near MTB trails and all, this move is just about corporate centralization. Keep your owned companies nearby to enable face-to-face communication, oversight, and, btw, since this is Arkansas, lower your salary costs by 1/3.

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        Stuart February 12, 2020 at 7:34 pm

        Lower cost of living by half as well

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    maccoinnich February 11, 2020 at 2:45 pm

    What happened to the Off-road Cycling Master Plan? The project website still says that it will go “to City Council for adoption in 2019.”

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      Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 11, 2020 at 2:59 pm

      good question! It’s mired in bureaucracy and a total lack of political will — despite amazing and cooperative advocacy for years. It’s a travesty really.

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      D2 February 12, 2020 at 8:41 am

      I find it funny that today I found this article and comment when just yesterday I was watching this video about the amount of mountain bike trails Bentonville has put in recently. It may be a suburban town in Arkansas, but they certainly have us beat on trails.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ehfEapgUAB8

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      Alex February 12, 2020 at 8:44 am

      What Jonathan said, but also, it woefully inadequate even if implemented. At this point, I really don’t think we have much to lose if we just start cutting new trail in FP.

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        Paul H February 12, 2020 at 10:17 am

        We have a *lot* to loose. Please do not do this. NWTA is doing a lot of behind-the-scenes work right now and is on the cusp of big things.

        While I understand your frustration, comments like this undermine their efforts and put the whole thing in jeopardy.

        If you’d like to help out, please get in touch.

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          Zimmerman February 12, 2020 at 7:05 pm

          Big things! Why, in just another 20 years mountain biking might be allowed to be mentioned in an actual serious policy conversation about Forest Park. Or, not.

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        Brian February 13, 2020 at 10:40 am

        Why cut new trail? There are plenty of “ok” options already.

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      Danny deVelo February 12, 2020 at 9:04 am

      Portland is home to some VERY extreme environmental groups (think Earth Justice) who will go to any length to keep people off “public” land. The also happen to carry a lot of political clout in Portland

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      jered l bogli February 13, 2020 at 9:29 am

      As Jonathan said the Off-road Cycling Master Plan is stuck on someones desk due to lack of political will from the council.

      PICK UP YOU PHONE AND MAKE A CALL:
      Ted Wheeler: 503-823-4120
      Chloe Eudaly: 503-823-4682
      The office of Nick Fish: 503-823-3589
      Amanda Fritz: 503-823-3008
      Jo Ann Hardesty: 503-823-4151

      PLEASE CALL.
      Note the overwhelming support the plan has and ask when the plan is scheduled to pass council, ask what you can do to help it get through.

      You can even ask for an in person meeting to discuss. If 20 people call and ask for meetings it will move much faster! Phones make things happen faster. Officially on my list to call this week. Who else is with me!!!

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        Eric H February 13, 2020 at 10:36 am

        Lol, good luck with all that. Let’s be real here. The ORCMP got hijacked by Marcy Houle and her crew. It is beyond dead and nothing will ever happen in Forest Park without her blessing no matter how much work is done behind the scenes by anyone.

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      jered l bogli February 13, 2020 at 9:30 am

      I’ve been casually looking for jobs in Bentonville. AK has a great MTB scene, you can ride to a ton of epic trails from you house, kids can bike commute on cool neighborhood MTB trails to school, Great art museum in Bentonville, easy access to the outdoors…

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    Huey Lewis February 11, 2020 at 2:50 pm

    Ewww. Arkansas? Have a blast, I guess.

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      Middle of the Road Guy February 11, 2020 at 3:42 pm

      And in Arkansas, people are pointing and laughing at Oregon.

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        dwk February 11, 2020 at 8:04 pm

        You seem from your comments here, that you would prefer living in a red state.
        There is a big and growing difference in this country between the blue and red states, culturally and economically, and will get greater in the future.
        You should move to a red state, you would probably enjoy it.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty February 12, 2020 at 12:59 pm

          >>> There is a big and growing difference in this country between the blue and red states, culturally and economically, and will get greater in the future. You should move to a red state, you would probably enjoy it. <<<

          Your first sentence is undoubtedly true. The second is troubling, and it took me a while to figure out why. Having lived much of my adult life inside "the bubble", I totally understand why people want to live around others that are like them. But while homogeneity is comforting on a personal level, it is utterly destructive on a more macro level.

          I think we need to be welcoming to a diverse spectrum of views, rather than suggesting that those who see things differently leave. I find that some "progressives" are welcoming to superficial diversity, while rejecting the deeper diversity of thought, experience, and outlook that gives us our strength.

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            Matt S. February 12, 2020 at 4:49 pm

            There’s definitely a Portland liberal elitism that cuts across class divides.

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        Matt Bakke February 12, 2020 at 6:32 pm

        Not at all. I was born in Portland and moved to Bentonville for Walmart. More similar than different, and NWA people love Portland

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty February 11, 2020 at 3:53 pm

      Your prejudice is showing. There are lots of great places that are not trendy like Portland, but have a lot to offer (and where housing is cheap, like it used to be here.)

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        Huey Lewis February 11, 2020 at 4:43 pm

        I have family in north central Arkansas. It is *intensely* conservative and I’ll take a hard pass at living there, trendy or not, cheap or not. It’s naturally beautiful but it comes with some very big and non-negotiable societal trade offs. I’ll ewwww Arkansas as much as I please and if they’re laughing at us, fine, let them.

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          Middle of the Road Guy February 11, 2020 at 8:30 pm

          I have a black friend.

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            Huey Lewis February 12, 2020 at 9:58 am

            You caught me! Anonymously making stories up on the internet about having family in Arkansas to back up my opinion that Arkansas is not a good place to live. Is that what you’re trying to imply?? Unreal. You really are one of the worst commenters here.

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            • Hello, Kitty
              Hello, Kitty February 12, 2020 at 10:19 am

              I don’t think that’s what he was trying to imply. More that proximity to Arkansas does not immunize you from being biased about it.

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          Manville February 12, 2020 at 9:19 am

          dwk
          You seem from your comments here, that you would prefer living in a red state. There is a big and growing difference in this country between the blue and red states, culturally and economically, and will get greater in the future. You should move to a red state, you would probably enjoy it.Recommended 1

          There is very little difference between Arkansas and Oregon politically if you remove the Portland Metro. There is very little difference between Strickler, AR, and Oakridge, OR. Fayetteville is more liberal then Sisters. If you don’t know, you’ve got to go. The Womble Trail is one of the best trails in the country. Politically, if that matters, it’s similar to the area around the McKenzie River Trail… Get the correlation? Portland is NOT representative of 95% of Oregon.

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    Buzz February 11, 2020 at 2:57 pm
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    jeff February 11, 2020 at 3:11 pm

    Their quality has suffered greatly in the past several years anyway.

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    I wear many hats February 11, 2020 at 3:13 pm

    I moved away from Portland. I can now mountain bike from my house every single day. I no longer get yelled at on the trail. Portland is good for commuting, but its terrible for mountain biking, despite the miles and miles of trails in the city. Its no surprise that the brand needs to be somewhere where mountain biking is allowed.

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      Matt S. February 11, 2020 at 3:51 pm

      There’s amazing MTB near Portland, you just have to drive to it. Of course, if lived in Hood River you could ride from your doorstep. Just as if you lived in Corvallis, Oakridge, Ashland, Bend, and Sisters. You’d have to develop the heck out of FP to make it more than it already is: a gravel grind cardio trainer for when you actually go to good mountain biking areas…

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        I wear many hats February 11, 2020 at 4:01 pm

        Having grown up in Bend and lived in Ashland, Portland seemed like a mountain bike city when I arrived. Trails all over town, within riding distance of the populace. Then the no bikes signs popped up in Tabor, River View, and everywhere. Driving to ride is asinine when the opportunity for trail access is out the front door. If more mountain bikers showed up to ride in Forest Park on a regular basis, the city would cave. The 8 parks rangers are busy cleaning biohazard sites and cant begin to enforce trail users. Heck, they cant even keep campers out of Gateway Green. Don’t wait for the ORCMP, its buried in paralytic analitics. Ride, and be polite to the other users.

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          Middle of the Road Guy February 11, 2020 at 8:33 pm

          When I lived in DC I was a mtn biker – there was a lot of stuff pretty close to the city. Moved to Portland and became a roadie, because getting to most of the trails became a day trip.

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        rick February 11, 2020 at 4:12 pm

        What about removing the unused, rusting rail road tracks at the Oregon Zoo and make mtb trails? Lots of weeds will be removed.

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          I wear many hats February 11, 2020 at 7:38 pm

          Great Idea Rick, however, the Zoo master plan calls for a paved MUP. That wont be a great mountain biking experience. There is room down slope from the zoo tracks for trails but it seems like a pipe dream.

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        Skid February 11, 2020 at 7:06 pm

        Matt S.
        There’s amazing MTB near Portland, you just have to drive to it. /p>Recommended 3

        Exactly…that’s what the issue is.

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          Matt S. February 11, 2020 at 8:11 pm

          Everyone thinks we’re blessed here in Portland with some kind of amazing geology. Forest Park isn’t that great in comparison, sure it’s something but I’d almost rather keep it for what it is than develop sections of it. Oakridge is amazing geology. Bend, Hoodriver—amazing! Corvallis and Mac Forest, not so much…. Forest Park would just be another Dan’s Trail.

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    PS February 11, 2020 at 3:15 pm

    Ah yes, if only there was mountain biking here in Portland, then the company from England, majority owned by an investment vehicle for two heirs to the Walton family fortune, who consequently operate their fund from Bentonville, AR would have kept the NA operations here, sure. This was a long time coming guaranteed.

    Probably due time to pivot to OrNot, Voler, and others at this point.

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      rick February 11, 2020 at 3:46 pm

      Care to explain ?

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        D2 February 12, 2020 at 8:46 am

        Rapha was bought by Walmart whose HQ is in Bentonville. It is absolutely no surprise they would move operations.

        If Nike bought a company with less than 1% of its total employees that was based in Bentonville it would almost certainly move to Beaverton, even without any other reasoning.

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      Middle of the Road Guy February 11, 2020 at 8:34 pm

      I think he’s saying it’s better to look at local companies for local investment.

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    Al February 11, 2020 at 3:27 pm

    How many Rapha customers will enjoy learning that they’re owned by Walmart?

    I can just see this now, “Nice jersey. Was there a sale at Sam’s Club?” *snicker* *snicker*

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      Middle of the Road Guy February 11, 2020 at 3:43 pm

      Rapha is also taking steps to not have any discounted clothing.

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      rick February 11, 2020 at 3:45 pm

      Who supports mountain biking more? Wal-Mart or Oregon’s Nike?

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        Al February 11, 2020 at 8:20 pm

        I don’t know. Who?

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    rick February 11, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    Lower taxes and less regulations?

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      Champs February 11, 2020 at 5:27 pm

      Walmart money buys a lot of influence and land for the pet projects of its heirs.

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    RudiV February 11, 2020 at 3:55 pm

    Not as bad as the Sonics moving to OK City, but in a similar vein. As somebody funnier than me noted at the time, “It’s like getting mugged by a 10 year old.”

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      rick February 11, 2020 at 6:29 pm

      There is no comparison. The new buyer of the SuperSonics claimed he would not move the team. It is on record. It is also in the Sonicsgate movie.

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    Tom Ritchey February 11, 2020 at 5:09 pm

    Best way to instantly alienate everyone at the MTB trailhead: show up wearing Rapha lol

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      Middle of the Road Guy February 11, 2020 at 8:37 pm

      Rapha really is the “backpfeifengesicht” (face in need of a slap) of clothing.

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    Beard-o February 11, 2020 at 5:17 pm

    MTB apparel will be another short-lived folly in stepping away from their bread and butter business, which is marketing “suffering” to rich MAMILs who live in posh urban condos.

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      Middle of the Road Guy February 11, 2020 at 8:38 pm

      While I personally loathe the brand, I did meet some Brits in their 20-30’s decked out in Rapha suffering up the Col d’Aubisque. MAMILs, they were not (yet).

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    Paul February 11, 2020 at 5:30 pm

    Sad for what it says about the state of road cycling and cycling in general, but honestly I don’t think anybody should be too surprised by this. There have been rumblings around town and their involvement in the local scene has declined the last 4 years or so. I mostly feel bad for those that are affected job/ salary-wise by this decision.

    And if you’re looking for a local brand to support, Roule Cycling Apparel is a Portland startup that could use some love and support from our PNW family. 🙂

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    Dustin February 12, 2020 at 4:49 am

    From an area that is supposedly inclusive, many here are prejudice. I moved to NWA (northwest Arkansas) 2.5 years ago and had some of the same concerns posted here. I would say it is awful to keep people from moving here, but I simply can’t in good conscious. 2022 UCI world cyclocross also chose Fayetteville. Soooo as I said to an old girlfriend once: “it’s not you, it’s me (being super awesome!)”. Dont hate it til you try it! We love visitors! http://Www.ozarkcyclingadventures.com

    Recommended Thumb up 19

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      Matt S. February 12, 2020 at 6:10 am

      Not prejudice, just understand what comes along with living in a red state.

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        Matt S. February 12, 2020 at 6:18 am

        For instance, AR is a Right to Work State. Look it up…

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        rick February 12, 2020 at 8:27 am

        Yet Arkansas is openly embracing mountain biking unlike the Portland metro area.

        Recommended Thumb up 7

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          RudiV February 12, 2020 at 9:12 am

          The best thing about this thread is the links to local makers.

          The Ozarks are beautiful, bu let’s not pretend that the sudden love for Fayetteville is anything more than sucking up to billionaires. Same reason that Bernie is going to *win* the nomination but Bloomberg is going to *be* the nominee.

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    Kirk Jordan February 12, 2020 at 6:33 am

    As an Arkansan (Who loves Oregon), All I can say is — When you vernture this way, get ready for a big suprise. Arkansas is a hidden gem, a true delight.

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  • Rivelo
    Rivelo February 12, 2020 at 6:46 am

    Check out Wabi Woolens, which is based right here in Portland, Oregon and SEWN right here in Portland, Oregon!

    About the same price as the Made in China Rapha stuff.

    https://www.wabiwoolens.com/

    Recommended Thumb up 6

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      Matt S. February 12, 2020 at 9:11 am

      I talked with a Rapha rep years ago about their goods being made in China, he said, “that’s where all the best sewers in the world are located.” We have a lot of US pride here so it makes since we value stuff being made locally, but when you’re London based operating in NA they’ll go where the best sewers are. Interesting how he framed it as a quality issue, suggesting our sewers are subpar. He even went as far as speaking about the decreasing textile industry on the east coast.

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  • Rivelo
    Rivelo February 12, 2020 at 7:06 am

    Of course, the people who invented mountain biking just wore regular clothes. 🙂

    https://www.collectorsweekly.com/articles/the-hippie-daredevils-who-were-just-crazy-enough-to-invent-mountain-biking/

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    Manville February 12, 2020 at 7:46 am

    maccoinnich
    What happened to the Off-road Cycling Master Plan? The project website still says that it will go “to City Council for adoption in 2019.”Recommended 12

    Just freaking ride Forrest Park. The master plan is a joke.

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    John Stephens February 12, 2020 at 7:50 am

    Bummer to lose them. Love the brand and the clothes. But, seems this is the pattern with high end brands…..sell to a holding company, go ‘big’ and start mass production under corporate management. Oh well. Lots of local companies to keep shopping at, like the Wabi Woolens mentioned above.

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  • Rivelo
    Rivelo February 12, 2020 at 10:11 am

    Matt S.
    I talked with a Rapha rep years ago about their goods being made in China, he said, “that’s where all the best sewers in the world are located.” We have a lot of US pride here so it makes since we value stuff being made locally, but when you’re London based operating in NA they’ll go where the best sewers are. Interesting how he framed it as a quality issue, suggesting our sewers are subpar. He even went as far as speaking about the decreasing textile industry on the east coast.Recommended 0

    The Chinese *are* excellent sewers. Their labor costs are also a fraction of what American shops charge.

    Chinese costs are rising, though, and more and more American/UK companies are going to Vietnam. (The Vietnamese sew the best tents in the world! Amazing stuff. )

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty February 12, 2020 at 12:00 pm

      It took me until now to figure out you were not talking about waste drainage.

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    Michael Mann February 12, 2020 at 1:12 pm

    “We understand the Portland cycling community might be a little disheartened with this news,”
    Yes in terms of selling out to Walmart. But once you have, sure, please, go to Arkansas.

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    Clive de Sousa February 12, 2020 at 1:29 pm

    The mystique of the Rapha brand seems to be running out of gas with each turn it takes.
    Was truly inspirational at the start not feeling the same anymore.

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    They'll Never Get It February 12, 2020 at 2:25 pm

    Middle of the Road Guy
    And in Arkansas, people are pointing and laughing at Oregon.Recommended 22

    it’s typical of the people of this area to think that everyone else, everywhere else are rubbing the last two brain cells together while the most enlightened find themselves here in this hamlet.

    But, the rest of the country does point and laugh, and it takes a bit of swallowing your pride to see that the city in all of its communistic glory is an almost comical cesspool where companies simply don’t want to be, and certainly where families do not want to raise their children.

    Everyone that leaves is better for it. When I finish milking the funds out of this consulting gig, I’ll be happy to move on as well. You’ll, surely, be happy to see actual productive and moral bicyclists roll out. But you do that to your own detriment.

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      dwk February 12, 2020 at 6:37 pm

      This comment is just laughable. Right wing talking points out of the woodwork.
      The reason it is so expensive is people want to Move here…
      Stop making stuff up.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty February 12, 2020 at 8:59 pm

        A lot of people move here because it’s so cheap. At least compared to other cities on the west coast.

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          dwk February 13, 2020 at 7:32 am

          You and MOTRG think your full time job is delivering the right wing answer to all the comments…..

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            Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) February 13, 2020 at 7:35 am

            Please keep comments focused on issues and ideas and not on personalities. The personal back-and-forths are just clutter. Thanks.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty February 13, 2020 at 1:36 pm

            It’s probably more right-wing fact-based drivel from me, but in this list of cities, Anchorage is the only west coast American city with a cheaper cost-of-living than Portland:

            https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living/index/north-america

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              idlebytes February 13, 2020 at 1:44 pm

              That’s a pretty incomplete list of west coast American cities but also you appear to have missed: Riverside (148), Victoria (155), Vancouver (168), and we tied with Sacramento (181).

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty February 13, 2020 at 2:36 pm

                Victoria and Vancouver are in a different country, and Sacramento is not commonly thought of as being “west coast” in the sense of those other cities (but if it is, you can probably count Spokane as well, which is also cheaper than Portland). Most people think of Riverside as being part of greater Los Angeles; that said, I am sure there are areas in all cities that are cheaper than the average for Portland. Heck, Gresham and Hillsboro are too.

                I stand by my statement, but agree that with certain definitions, it is not entirely true.

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    Ilya February 12, 2020 at 3:22 pm

    I have been wearing Rapha bike and off the bike clothing for about 10 years. After my first jersey purchase 10 years ago, I exclusively wore Rapha clothing going forward. I used to purchase new items all the time, especially during a sale or when I had a discount code or a gift certificate. As of the last few years, I have noticed a drop off in quality and design. I am not longer excited by many of their products and find the quality is lacking compared to a few years ago. I’ve had a gift certificate that I’ve tried to spend but many of the basic items like a cream base layer or classic bib shorts were only available in extra small or large. The jersey designs have become very boring. I remember the club or country jerseys or the special issue jerseys that would sell out quickly only to be replaced by some boring race cut jerseys that down quite fit right anymore. I wont even get into the City collection which used to be awesome If things continue on the same path this company is doomed and this move is a signal of the beginning of the end. I hope they bring in some new designers because whoever is designing their current products SUCKS!!

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    Slate February 13, 2020 at 5:46 am

    Forest Park’s lack of MTB access has nothing to do with this move. This is a consolidation by new ownership, plain and simple. Things change when the mission is different from the original vision. Rapha in MTB? Sacrilege. Rapha not in Portland? Bummer. But, I’ll just say my own personal thank you to Portland for having Rapha in our early days be part of this great community. The role Portland played in those days were defining to the culture we wanted to show to the world. A love of riding, adventure and the amazing people you meet along the road.

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