Fresh Product: Shimano’s New AM7 and AM9 Shoes

If you have shoe fetish, then Shimano are here to satisfy your needs. The big S have been rolling out enough new models over the past two years to keep even this bloke happy. There was the M200 (review here), then the ME7 (which we rate as one of the best all-round shoes available), plus on the XC side there’s been the new XC5, XC7 and XC9, and the premium S-Phyre range too.


The new AM7s are our favourite shoe from the new Shimano trail/enduro range. We like the slightly casual styling and the fit is very comfortable.

The latest to land are the new AM7 and AM9, two new SPD shoes that are intended for everything from trail riding to downhill. If you don’t clip in, there’s a flat pedal equivalent too, the GR7 and GR9, though we haven’t grabbed a pair of them to review yet.

We first saw these shoes a few months back when we headed to the Rockhampton round of the National Gravity Enduro series with the Shimano team (read the write up from the weekend here – it was epic), but they’ve only just landed for sale this past week, right in time for the National Enduro Champs, where Chris Panozzo rode the AM9 shoes to third place.

The AM9’s have a little more protection around the ankle than the AM7, and get speed laces rather than traditional style laces.

 First impressions? They’ve got that classic Shimano set-and-forget feel, with just the right amount of friction between the shoe and our XT Trail pedals.

There are plenty of similarities between the two shoes. Both have the same grippy sole with the huge pedal channel, which really helps guide clipping in and keeps the cleat nicely recessed for plenty of shoe/pedal contact, and both use a velcro strap for ankle closure. On both shoes, the top box is a semi-firm plastic, for more toe protection. The AM7 runs laces however, and a slightly lower ankle which has the same neoprene cuff as seen on the ME7 to keep rocks, dirt and water from entering the top of the shoe. There’s a little more tech going on with the AM9, which has speed laces and a flap to keep it all tidy. There’s a more ankle protection too, with a higher cuff using more padding. They’re still not a bulky shoe, and a significantly slimmer looking than the previous version of the AM9000.

The deep pedal channel really helps with locating your pedal when clipping back in in the heat of the moment.
Flat pedal users get the GR7 or GR9, which have very similar styling to the AM7/AM9.

We’ve begun riding the AM7s already, with a couple of outings under our belt so far. First impressions? They’ve got that classic Shimano set-and-forget feel, with just the right amount of friction between the shoe and our XT Trail pedals. They’re not too wide either, easily clearing the girthy seat stays found on our new Commencal Meta AM test bike.

The AM7s will retail for about $179, the AM9s at $219. In terms of the flat pedal shoes, GR7s will also be $179, with the GR9s at $199.

Fresh Product: Bontrager Rhythm Shoes

Fresh from Bontrager is a wild looking pair of scuff-able, thrash-able, walk-able shoes for the trail rider. Here’s our two cents after a couple rides.

Wrapped in from what appears to be some sort of alien reptile skin, the Rhythm shoes look like no other shoe we’ve seen. The small hard plastic hexagon dimples give the shoe a tough armoured exterior, but the way they are independent from each other gives the robust material flexibility around the foot.

Boa dials are pretty hot right now, in place of heavy velcro straps or cruddy laces this system allows shoe manufacturers to get a bit creative with the way a shoe fits the foot. Then there’s the weight saving, and bad weather performance of the whole concept too.

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Armour where its needed around the toe thins out to a breathable and supple section towards the upper.

The other distinctive feature you’ll notice is the height of the inside of the shoe, providing protection for your ankle from crank arms and the rear end of your bike. If you’ve ever copped a fast moving seat stay on the bone of your ankle you’ll know how it feels.

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One Boa dial handles the job of keeping snug tension, and one velcro for added security near the toes.

The cleat slots are long and rearward, gravity riders tend to slide the cleats back toward the centre of the foot, these shoes provide a very useable range for gravity and trail riders.

Underneath the sole is rubbery and very grippy, the midsole doesn’t miss out on grip too, you’ll appreciate that during those times when you’re not quite clipped in and standing on the pedal, no hard plastic sections to spit your feet off here.

Just walking around in the Rhythms we found them quite comfortable, the tread on the toe becomes quite shallow towards the front helping the foot roll forward as you take a step, and no heel slip was noticed.

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Hard plastic heel cups will keep the shoe looking and feeling pretty good after dragging them over a few thousand rocks and through a few million puddles.

You’ll certainly be labeled as a cyclist with these kicks on though, they might have a trail/all-mountain purpose but certainly not the casual looks with such funky materials, bright orange/red colour and the Boa dial.

The upper feels quite stiff during the first ride, we’ll see how that softens as the shoe beds in, hopefully it softens and conforms to the foot. We’ll be back with more thoughts after some more riding, but first impressions are good!_LOW6056

We’ll keep on giving the Rhythm shoes some trail time, stay tuned for more thoughts on how they hold up.

Pricing is $259, and available now from your local Trek dealer.

Flow’s First Bite: fi’zi:k M6B Uomo Shoes

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The M6B UOMO is the entry level shoe from a three-strong lineup of mens (Uomo) shoes. The classic styled shoe uses a double-velcro and a single Boa dial enclosure, the sole is ‘carbon reinforced’ so they are stiff but not too stiff. A quick flex test shoes they have a nice amount of flex around the heel and toe which will make them easier to stand around in and the odd hike-a-bike moment on the trail._LOW7170

Weight is 385 grams, very reasonable for a shoe that doesn’t look like a neon plastic football boot, and price is fair at $239.

We’ll be back shortly for our review.

 

Tested: Giro Chamber Shoes

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The Chamber sits right at the opposite end of the spectrum from the carbon soled cross country racing shoes, with a velcro strap and laces, flat sole and a skate shoe style.

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Casual clipless shoes are not exactly a new thing, but a we’ve seen a new breed of shoes that are both casual and high performance, like these. The sole is stiff enough for good power transfer, but still have enough softness and bend for comfort walking. The sole won’t isolate you from the pedal like a stiff shoe does, we loved the way that when riding you could ‘feel’ the bike with your feet.

Off the bike the flat and roomy fit is refreshing, and comfortable to wear for hours. The cleats do make contact with the ground when walking though, the click clack sound is a reminder that they are still mountain bike shoes.

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Laces for a snug fit, covered by a velcro strap to keep them away from your cranks.
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Thick heels for protection when landing back to earth.

The heel is also quite cushy, with a thick amount of padding, and around the front of the shoe is a good amount of protection from impacts if you tend to ride with your foot out a lot and kick rocks as a result.

They aren’t the lightest shoe, especially when wet from soaking up sweat of splashing through wet trails. But in our experience and shoe that goes for low weight loses out in style, that’s the tradeoff.

And if you run your cleats a long way back in the slots, you may need to look into that aspect first with these, the slots aren’t as long as some.

Making light work out of trails like this - the Spider loves eating rocks.
Making light work out of trails like this – the Spider loves eating rocks.

Giro also do the less casual Terraduro shoe, one step towards the cross country end of the spectrum, we’re fans of these too. Click for the review – Tested: Giro Terraduro.


Verdict:

Combining just the right amount of function, fit and form these styling shoes have stood up to plenty of travel and long rides with us at Flow, a great option for sure.

Fresh Product – Specialized 2FO Clip Lite shoes

Specialized’s new 2FO Clip Lite is a lightweight version of a shoe that we’ve grown to love at Flow.

The Original 2FO is a super comfortable and casual trail riding shoe for both flat pedal and clipless riders. But taking it to the next level, the new Clip Lite (clipless only) version is lighter, slimmer and uses BOA dial for quick adjustments and a snug fit.

Available in men’s and women’s, expect to see these sweet kicks land in Oz by late August, and be on the shelves of Specialized stores for $269.

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So how much lighter is the Clip Lite? Not a hell of a lot, about 50g or so per shoe. But as we’ve pointed out before, saving weight from your pedals means less mass to lug through each pedal stroke.

How many pedal strokes do you make in a three hour ride? As many as 10,ooo or even more! We wanted to save every gram possible to help lighten the load – Specialized.

The shoe features a 3/4 Lollipop nylon shank in the sole to stiffen its structure under pedalling loads, but retains flexible in the heel and toe for comfort while walking. Like the orignal 2FO, there should be plenty of grip when you’re not in the pedal too, with the sole formed from Specialized’s Slip Not compound. The Clip Lite is available in four colour ways, from the subtle to the not so.

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You’ll find all the usual Body Geometry features in this shoe, too, with a specially designed arch support and the compatibility to accept the multiple interchangeable Body Geometry insoles to customise your fit. For us, the addition of the BOA adjustment system is a big plus – the laces were the only real weakness in the original 2FO (you can read our review of the original 2FO shoe here) so to have them replaced with the excellent BOA system is great.

 

Flow’s First Bite: Shimano’s New M200 Enduro Shoes

Shimano go full enduro with a completely new shoe, loaded with features that are aimed to please even the most enduro of enduro riders. Even if you’re not full enduro, all these features in this great shoe simply lend it to suit the average trail rider anyhow. Protection, efficiency and a balance of on and off the bike stability.

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Even though they kinda look like what Robocop would wear bowling, we like ’em.

The most obvious feature is the big flap that covers the top of the shoe, underneath is a drawstring style set of laces, that pulls tension across the foot. This will also help the shoe from soaking in too much water and mud, and keeps the laces in check too. In classic Shimano style, a slim and low profile buckle is the main source of closure giving the rider quick and on-the-fly adjustability. All Shimano ratchet-style buckles are replaceable, if you ever manage to damage one on the trail.

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The inside of the shoe is raised to offer your ankles protection from the sharp edges of your bike and crank, and the toe area is also quite tough. So feel free to ride with your foot out dragging through turns like Jared Graves, your toes will be safe from impending threat.

A new style of sole ‘Torbal’ is introduced into a few mountain bike shoes for 2015. As Shimano puts it “TORBAL allows the outsole to twist, allowing for lateral movement of the rider, while keeping the forefoot aligned with the pedal. This encourages a natural rider “flow” motion, improving control especially during technical downhills, and allowing aggressive trail riders to push their limits even further.”

We’ve got a set of these shoes lined up for dirt time, so stay tuned for our feet’s impressions on these new kicks from Shimano.

Tested: Shimano XC90 shoes

Shimano XC90 shoes-1Shimano’s latest top-end cross-country shoes definitely makes you look and feel faster. We reckon that the metallic blue finish, while being a little out there, is pretty damn cool and it certainly helps draw attention to the fact that these are an absolutely awesome pair of shoes.

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We’ve been running these guys for almost four months now. When we first picked them up, we made sure to take advantage of the Custom Fit system; the shoes and insoles are heated in a special oven by a qualified Shimano dealer before being ‘vacuum wrapped’ to your feet. We’d highly encourage you to do the same if you have a Custom Fit Shimano shoe, as the comfort is superb. The insoles also come with two sets of arch inserts, allowing you to raise the in-step of the shoe.

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Hands down, the Custom Fit combined with the low weight, great breathability and quick drying construction of these shoes, makes them the most comfortable ‘race’ shoe we’ve ever ridden in. This is extremely impressive given there has been zero compromise made in the performance stakes too; the full carbon sole is stiffer than a British upper lip and transfers power stupendously and the three-strap closure grasps your foot like a scared spider monkey.

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We’re appreciative that Shimano has added a little some extra rubber to the sole of the shoe when compared to previous versions, making a poorly aimed pedal entry incident less of a problem. That said, clipping in seems incredibly intuitive with these shoes, especially when combined with a Shimano pedal. There’s a large window of adjustment for cleat positioning as well, allowing us to achieve the quite rearward cleat positioning we prefer.

Our previous experiences with Shimano shoes have often revealed the ratchet strap buckle to be a bit vulnerable. On the XC90s, Shimano have added a little plastic guard to deflect impacts and save the buckle itself, but the strap itself is showing evidence of have caught a lot of rocks. We’ll be trimming the excess 10mm or so off the end of the ratchet strap in the future to neaten it all up a bit.

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As these are a ‘race worthy’ item, it goes without saying that they’re not really intended for much hike-a-bike work or scampering about the bush on foot. Unfortunately we’ve had to do rather a lot of this kind of stuff during video shoots, and as such the soles are starting to show a fair bit of wear. The toe studs have almost completely worn down (one has left the building completely), but they can be replaced. If you do plan on doing a lot of walking or rock scrambling, we’d encourage you to check out some of the other shoes in the range.

We’re over the moon with how these shoes have performed so far and we hope the sole rubber lasts a few years yet, as the quality of Shimano’s carbon soles and the manufacturing of the shoe upper is superb. And they’re metallic blue. Which is awesome.

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