First Impressions: New Specialized 2FO Flat Shoes

Subtle, light, $200.

Last weekend, Sam Hill won a round of the EWS on flat pedals, defying conventional wisdom that there’s too much pedalling in an EWS to come out on top running flats. Ok, Hill’s riding is far from conventional, but we think it’s safe to say all the doubters about using flat pedals on trail bikes have now been hushed. Flats are fun and they can be fast too.

We’ve got a pair of the new 2FO shoes on test. First impressions are that they’re a very lightweight shoe, we weighed them at 359g in a size 43, which is about 70g lighter per shoe than our usual set of Five Tens.

Not as soft as some, but much gummier than previous Specialized shoes.

They’re a straight up lace-up job, no buckles or ratchets to be seen. The sole compound is noticeably softer and gummier than earlier 2FOs as well, and the chunky, open lugged design of the tread looks like it’ll do a good job of hanging onto pins and directing mud out from between pedal and shoe.

Press your thumb into the side of mid sole of the shoe and it’s got a cushiness to it that’s more reminiscent of a pair of running shoes than other flat pedal shoes we’ve used. According to Specialized’s 1500-word press release (yes, it’s big on tech!) getting the density of the EVA foam rubber midsole correct is vital – too firm and the pins won’t penetrate enough, too soft and you’ll feel everything and your feet get fatigued.

The inner cuff offers a little extra protection.

Specialized’s Body Geometry program is immensely impressive (read our interview with some of the chief Body Geometry scientists here) and even though it’s a flat pedal, the 2FO gets the same technologies that make other Specialized shoes anatomically sound, adding stability to your knees under pedalling.

Durability and protection looks good, there’s solid reinforcing around the lace holes and a raised inner cuff to stop you whacking your ankles on the cranks or frame too. We’re giving these shoes to our resident flat pedal rider to test. So stay tuned for a full review soon.

 

 

 

 

Shimano’s New Gravity and All-Mountain Pedals and Shoes

Shimano are announcing the release of a whole stack of new shoes: SH-AM901, AM701, GR900, GR700, and GR700-WOMEN

SH-AM901

The flagship All-Mountain AM901 shoe is designed for Downhill and Enduro riding and, with a revised Upper, offers reduced water ingress, quicker drying times and greater protection over previous models. The added moulded toe cover offers protection and the quick lacing cord further reduces water ingress and improves adjustability in all weather conditions.

The ultra-grippy, high traction rubber sole makes walking easier and improves contact with the pedals. A handy pedal channel on the sole behind the cleat creates a stable pedal connection when clipped out. At 400g (size 42) the shoes are best paired with the 546g SAINT M820 SPD pedals.

Below the AM9 is the AM701 (408g), which is now also an SPD shoe. Unlike the AM9, the AM7 removes the lace shield, offers a harder sole and uses an ankle gaiter to offer protection and keep out debris. The AM701 has a stiffer midsole (stiffness rating: 6) than the AM9 (rating: 5) for trail riding. It also comes in a super loud lime green option to stand out on the trail.

SH-GR700

Completely new for 2018 are two dedicated Gravity shoes. The top-level GR900 shoe shares many of the outstanding protection attributes of the AM901, such as the asymmetric raised ankle collar, armoured lace shield and molded toe cap, but the difference comes with the GR9’s simplified sole construction. Not only do you get superb grip and improved walkability from the Michelin rubber outsole but the GR900 is 35g lighter than the AM901, weighing in at 365g (size 42). The GR9 is best paired with the SAINT M828 493g at pedals.

Much like the All-Mountain line-up, the gray/green or blue GR700 (366g) ditches the armoured lace shield for increased heat ventilation and a more multi-purpose looking shoe. The GR7 is also available in a dedicated women’s version.

NEW PEDALS: PD-M820, M828, M8040, and GR500

SHIMANO’s revised Gravity pedals feature one SAINT-level SPD option, three at pedal options at SAINT and DEORE XT-levels, and a non-series option, all designed to t perfectly and offer the optimum pedalling connection with Shimano’s Gravity and All-Mountain shoes.

The SAINT-level PD-M820 is one half of Shimano’s most advanced Downhill and Enduro-specific pedals offering ultimate bike control, contact, grip and durability with SPD efficiency and stability.

YOUR CHOICE: PEDALING DYNAMICS OR PEDALING PLATFORMS?

The M820’s wide alloy body is system engineered to match perfectly with the AM901 shoe providing a very solid pedal/shoe interface. The double-sided durable alloy pedal body protects the SPD mechanism from impacts whilst the low pro le design lowers the stack height and the weight (546g). Four adjustable pins per side offer grip when you’re not clipped in.

PD-M820

Its compatriot, the SAINT-level strong and durable PD-M828, is an eight-sided concave platform pedal offering excellent grip and support. Twelve stainless steel pins per side (optional 3mm or 5mm) deliver the aggressive downhill or free-rider the ideal balance of connection to the bike and pedalling stability, with the best balance of weight and durability across riding conditions.

PD-M828

“I’ve been testing the PD-M828 at pedal with the GR900 at shoe and I’m really happy with the developments. These pedals are bombproof. The support under foot is excellent due to the large platform and my feet feel really well connected to the pedals. They’ve handled everything I can throw at them and really live up to the SAINT name.”

“The GR900 shoe is a perfect match. The new sticky rubber compound from Michelin provides a tonne of grip and we worked a lot on the sole stiffness to nd the right balance of support and pedal feel. Additionally, Shimano incorporated some nice features like a rubber toe cap for added protection and quick drying construction so that you don’t wake up to wet shoes!” Thomas Vanderham, freeridee athlete and Shimano test rider.

The DEORE XT-level PD-M8040 comes in small-to-medium (shoe size recommendation 36-44) or medium-to-large options (shoe size recommendation 43-48) for optimized support and rider-tuned performance. With 10 pins either side and a slight concave design for comfort and efficiency, these Trail and Enduro pedals offer the legendary off-road performance associated with Deore XT. Sold with optional 3mm pins or 5mm pins. Weights: 460g (S/M) or 503g (M/L)

PD-M8040

Finally, the PD-GR500 builds on the strong reputation of its predecessor (PD-MX80) as a Shimano-branded durable at pedal for entry-level Trail and All-Mountain riding. The PD-500 features height-adjustable pins and low- maintenance sealed cartridge bearing chromoly axles, available in black or silver options at a weight of 533g.

 http://www.shimano.com.au/

Flow’s First Bite: Scott MTB RC Lace Shoes

We're into the aesthetics of the simple lacing, what do you think?
We’re into the aesthetics of the simple lacing, what do you think?

As is often the case, what starts on the road eventually makes its way to the mountain biking industry, and following in the same vein as the opinion dividing Giro Empire, the Scott MTB RC Lace shoe is a cross-country mountain bike shoe that forgoes the fancy closure systems we’ve become so accustomed to in favour of trusty laces.


Hold on, this is a cross-country shoe with laces?

Indeed! Despite most cross-country shoes relying on ratchets and BOA dial closure systems, which undoubtedly have their place, Scott believe there is a market for laced cross-country shoes. Benefits of laced shoes include increased contact points, increased aerodynamics, and most importantly increased comfort.

The laces on the Scott MTB RC Lace give a snug fit over your entire foot.
The laces on the Scott MTB RC Lace give a snug fit over your entire foot.

How do the laces compare to ratchets, or BOA dials?

As mentioned above, laces offer increased points of contact over the more commonly seen ratchet or BOA systems, which in theory should result in a more comfortable fit. The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes feel comfortable out of the box, although setting them up did take longer than a ratchet or BOA system, as we took our time tightening and adjusting the laces to ensure optimal pressure across the whole foot. Once you’ve done the laces up, they tuck away neatly into a strap located in the centre of the shoe.

A simple strap across the middle of the laces allows you to tuck them away neatly once tightened.
A simple strap across the middle of the laces allows you to tuck them away neatly once tightened.

Who is the Scott MTB RC Lace Shoe for?

With a rating of nine on Scott’s stiffness index, which means very stiff, and a lightweight design (a US 8.5 weighs in at 350 grams), the RC Lace shoes lean towards the XC side of the mountain biking spectrum. Despite their low weight however, the shoes feature nods to durability and adjustability though reinforced toe and heel boxes, provisions for mounting studs and long cleat grooves. Despite the shoes having mounting points for studs, they don’t ship with them as standard.

Stud mounts and long cleat grooves give riders options to setup these shoes for a variety of riding styles.
Stud mounts and long cleat grooves give riders options to setup these shoes for a variety of riding styles.

How’s the fit?

The fit was comfortable out of the box, but should you find the shoes uncomfortable, the insoles feature removable metatarsal buttons and arch inserts. Like the studs, these inserts are additional purchases, but they’re a nice touch to allow you to customise your fit.

The insoles of the RC Lace's feature two points of adjustment.
The insoles of the RC Lace shoes feature two points of adjustment.
Replaceable metatarsal and arch inserts allow for a more customised fit.
Replaceable metatarsal and arch inserts allow for a more customised fit.

Are there other colour options?

The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes only come in black, however the shoe ships with two lace options. We’re big fans of the poppy red laces, but if you prefer a more modest look you can swap them to black out of the box.


What sort of money are we talking?

The Scott MTB RC Lace shoes retail for $289.95, which we think is a fair price for a carbon soled, lightweight shoe with additional features such as the adjustable insoles. In comparison, Giro Empire VR90’s retail for $349.

The carbon soles on the RC Lace shoes are terrifically stiff, and shiny.
The carbon soles on the RC Lace shoes are terrifically stiff, and shiny!

That’s it for now, it’s time to see how these fresh kicks go out on the trail!

Fresh Product: Shimano S-Phyre XC9 and XC7 Shoes

Have your feet been good to you? Want to treat them right? Then take a look at Shimano’s new S-Phyre XC9 shoes, some supremely sophisticated footwear from the big S, aimed squarely at the cross-country race market.

Shimano S-Phyre-7761

We’ve been huge fans of Shimano’s XC90 shoes (read our full review here) but having got our hands on the all-new S-Phyre XC9 (in very FLUORO yellow, no less), we can tell you these are a big leap forward in terms of construction refinement and weight savings.

Shimano S-Phyre-7756
Excellent ventilation.

The S-Phyre is remarkably sleek, with the kind of seamless look that’s akin to a high-end road shoe, using a very supple, one-piece synthetic leather upper that really moulds to the shape of your feet.

Shimano S-Phyre-7766
11 on the carbo-stiff-o-meter.

Speaking of moulding, the S-Phyre shoes do not have the custom-fit system which was previously found on Shimano’s top level shoes. Apparently the custom-fit system added a fair amount of weight, and with the new one-piece upper and BOA laces, Shimano are able to achieve the same level of comfort and conformance to your foot as was possible with the custom fit system. Interesting stuff.

Shimano S-Phyre-7763
The Michelin outsole looks minimalist, but actually provides full-length coverage of the sole, which is great for slip prevention should you miss a pedal.

A degree of customisation is still possible with three different levels of arch support, adjusted via simple inserts that slip into the insole itself. This is a smart solution, much cheaper than having to buy new insoles if you have higher arches.

Shimano S-Phyre-7759
BOA laces with instant release spools for easy exit.

BOA laces are so hot right now the S-Phyre  are BOA equipped. In our experience, the BOA laces offer more precise adjustment than a ratchet strap with less susceptibility to damage or getting gummed up with mud too. Anyone who has had to fight their way out of muddy shoes with the ratchets seized up will appreciate the ‘instant release’ spools, no doubt.

Shimano S-Phyre-7768
Inserts in the arch change the level of arch support without the need to buy new insoles.

As a race shoe, the S-Phyre XC9 offers better power transfer than a fork in an electrical socket. Full carbon soles ensure every precious caffeine fuelled Watt is delivered to your pedals, and a low stack height keeps your foot closer to the pedal axle which makes for a more stable pedal stroke.

Shimano S-Phyre-7762

Like the ME7 Enduro shoes we’ve been riding lately, the S-Phyre shoes also get a Michelin rubber tread, which is grippy and also lighter than the previous tread configuration found on the XC90 shoes. We weighed our size 43 shoes at 335g each.

If you’re not a fan of the blistering fluoro, there’s black, or the classic Shimano blue available too, which we’re sure will be popular. As an extra sweetener, every pair of S-Phyre shoes comes with matching socks too – #sockgamestrong as our roadie friends would put it!

Shimano XC7 shoes-2728
For almost $200 less than the XC9, the XC7s are a killer shoe.

Slightly down the pricing totem pole you’ll find the XC7 shoes, which get many of the features of the XC9s, just with one BOA dial, not two, and a slightly lower stiffness carbon sole. The XC9s also have more extensive ventilation too, for keeping your feet cool when you’re on the rivet.

Shimano XC7 shoes-2712
Just like the S-Phyres, the XC7 gets a Michelin outsole.

Pricing on the S-Phyre XC9s is $449, and they should be here in Australia by October, while the XC7s come in at $259 with a November availability.

 

Shimano Releases Two New Mountain Enduro Shoes

There are lot of players in the mountain bike shoe game now, so Shimano are having to work hard to stay a step ahead (shoe pun #1) – the unveiling of two new ‘Mountain Enduro’ series shoes hot on the heels (#2) of their recently released AM9 and M200 shoes proves that Shimano aren’t putting their feet up (#3).


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The ME7 gets a new neoprene ankle collar to keep crap out, and a reverse ratchet strap arrangement.

It was only a year or so ago that Shimano dipped a toe (#4…ok, no more) in the waters of the Enduro world, but already they’re following up with the ME7. (You can read our full review of the M200 here).

FLOW2744
The flap (also found on the AM9, AM7 and M200 shoes) remains, keeping the speed laces tucked away.

The ME7 continues to use many of the features found on the M200. M200 users will be familiar with the speed-lacing system, and the large flap for keeping things dry and protecting the laces. The sole gets the Torbal treatment, which allows a nice amount of foot roll laterally without compromising pedalling stiffness, perfect for aggressive riding where you tend to twist your feet about a lot.

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Michelin and Shimano worked together on the chunky sole and rubber compound.

New features include a neoprene collar around the ankle to keep crap out of the shoe, and the ‘reverse’ ratchet strap that has been used on Shimano’s road shoes in the past (it’s super neat, and means you don’t have any strap ends sticking out). But the more notable new addition is the Michelin rubber sole. Shimano and Michelin have partnered up to produce a very grippy, aggressive sole. We heard reports of riders ripping tread blocks off their M200s, so it’s good to see Shimano have taken the bull by the horns and really improved this area. We’re sure other Shimano shoes will follow suit with the Michelin collaboration too.

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The ME5.

The ME5 is follow up to the M163 (which we reviewed here) and is a little more low-key on the technical features front, more of a traditional trail shoe. It still scores the Torbal sole, and retains the ‘cross strap’ system which disperses pressure nice and evenly across the foot. It also gets the ‘zero dangle’ reverse ratchet strap. We like.

See how the new reverse ratchet system works?
See how the new reverse ratchet system works?

Both shoes are quite light for their category too; the ME7 is 375g and the ME5 is 385g for a size 43. Prices are approximately (and subject to change) $279 for the ME7 and $239 for the ME5.

 

Tested: fi’zi:k M6B Uomo Shoes

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BOA and two Velcro straps. With our narrow feet, the straps were a little long, but that’s better than too short, and nothing a sharp pair of scissors can’t neaten up.
The M6B Uomo is one three shoes in Fizik’s mountain bike line, at $239 they sit at mid-to-upper spot on the price spectrum, and their features are competitive. We think they’re a great looking shoe too, but what else would you expect from the Italians?
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The BOA dial makes adjusting the fit very fast, and the system doesn’t collect mud either. The dial’s position is a bit vulnerable to being popped open we found. Note the chunky rubber on the outer edge of the mid-sole, perfect safety for those times you miss a pedal.
You’ll notice the BOA dial. This system has become incredibly popular lately, thanks to its ease of use, ability to make precise fit adjustments, and its clean styling. Turn the dial to tighten, pull it out away from the shoe to undo and release the tension on the ‘laces’. It’s good system and easy to adjust on the fly, but we found the placement of the dial meant we occasionally snagged it in scrub (particularly if we had to hike-a-bike) which would pop the BOA release open and leave the shoe undone.
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Simple Velrco straps provide the rest of the closure. Our tester has quite narrow feet, and the straps had no problems accommodating this, though we eventually trimmed them the straps a little just to stop the ends from dangling.
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Reinforced Microtex is used for much of the upper.
Construction wise, these are certainly a trail shoe, but they’re also quite lightweight at 385g for a size 42.5. There’s a plenty of grip provided all round, including across the mid-sole, which helps prevent disaster if you accidentally miss a clip-in. Provisions are there for toe spikes as well, which is cool if you’re going to use these shoes for a bit of CX work. The toe box doesn’t have a lot of external protection, which might deter some who ride hard in rocky terrain, but the reinforced Microtex material isn’t displaying any signs of wear or damage so far.
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With Shimano XT pedals, the connection between pedal and shoe was tight at first, but soon wore in to provide an ideal amount of friction.
 We ran these shoes with Shimano XT Trail pedals, and initially there was a lot of friction between the chunky tread blocks and pedal body. Luckily over the course of a few rides, the rubber wore down a smidge making for consistent entry/exit into the pedals.
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We had no dramas getting our cleat position where we wanted it, and found the sole provided a good blend of stiffness, comfort and grip.
The nylon sole is carbon reinforced, but stiffness isn’t the main objective of this shoe (look at the M3B Uomo with carbon soles if stiffness is your priority) and they’ve got just enough flex to be comfy when you need to walk, without feeling floppy when you’re on the gas. Around the heel, the fit is super secure, and we didn’t feel any heel slippage at all. If you’ve got high arches, you might want to consider a different in-sole, as the foot bed shape is pretty flat, otherwise we found the fit to be very comfortable.
All up, we think these are a great option for trail riders, and a fine alternative from some of the more mainstream shoe brands. With a good blend of weight, stiffness, grip and inoffensive styling, we’re a fan!

 

Tested: Suplest Edge/3 Pro Shoes

Haven’t heard of Suplest? We forgive you, neither had we until Suplest Australia launched supplying the range of shoes via their website, and began work on establishing a network or retail stores around the country. Hailing from Bern, Switzerland, Suplest are a young company solely focussed on one thing, high end cycling shoes.

Stand out from the crowd with these high end shoes from Swiss cycling shoemakers.
Performance and Pro versions, save $100 with the single BOA dial option.
Performance and Pro versions, save $100 with the single BOA dial option.

On test we have the $495 Edge/3 Performance and the $395 Edge/3 Pro, but it was the Pro that we spent most time wearing them on our cross country racing bikes, trail bikes and cyclocross bikes.


The shoes

Weighing only 330g in size 42, the Edge/3 keeps mass down with the use of a double BOA Closure System and fancy Japanese microfibre material. Used on many of their shoes is what they call Carbon Shield, a thin layer of carbon fibre across the top of the foot to distribute tension from the BOA laces and also provides great protection from sharp and dangerous trail debris.

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BOA laces over the Carbon Shield.
LOW00071
No velcro or laces here, it’s a dual BOA affair.

The shoe wraps around your foot when you fasten it up, the outside edge folds right across and over the tongue with plenty of room for overlap to accommodate for varying shapes individual feet.

FLOW5648
A finely patterned and rubber mid-sole prevents that nasty pedal slip you get from exposed carbon soled shoes.

The sole is seriously stiff, with very little amount of flex noticeable in the shoe on and off the bike, it’s all about 100% power transfer to the pedal with these guys. Both mountain bike models of Suplest shoes use Solestar insoles, a cycling specific inner sole company from Germany who have some of the biggest names in cycling using them. They feel stiff and supportive under the feet with a fairly neutral arch height.

Toe studs are included if you’re after a little extra bite when off the bike and running, handy for sloppy cyclocross racing. The heel cup is lined with grippy material and dotted with rubberised grippers, but with such a stiff sole there’s no bending and flexing as you walk so you’ll always notice a degree of heel lifting out of the shoe when walking up steep gradients.

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Solestar footbeds as standard, nice.

The fit

At first the feeling of slipping your feet into these shoes is like stepping a wooden box with so many hard edges and stiff materials, but once you do up the BOA dials the shoe wraps around your foot tightly and securely. Because of the wrap-around style of the shoe you really need to crank up the BOA dials a long way for the tension to settle in the sweet spot.

The fit is on the narrow side, with a fairly roomy toe box. We never felt our feet move around inside the shoes at all, and were able to relax our feet during long descents.FLOW5595

We wouldn’t exactly refer to these shoes as ‘snug’ rather they feel stiff and very solid on. The upper material and heel cup feel very rigid, and combined with the carbon sole these are seriously sturdy shoes.


The ride

We’re big users of Shimano SPD pedals here at Flow, so we fitted a pair of Shimano cleats and used them with both the XTR Race and Trail pedals.

The cleat position is very cross country style, with the cleat slots a long way forward in the sole, we ended up running our cleats as far back as they could go, but there’s no doubt some riders with a preference of a rearward cleat position will find the range of adjustability not long enough.

The deep sole needed a few millimetres trimmed off around the cleat area, the hard rubberised tread protrudes just a fraction too far proud of the cleat, so we ground it down a little for a crisper cleat engagement and free float in the pedal.

FLOW5634
Spin the dials to tension, and pop them open to release. Simple, effective, light and secure.

After a few rides in all sorts of conditions these shoes felt as robust as the first ride, they only seemed to ‘bed in’ and soften a fraction, a sign that the materials are super-high quality and should last a good amount of time. Swapping between the Bontrager XXX MTB shoes, Specialized 2FO ClipLites, and Giro Privateers the Suplest Edge/3 Pro shoes stood out from the crowd for being ultra-stiff in both the sole and upper. Laying down the power to the pedals in these shoes is rewarding, nothing goes to waste.
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Verdict

Cross country racers will benefit from the maximum power transfer and efficiency that these shoes offer, as will the cyclocross crew with stiffness that rivals the best road shoes, just with loads of grip. The open sole will help you gain traction with the dirt during hike-a-bike sections of a CX race, but their rigid and unforgiving feel won’t suit casual all-day rides or all-mountain missions.

There’s a cheaper version for $395 with just one BOA dial, but they still are premium shoes with a premium price tag, but the cost is backed by excellent performance and durability.

These shoes are certainly worth a look if you like a bit of carbon in your diet.

Flow’s First Bite: Suplest Edge/3, Swiss Cycling Shoes

Suplest are little-known to us here in Australia, for good reason. The relatively young company based in Bern does only cycling shoes, catering solely for the high end of the market and they certainly have an eye for stylish design with all their shoes, road and mountain bike.

We have the Edge/3 Performance and Edge/3 Pro from their cross country range to get accustomed to, with a super-light construction and a carbon sole stiffer than a frozen Swiss cheese these guys are built for XC racing, there’s no doubt about it.

Performance on the left, and Pro on the right.
Performance on the left, and Pro on the right.

BOA dials, carbon shields, lightweight mesh, grippy heel material and a reinforced toe box make these shoes quite unique in construction and the fancy triangular shaped upper material gives them an appearance like no other.

Pricing is what you may expect from a tiny boutique shoe manufacturer, $395 for the grey Performance model and $495 for the Pro. Certainly not cheap, but even after one ride we’re sure they’ll stack up with performance to back the dollars.

The Pro scores a full carbon shield under double BOA laces for even tension over the upper part of the foot, otherwise the Pro and Performance models are very similar in features.

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330g for the Pro. Good weight for a solid and stiff shoe.

Stay tuned for our full review once we put some miles on these snazzy Swiss numbers.

 

Tested: Specialized 2FO Cliplite shoes

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Lighter, stiffer, narrower, radder.

Actually, the weight saving isn’t all that huge to be honest, saving about 140g for the pair when compared to standard 2FO Clip shoe, but they are a much neater, nicer shoe overall in our opinion.

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Double BOA and one velcro strap.

While we really like the 2FO Clip shoes, we find the laces a bit finicky in muddy or gritty conditions. That’s why we’re stoked to see the increasingly popular Boa dial system on the Cliplites. It’s a very simple, fast and precise adjustment system, and it’s practically impervious to mud too. It’s easy to adjust on the fly as well.

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Dialling it in.

The fit isn’t as ‘glove-like’ as we’d hoped – the upper is pretty stiff around the ankle, and we did notice that if we had the top Boa dial done up quite firmly that this top edge of the shoe dug in a bit. We’ve heard other riders make the same remarks, so it’s not just our boney ankles! A little more padding, or use of a more flexible material in this area, wouldn’t go astray. Backing off the tension of the Boa dial a couple of clicks resolved it, but gave us more ‘float’ in the shoe than we like.

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The upper felt quite stiff around the ankles.

Leaving that issue aside, there’s a lot to like. The Cliplite has a grippy SlipNot sole that ensures you don’t end up on your arse if you have to hike the occasional section of trail, and the extended cleat slots (4mm longer than most Specialized shoes) lets you run your cleats further back, which is common amongst more aggressive riders.

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Clipping in and out is a snack.

Getting back into your pedals is made easier thanks to the Landing Strip, which is a deep, long cleat recess and which seems to work particularly well at catching and guiding your foot back into the pedals. If you’re the type of rider who likes to dangle a foot in loose corners, you’ll appreciate this.

To date, they’re proving to be nice and durable. The finish wipes clean easily and the tall rubber edging off toe box is tough. While the black and white versions here have a bit of ‘foot in a fairy penguin’ vibe to them, you can also get them in an understand black/grey or a lairy green/black too.

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Great shoes.

Try them out for fit first and make sure they play nicely with your ankles (remember, Specialized also do a range of great Body Geometry inner soles too), as they’re certainly a great shoe for the trail rider if they work with your leg-ends.

 

Tested: Shimano M200 Shoes

Shimano are old hands at making cycling shoes and now in the 25th year of the SPD, we are privy to a very complete lineup of great options. From quality entry level shoes, carbon cross country racing shoes, and now a trio of all-mountain/enduro shoes – the whole enchilada.

The M200 certainly doesn’t have a cool name but it packs features aimed squarely at the cool school, the growing all mountain/enduro segment. This type of riding isn’t exactly new, it’s simply just riding everything in your path and hammering descents, but lately we’ve been lucky enough to see bikes, gear, accessories and even fashion to cater for these new needs.

Tested - Shimano M200 8

The ingredients for a good shoe in this segment? Riders want protection, support, pedalling efficiency, walking and traction capabilities, mud and water resistance and of course, casual looks. Getting the balance of all those aspects is the challenge, the M200 does a great job, with a focus on protection and creating a supportive and efficient shoe while still maintaining a certain level of ‘feel’ between you and the bike.

Where a cross country shoe aims to be as stiff as possible, the M200 uses Shimano’s new Torbal sole which allows the rear section of the shoe to flex and twist sideways a little, whilst still remaining supportive when your energy is pushing downwards up the front of the shoe.

Tested - Shimano M200 2
The inside of the shoe is raised at the heel, protecting your ankles from banging the cranks or frame.
Tested - Shimano M200 6
The buckle copped it a few times, but never showed signs of letting the shoe’s structure down.
Tested - Shimano M200 5
Those deep grooves in the mid sole give the sole its natural feeling flex. The cleat positions are also a lot longer than other Shimano shoes, we ran ours a long way back.

On the trail we found the Torbal sole which initially sounded like a gimmick to really let our feet move in a natural way when pedalling and as the bike moved beneath you, there is a degree of freedom with a strong connection.

We’re all about pairing a less-racey shoe with a trail style pedal (like the XT or XTR Trail pedal), in this case the balance of pedal efficiency was just right. It sounds silly how Shimano describes Torbal on their product description, but that’s just Shimano and their way with words, the shoes feel great when pedalling and descending.

The shoe gets its odd looks from the protective flap that covers the laces, it does two jobs really well, keeping the laces from snagging anything whilst providing a shield from mud and water. The green colour with orange highlights will polarise, but we got used to it.

Fit wise it was a close and tight fit, the laces provide a sturdy enclosure for the shoe, but at the same time quick tension adjustments during rides isn’t as fast as a traditional velcro strap or BOA dial. In true Shimano fashion, the ratchet buckle is easy to use, slim in its shape and always functioned perfectly. They are also replaceable, if you manage to tear one off.

The sole is nice and tacky and we were able to clamber up rocks without slipping, but we did notice some of the softer orange coloured rubber coming away on one shoe, disappointing, but surely a warranty case from Shimano if it became an issue. All around the shoe there are sections of tough armour, these shoes should stay looking pretty clean after some time, no fragile fabric is vulnerable at all.

Tested - Shimano M200 4
Thin laces provide the front foot with an even and secure tension, and kept clean and dry by the broad velcro flap.

Tested - Shimano M200 1

Tested - Shimano M200 (1)

Check out some other similar shoes that we’ve tested recently:

Giro Terraduro

Five Ten Impact VXi Clipless 

Specialized 2FO Clip

Shimano M163

In a competitive segment, the M200 brings a lot to the table. It’s a shoe that you forget you’re wearing, the slim and secure fit and lightweight shoe is protective where you need it and we love the way that when you’re clipped in to the bike, you gain a real feeling of the way it moves beneath you, with no noticeable sacrifice in pedal efficiency. It might look odd with the big flap, but your feet will stay drier and cleaner longer, and with the added support and scuff protection your feet will love you when you bash them into rocks on Sunday.

Tested: Giro Terraduro Shoes

Buckling your feet into these shoes gives that feeling of hopping into the passenger seat of your parent’s old 90s Volvo, solid and very secure.

The Terraduro is a new-school shoe aimed squarely at the feet of the enduro/all-mountain rider, or simply someone who typically finds themselves kicking the ground foot-dragging through turns, climbing rocks to scout sick lines or just pushing their bikes back up the hill to hit a line again.

There is no carbon material to make the sole stiffer than a frozen house brick, or any fancy lightweight materials used in space exploration, just a classic styled shoe with a few key points of difference. It’s also quite subtle and traditional in its appearance, aside from the deep orange colour they don’t look too dissimilar to your traditional mountain bike shoe.

Giro Terraduro 1

At first these shoes felt quite bulky when on, but by the second and third ride the upper material around the shoe softened up nicely conforming to the foot with a more supple feel. The overall fit is slightly more relaxed than your classic cross country shoe, but not as roomy as the Specialized 2FO or Five Ten Impact XVI. The Giros will please riders with slightly narrower feet.

The buckle is an especially effective item, cranking up the plastic clip is very easy and pulls a good amount of tension around the whole foot rather than squashing it straight downwards. And the velcro straps pull tension across a metal clip, ensuring that mud doesn’t clog up their range of movement too much.

The rubber out sole is really quite soft and tacky, and branded proudly with the Vibram badge of approval. The shoes stick to rock really very well, but with a few areas on either side of the cleat already showing wear a couple months in, we might have to accept increased wear as a trade for great grip. But saying that, we do spend a lot of time in riding shoes, and plenty of time off the bike with a camera in hand, probably more than most.

We used the shoes with Shimano XTR Trail pedals, which have a bigger contact area around the pedal to support the shoe. Initial rides found us restricted in our pedal float, it took a couple rides for the shoes and pedals to fit best and the rubber sole wasn’t making too much contact with the pedal cage.

Giro Terraduro 10
No toe studs or deep plasticky spiked soles here.
Giro Terraduro 12
Note the way the sole curves upwards at the toe. Makes for great walking and clambering up un-rideable trails.

What we liked most about the sole was the way the toe area curled up, great for pushing your bike in. Your foot rolls forward on the sole as you walk, rather than bending the front of the shoe up and cramping down on your toes.

On the bike the shoes certainly do feel super sturdy and secure, the toe area provides loads of protection via a stiffer section of material up front, defending you from debris impacts. They do feel heavy when wet though, the soft mesh material under the tongue and around the inner heel area soaks up sweat and water from the trail, and doesn’t dry out as fast as some lighter cross country shoes or the Specialized 2FO shoes. Not our pick for wet weather riding as such.

Sole stiffness is pretty good, too. You can feel the sole bend around the pedal slightly when really giving it some, they aren’t trying to be an XC racer shoe, so what you do gain from a little give is a good feel of what’s going on down there, not that isolated feeling you get with super-stiff soled shoes.

Giant Reign 28
Pretty neat colour matching, right?

So, if you’re like us and appreciate a shoe that isn’t so stiff that you lose feeling of the bike below, you spend a bit of time dragging feet through turns and clambering around the bush looking for sick #enduro trails, these tangelo Terraduros are a killer option. Bolt some on and see for yourself.

Tested: Specialized 2FO Clip Shoes, Flashy Red Foot Ferraris

Specialized’s 2FO Clip shoes aim to fill the gap between racey shoes that look like football boots, and regular joe skate shoes.

Many shoes have tried and failed when it comes to balancing performance, relaxed fit and a casual appearance, but we feel Specialized have landed on their feet with these feature-packed kicks.

2FO 1
Clambering around the trails with these on your feet assure you won’t slip an inch.

After a few solid months riding in these flashy foot Ferraris we take our hats off to the designers of this clever shoe, we love the slim shape, relaxed fit and low weight. They are available in both clipless and flat style and thankfully a couple colour options if these bright red numbers are a bit too much. In keeping with Specialized’s Body Geometry systems a Specialized dealer can help you customise the shoes with the right arch support via interchangeable insoles that fit all Specialized shoes. We popped down to a Specialized dealer, the process was quick, we popped our feet on the Arch-O-Meter mapping plate, and were recommended an insole to support higher than average arches.  Off we went, they retail for an extra $49.95. However you may find that the original insoles are fine for the shape of your foot.

 

2FO 12
A flat sole with deep cushion and a narrow profile.
2FO 11
We were suggested the blue coloured Body Geometry insoles with a higher arch support by a Specialized dealer staff member.

The 2FO name comes from the saying ‘foot out, flat out’ which in essence suits the style of riding loose, letting it all hang out. Luckily if you do drag your feet along the ground in the name of getting rad and happen to kick a rock, a stump or a solid member of wildlife you’ll be sure to benefit from the shoe’s stiff toe box. Plus, if you’re getting rad going uphill and committed to a technical climb and need dab your foot you’ll be glad the sole is a bit tackier than most, helping you regain your control as you firmly play your foot on the ground, instead of slipping and doing horrible leg tearing splits whilst uncontrollably rolling backwards.

Specialized have used materials that we’ve not seen before in mountain bike shoes. The outer has an almost plastic look and feel to it, and inside the shoe the padding is not a soft foam like we’ve become accustomed to, rather you’ll find a web of springy plastic material that gives you both the soft cushion feel and breathing benefits, but won’t soak up water like a sponge. In truth it’s not something we’ve ever really given that much thought to, but you really don’t want extra weight on your feet whether it’s sweat, rain or a splash back from stinky mud puddle that adds extra mass to what’s essentially a rotating mass, it pays to reduce any additional effort to your pedal stroke.

The material of the sole is comprised of two rubber densities, a slightly less sticky rubber is used around the cleat area to help avoid any unwanted snagging on the pedal as you clip in and out. This has been a criticism of many flat soled clipless shoes with soft soles, and can cause some heartbeat-skipping incidents when tying to clip in, but these ones do it just right. The two compounds will also help the lifespan of the sole, sticky where you want it, and tough where you need to resist wear and tear.

The laces on the other hand are of a material that actually doesn’t work as well, when they are clean and dry they slide through the lace holes and pull tension evenly and easliy but once a few rides worth of dirt land on the laces they seem to jam up slightly. It can become a bit tricky then to pull on the laces to achieve even tension over the foot. Plus while we are having a bit of a grumble, we found that if we jammed our feet into the shoe without completely backing off the laces, the rear section of padding inside the heel would fold over and we’d need to manipulate it back again into shape, not a real biggie but we’re sure that we aren’t the only ones who rush when putting on shoes before a ride.

2FO 2
The red coloured rubber is a touch harder in its compound to avoid any unwanted snagging on the pedal when clipping in and out. The black rubber it softer and tacky for a firm grip on the earth.
2FO 10
The red perforated material across the top of the toes feels like a hard rubber, almost like plastic.
Note the webbed mesh under the tongue and all through the inside of the shoe. Light, soft and non water absorbent. Clever!
Note the webbed mesh under the tongue and all through the inside of the shoe. Light, soft and non water absorbent. Clever!
2FO 21
Specialized love number like these, claiming the 2FO shoes to be only 18% heavier when wet. We tried it, and after submerging, the shoe really doesn’t hold much water. Believe the hype, 18%.

The shape of the shoe is also quite slim, there is no extra material around the side of the sole that would get in the way of a clean entry and exit of the pedal, and a slightly higher cuff on the inside to help protect your ankles from hard edges of your cranks and frame.

Fit wise, the 2FO is relaxed with more room than your typical clipless shoe, and at the end of a long day riding you don’t let out a sigh of relief when you take your shoes off. Walking about is pretty much perfect, the cleat is recessed enough that it doesn’t make too much noise, slip on rocks, or damage your lovely timber floors. Sole stiffness is great, too, they do work best with a pedal with some sort of added support like the Shimano Trail, Time ATAC MX4 or Crank Brothers Mallet. A slight amount of flex in the sole gives you a better feel of what is going on with the bike beneath you, where a stiff shoe can often isolate you. Specialized also do a great shoe with a super stiff sole but a slightly relaxed fit and a rubbery grip, the S-Works Trail which we reviewed too.

The shoe laces tuck neatly away from harm under a little rubber loop, but without a lace cover as such (like a Shimano M200) water does get into the shoe pretty easily, but as mentioned before, water drains and dries out nice and fast.

2FO 24

Specialized S-Works Enduro 650B 4

 

2FO
The 2FO sits at the more ‘casual’ end of the spectrum of these four shoes we are currently testing. The Shimano M200, Giro Terranduro, Five Ten Impact XVI and Specialzed 2FO Clip.

It’s clear that Specialized’s 2FO shoes are a product born out of a clever team of designers and the need for a shoe that they have always wanted. Plus Troy Brosnan uses them, he’s fast.

Flow’s Freshies: Giro Terraduro Shoes

The Terraduro is a new in-between’er shoe from Giro; it’s not a full-on downhill shoe, and it’s not a cross-country shoe either. Stiff, but not too stiff, and with a chunky Vibram rubber sole, it’s designed to deliver great pedalling efficiency but not send you into an unplanned groin-tearing ballet manoeuvre should you accidentally step on some wet rocks.

Giro Terradurro 4

First impressions are that the shoe feels stiffer than either the Teva Pivots, Shimano M163 or Five Tens we’ve been using lately. They’ve definitely gone to town on the sole too – there’s plenty of rubber there, and the toe box looks well protected with scuff guards. We like the safety-first colour too, no one will have any excuses for standing on your feet.

Giro Terradurro 2

The Terraduro is available in a men’s or women’s version (sizes 41-47 men’s, 37-42 women’s) and comes with the reasonable price tag of $219 AUD. On the Flow scales they come in at 430g each, which is a bit heavier than the comparable Shimano M163 (370g).

Giro Terradurro 3

Jared Graves has been running these shoes in the EWS and they seem to have done the job there for him, so we’re looking forward to channeling his powers and winning all kinds of glories too. Stay tuned for a full write in a few months.

 

 

Tested: Shimano M163 Shoes

Shimano shoes are fantastic pieces of kit, with particularly legendary durability. But while Shimano have always made great cross-country shoes, and some great downhill shoes, the brand hasn’t really had an offering that was aimed specifically at the trail rider; you could choose either a stiff-soled cross country shoe, or a softer, but much bulkier, downhill shoe and not much in between.

Shimano M163 2

We ran the M163 shoes for the entirety of our recent trip to Queenstown and loved them.
We ran the M163 shoes for the entirety of our recent trip to Queenstown and loved them.

But now Shimano have filled that void, with two new shoes aimed at the trail/all-mountain market (ie. the kind of riding that most of us do day to day). One of these new shoes is the M163 (the other is the M200 – previewed here) – well-priced, understated and beautifully fitted shoes that we’ve been sullying with our stinky leg ends for the last couple of months.

While it’s too early to comment on whether or not this shoe lives up to Shimano’s usual standards of durability, we can definitely deliver a verdict on how this shoe fits and performs.

Shimano M163 (1)
Just riding along.
Shimano M163 5
TORBAL is all about longitudinal flex where it counts.

The M163 uses Shimano’s new TORBAL (Torsional Balance) system, which basically allows the shoes to offer a good degree of longitudinal flex through the midsole so you can roll your foot side to side and get better pedal feel, but retain pedalling stiffness under the ball of your foot. TORBAL, despite sounding like the name of a robotic dog, works like a charm and there’s great support on offer where it counts, but without any of that isolating woodenness that can come from a really stiff shoe.

Shimano M163 7
The opposing direction and offset positioning of the Cross X Strap system is designed to more evenly distribute pressure from the upper across your foot.

The Cross X-Strap and ratchet buckle closure provides a supple and secure fit, which ensures that your foot never feels like its floating or squirming in the shoe – as you roll your foot around in a corner, the upper moves with it, rather than your foot simply slipping about inside the shoe.

Shimano M163 6
The sole is grippy the whole way through, from toe to heel, and the longer cleat slots allow more positions than your standard Shimano shoe.

We particularly appreciate the longer-than-normal cleat positioning slot thingos, which allow you to run the cleat a long way back. Normally on a Shimano shoe, we have the cleat at the very back of its adjustment range, but on the M163s we’re closer to the middle. Having a more rearward cleat position puts less leverage on your ankles if you’re riding aggressively and landing hard. A handy little insert is also provided to plug up the large cleat holes and stop excessive mud or water getting in.

Shimano M163 4
Shimano’s ratchet buckles are strong and don’t get easily clogged like some brands’ buckles. On the M163, the leading edge of the buckle has a protective lip, to deflect impacts that could potentially damage the ratchet.

The M163 is built for a bit of rock scrambling too, with a fully rubberised sole – a blessing if you miss a pedal entry – and slim armouring around the generous toe box as well. Its big tread blocks aren’t super tacky like on some shoes (such as the Five Ten shoes we recently tested), but they are malleable and grippy all the same.

These are really ideal shoes for the masses, and exactly what we’ve been looking for from the big S; put ’em on, ride ’em up, ride ’em down, kick ’em about and repeat for many years.

 

Fresh from Italy, New Saddles and Shoes From fi’zi:k

Fine Italian fashion made into a quality range of ergonomic components, fi’zi:k focusses on providing for the contact points of your ride, like saddles, shoes and cockpit parts.

Flow had a chance to view the 2015 range from fi’zi:k, and this is what caught our attention.

[divider]M3B Uomo[/divider]

Fizik 18
The M3B UOMO is a real sleek pair of shoes.

Fizik 17

With such a supple leather material used in the upper of the shoe construction, the M3B UOMO can conform to the foot for a snug fit, whilst the BOA dial pulls even tension for security. Their first BOA shoe for mountain biking weighs an impressive 350 grams (size 43) and will set you back $349 Aussie bucks.

[divider]M1 Uomo[/divider]

Fizik 10
The flagship shoe from the Italians, the M1 Uomo uses their finest materials.

The M1 shoes are like no other shoe on the market, using unique materials and fine attention to detail, they also take fit to the next level with a heat foldable insole. For $449 they weigh a svelte 380g.

A carbon sole, kangaroo leather and sail cloth make up these shoes and we are dying to test them out.

Included with the M1 shoes are the customisable insoles from 3D Flex. Sold separately for around $110, these insoles use materials with names like: Transflux, Ortholite and Podiaflex to achieve conforming shapes arch support and vibration dampening. Click here for more info on the insoles. 

Fizik 14
The M1 shoes score the ultra technical 3D Flex mouldable insoles.
Fizik 12
Using heat to begin the custom fit process, the soles can be fitted to your foot at your fi’zi:k dealer.

[divider]The 29er specific saddle, f’izi:k Thar[/divider]

f’izi:k address the need for a different saddle position when riding 29er bikes, with the big wheels forcing the rider to sit more towards the back of the saddle. The THAR has rails with 95mm of fore/aft adjustment, 25mm longer than normal. The rail is longer towards the rear of the saddle to help you push it further forward.

The Thar 29″ will start at $139 and go up to $179 for lighter rails.

 

Fizik 2
The That 29″ on the left, with the traditional Gobi on the right. Not the short tail for clearance on longer travel 29ers with the seat down.
Fizik 1
Longer rails, toward the rear for more adjustment.

For more info jump to http://www.fizik.com/en/

Fresh Product: Pearl Izumi 2015 Gear Highlights

Pearl Izumi, the plush apparel guys with the weird name are big in Japan, huge in The States, and is now growing in presence on our shores with new kit like what we see here.

Shimano Australia are ramping it up for 2015 with their distribution of Pearl Izumi. What caught our eye from the new range was a couple pairs of shoes using BOA dials and some new styling loose fitting kit. Check it out.

Pearl Izumi 2015 5
Flow popped by the Young Henrys Brewery in Newtown, Sydney’s inner west to touch and feel the new Pearl Izumi range on display.
Pearl Izumi 2015 3
LTD Jersey, a cross between a tight cross country and a looser fitting trail jersey, this good looker is on our wish list. $125, in a yellow option too.
Pearl Izumi 2015 4
The Summit Short, baggy stretchy and water resistant. You want these shorts when the trails are moist. $155 for these guys, also in black.
Pearl Izumi 2015 9
The premium shoe from Pearl Izumi, the X-Project 1.0 weighs only 340g in size 43. Uses two Boa reel dials for closure. All for a big $399.
Pearl Izumi 2015 6
Two Boa reel dials and a specific amount of flex engineered into the carbon sole to help walking.
Pearl Izumi 2015 7
The X-Project 2.0 shoe for $329 scores a bit more cushion in the sole for comfort and a velcro/Boa enclosure.
Pearl Izumi 2015 8
Pearl Izumi soles are all about the right amount of flex up at the toe for walking, without compromising the stiffness need for pedal efficiency.
Pearl Izumi 2015 10
Cheers, Shimano folks. Size 42 in test shoes please…

Tested: Specialized Women’s Riata and Cascade Shoes

I remember my first set of mountain bike shoes. I picked a ‘best guess’ size and special ordered them from my local bike shop. There were a men’s design, fitted well enough, and worked well in the face of no other wildly different options that small or at that price point. I’ve had knee niggles ever since, a likely outcome given over training, under stretching and my feet swimming around in my shoes.

Specialized have developed research, training and design systems that eliminate experiences for female riders like the one above. Like the women’s saddles we tested recently , our women’s shoe test also began by meeting with Lyndell van de Walle at Cyclery Northside, getting fitted for two new offerings from Specialized: The Riata MTB shoes and the Cascade XC shoes.

[divider]Finding your fit[/divider]

The fit process for a pair of Specialized shoes takes into account two important measurements. The first is a rider’s size, the second is the amount of contact their foot has with the sole of the shoe.

A heat sensitive device measures the two in one go. This limits the fussing around with special ordering and multiple shop visits if the first size isn’t right. (Although, due to brand’s reputation for excellent fitting women’s shoes most shops stock a good range of sizes and styles.)

Behold, the arch-o-meter.
Behold, the arch-o-meter.

Our foot contact measurement indicated a high arch. This signalled that extra support inside the shoe would provide additional stability, an improved pedal stroke and better power transfer.

Three different innersoles, or footbeds, are available as an add-on to a shoe purchase for riders who want to address this area of fit and performance. In our case, we were supplied with innersoles that support a higher arch, which stopped our foot collapsing during the pedal stroke.

The underside of the original footbeds (left) and the ones with increased support (right). The green material is designed not to collapse adding to the longevity of this add-on.
The underside of the original footbeds (left) and the ones with increased support (right). The green material is designed not to collapse adding to the longevity of this add-on.
Side view of the different footbeds. You can see the extra support along the midline of the foot.
Side view of the different footbeds. You can see the extra support along the midline of the foot.

The built up footbeds have led to much better tracking of our hips and knees, to the point where knee pain on the bike and was far more responsive to stretching and maintenance off the bike. The difference is so pronounced we want to put these in our regular shoes as well – except that they’re carefully designed for a pedal stroke, not a foot step.

With size and arch support taken care of, what would the shoes offer on top of this?

[divider]Specialized Women’s Riata MTB Shoe[/divider]

The Riata MTB shoe is an entry level mountain bike shoe. At $129.95 it retails at a price you’d expect to pay for a reasonably supportive running shoe.

Like a similar level of running shoe, the Riata is constructed out of well-researched features delivering fit and performance without going over the top with bells and whistles.

We can't say enough good things about the Riatas - especially for riders new to the sport or who don't want to remorgage their home for a new pair of shoes.
We can’t say enough good things about the Riatas – especially for riders new to the sport or who don’t want to remorgage their home for a new pair of shoes.

The sole provides reasonable traction. There are no studs or softer compound materials to add extra grip, but we didn’t miss this. In fact, we preferred the durability of the more basic sole that is less affected by walking on scratchy surfaces.

Specialized shoes are built up a little along the inside middle of the foot. Whether you buy additional inner soles or not, riders will also benefit from the ‘metatarsal button’ which helps to keep the toes feeling relaxed and ‘longitudinal arch’ support. Again, great for the demands of long rides and a cycling pedal stroke.

The sole of the Riata has a ‘stiffness factor’ of six. This means it’s stiff-ish without being so light, hard and power transfer-y that Specialized would want to use similar materials for Tony Martin’s next time trial bike.

The more basic sole provides ample traction.
The more basic sole provides ample traction.

Of the two pairs of shoes we tested we preferred these for trail riding and gravity enduro – ride days where we valued the flexibility of the sole for extra pedal feel and subtle manoeuvres through the feet. We also preferred the Riatas for these rides as we’re more off and on the bike as they’re better suited for walking. Our heel tended to slip a little but not in a deal breaker way.

We were very impressed by the fit, feel and value for money of these shoes. They offer new riders an affordable, stylish and very functional package.

We were blown away by how far they’ve come from heavy, ‘unisex’, box-like designs of the past.

[divider]Specialized Women’s Cascade XC Shoes[/divider]

There aren’t many companies offering a high end women’s specific XC shoe. The carbon soled, fancy-strapped, shiny, pro-looking Cascades are in fact a model down from the even more blinged out Specialized Women’s S-Works race shoes.

We were excited about testing them, but then devastated when they didn’t seem to fit. They’re so snug, stiff and efficient that, at first, matched to our broad feet they just seemed to cause blisters and cramps.

The women's Cascade XCs. Sleek, supportive, fast.
The women’s Cascade XCs. Sleek, supportive, fast.

We were surprised about this given our success with other models in the Specialized range, but soon realised it wasn’t the shoe that was causing the problem, but the shoe combined with our broad, high arched feet and the extra bulk of the add-on green footbeds we’d inserted.

After a month of breaking in the shoe with the original, less built up footbeds we were able to switch back to the support of the green inserts and have blissfully remained blister and cramp free since. In fact, the Cascades now feel akin to a pair of stylish, powerful slippers. Cinderella eat your heart out.

The Cascades do away with some of the extra material that adds room and bulk in the Riatas. Two Velcro straps and a replaceable ‘Boa S2 Snap’ dial pull the top in nice and close.

The Cascade XCs bascially wrap around your foot.
The Cascade XCs bascially wrap around your foot.

Test Specialized WMNS Shoes 3

A carbon sole adds stiffness and shaves weight. The sole also has more traction than earlier women’s shoe designs from Specialized, a welcome addition given they are made for mountain biking after all. Like the Riatas, we were really pleased to see these shoes come in a practical black.

With a stiffness index of 11, five more stiffness-es than the Riatas, these shoes are the pick for transferring power to the pedals. They hold the feet in place well eliminating extra movement and energy loss, but are still as comfortable at the end of an all day ride as they are at the beginning (after that initial breaking in period for our test feet).

A carbon sole positions these shoes at the serious end of the market.
A carbon sole positions these shoes at the serious end of the market.

Like the name suggests, they’re best suited to XC and marathon. We also used them a lot on the road bike during the test period. They’re light, efficient and we prefer the extra float on MTB pedals compared to some road brands. Plus, if we were to spend $350 on a pair of shoes, we’d want to be using them every chance we could!

The Cascades are more than twice the price of the Riatas. In the absence of many competitors on the market, they’re a worthwhile investment for women wanting a high performing, injury reducing, snug fitting pair of kicks.

[divider]Overall[/divider]

We were obviously impressed by these two women’s offerings from Specialized. While some brands still only make a token effort in the women’s shoe department, it’s impressive to see such a comprehensive, innovative and extensive range coming out of this company for female riders at both ends of the sport.

Specialized's womens Riata MTB and Cascade XC shoes.

The fit process reflects the research findings from the design team and adds to the pleasurable ride experience both shoes provide. The impact of a good fitting pair of shoes on injury reduction is something we can’t emphasise enough making either pair a valuable investment if you find yourself riding regularly.

We were surprised by the initial tightness of the Cascades, but it was in fact the fit process that made us think it was worthwhile trying them a little longer – and given how comfortable they became, we’re certainly glad we did.

 

Fresh Product: Shimano XC90 shoes

UPPER

  • Heat moldable Custom-fit Technology
  • Rovenica® ultra-fine fiber synthetic leather
    Supple, lightweight, comfortable with excellent elasticity
    Superior durability and high abrasion resistance
  • Multi-layered moisture control mesh
  • Anti-slip heel lining
  • Low-profile micro-adjust buckles
  • Cross X Strap is optimized for relieving tension on top of foot during push off motion
  • Custom-Fit heat moldable insole with adjustable arch wedge provides support while optimizing heel stabilization

LAST

  • Shimano Dynalast XC secures the foot into the ideal ergonomic position for a more efficient up-stroke

SOLE

  • XC race specific outsole is lightweight, ultra-stiff and combined with a lower stack height provides superior energy transfer and efficiency
  • Ultra-stiff carbon fiber midsole shank and outsole plate
  • Mud-shedding polyurethane outsole lugs
  • Low-profile design spike plugs, with optional metal toe spikes for increased traction
  • Available in half sizes and wide last
  • Best matched with PD-M980, PD-M985

Fresh Product: Five Ten Freerider Vxi shoes

Introducing Five Ten’s new Stealth Contact outsole that allows you to pull, push and adjust, the new Freerider Vxi is designed for casual all-mountain flat pedal riders to the aggressive downhill racer.

Riders will instantly understand the advantage of the new Contact outsole that’s treadless under the foot’s ball for float. The new Freerider Vxi has a breathable, abrasion-resistant upper, a new performance-fit, and an asymmetrical welt that provides extra crank-side durability.

Tested: Louis Garneau T-Flex LS-100 Shoes

If you haven’t tried a pair of shoes with BOA Technology (dial adjustment, in place of velcro) enclosures, you’re missing out. These shoes from Louis Garneau offer the best of what a BOA dial can do to the fit of a shoe, in a super supple and close-fitting shoe.

The heel cup features a grippy material to combat slippage, and works really well.
The heel cup features a grippy material to combat slippage, and works really well.

The fit of these shoes is their best asset, primarily due to the supple material used in the shoe’s upper, and the BOA dial. They are quite soft to touch and it reflects when not fitted to a pair of feet, they lose their shape. But when on, they conform to said feet with upmost comfort. The fit is quite narrow around the toes, which suited us well.

1OISX

They are not the stiffest shoes out there at all though, which is a bit odd as they are positioned quite high in the range of Louis Garneau shoes. The carbon sole may be made from the stiff material, but the whole shoe bends around the pedals quite a lot when riding. Mated to a trail style pedal, like the Shimano Trail or Crank Bros Candy, helps to keep a solid connection between the foot and pedal a sold one.

These are the type of shoes that at the end of the day when you take them off, it feels like you haven’t been wearing rental ice skates all day.

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The removable carbon blade thing on the outside of the sole does next to nothing, and we were perplexed by it’s intention to increase stiffness of fitted, or increase ventilation if removed.

Gimmick? We think so. Removing the carbon blade reveals ventilation holes.
Gimmick? We think so. Removing the carbon blade reveals ventilation holes.

We’ve been using this shoes for many months now, and really love the slipper like fit, when compared to some of the rock hard shoes available. All day rides and standing around in these puppies is a pleasure, and when riding the give in the sole allows you to feel the pedals underneath you rather than isolating yourself from the bike.

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T-Flex stands for toe flex. A bendable section up the front of the shoe aids walking about. They are super comfortable to stand in.

The T-Flex shoes will suit a rider looking for a softer and supple fitting shoe that you can walk about it and wear all day, but perhaps not stiffest shoe for hard nosed racing.

Tested: Specialized S-Works Trail Shoe

More options than ever are available to the widening variety of mountain bikers, gone are the days of just the polar opposites of downhill and cross country apparel.

With more riders seeking a balance of the best out of all genres in a high performance package, it is no wonder Specialized and many other brands are producing gear that hits that sweet spot, with a ‘trail’ oriented shoe.

Subtle, rugged with a race worthy stiffness sole.
Subtle, rugged with a race worthy stiffness sole.

Specialized’s S-Works shoes are spotted on the fit feet of so many elite cross country and marathon riders, and not just because they are sponsored, because they are some of the best. Specialized are in our mind one of the leaders of the footwear and apparel game. Their Body Geometry gear is highly regarded, a Flow favourite, and above all, super comfortable and durable.

Kick a rock, stump or a bucket and your foot digits will be fine.
Kick a rock, stump or a bucket and your feet digits will be fine. Protection where it counts.

We tested the premium level S-Works shoe earlier this year, and loved them. New for next season and replacing the S-Works EVO shoe is the S-Works Trail, subtle in colour in styling and only 60 grams heavier than the S-Works race shoe.

With added toe protection, a high ankle guard and a softer rubberised sole, these shoes are built with a few key things in mind. Protection, durability and walking ability.

A high ankle pad
A high inside pad section will help protect from the swingarm of a full suspension bike whacking your ankle where it really hurts.

We’ve worn these shoes on dozens of rides and love them to bits, but one thing perplexes us. Why would Specialized use their stiffest carbon sole in shoes that are supposed to be good for walking in? The shoes fit great, but pushing our bikes up the trails or walking about makes our heels slip and rub the back of the heel cup, and after a few hours it begins to hurt. Plus, a slightly softer sole may detract from pedal efficiency slightly, but what can be gained in ‘feel’ is what we seek in a trail oriented shoe. Combining a trail style pedal with more support (like a Shimano Trail, or Crank Bros Candy) allows your to feel less isolated and use your feet to steer the bike a little bit more. We would have loved the Trail shoe to have a slightly less stiff sole.

Specialized's highest grade carbon sole, slim, light and as stiff as a board.
Specialized’s highest grade carbon sole, slim, light and as stiff as a board.

The dual BOA dials are a serious highlight, with the snug tension so easily adjusted whilst riding, and fitting and removal of the shoe is quick and easy. The ankle protection was neither here nor there for us in particular, but we know many riders who bang ankles on the seat and chainstays of dual suspension bikes all the time, and it sure can hurt. If this is an issue for you, the ankle protection provided with these will alleviate that worry.

BOA dials, we love their quick and easy adjustments. Plus the way the wires pull tension across the top of the foot makes for a snug fit with less tight spots.
BOA dials, we love their quick and easy adjustments. Plus the way the wires pull tension across the top of the foot makes for a snug fit with less tight spots.

Clambering up rocks, or dabbing your foot down on tricky climbs is great also, the rubber sole doesn’t slip on hard surfaces, where the usual high end shoes will make you do the splits.

Ultimately, we will be wearing these shoes more than anything, but there is the Specialized Rime shoe that is even more flexible for walking in, as a good option.

The Trail shoe fills the gap between a super relaxed skate style shoe like the Teva Pivots and the flashy race ones like our new fluorescent green Scott Premium shoes nicely.

Fresh Product: Teva Pivot Clipless Shoes

Life can be an uphill battle – especially on a mountain bike, so we designed our first-ever clipless shoe to help ease your ascent.

It’s light, comfortable and supportive through the full pedaling motion – and it works (and looks) great off the bike, too. The cleat attachment is compatible with all major 2-bolt attachment systems, and you can quick-adjust it through the sole from above (so you can do it while it’s attached to the pedal). A hook and loop strap keeps your laces out of the chain, and its sneaker styling means it looks great with shorts – and terrible with spandex.

This is a men’s model with extended sizing for women and children. We recommend women order 2 full sizes down, e.g., women’s size 8 should choose size 6.

T.I.D.E. GRIP

  • Our Spider365 Rubber sole will hold its grip in all kinds of environments.
  • PedalLINK Clipless outsole for all mountain riding.
  • Cleat attachment is compatible with all major 2-Bolt cleat systems.

T.I.D.E. COMFORT

  • Optional Cleat attachment from top to protect hardware (compatible with Crankbrothers® and Shimano® SPD® cleats).
  • Composite midsole plate for pedaling efficiency and walkability.

Comparison: Shimano vs Bontrager Shoes

Designed specifically for riders with X-factor, Shimano’s SH-WM82 and Bontrager’s RL Mountain WSD race shoes will have you putting the foot down with confidence in a range of performance-demanding riding scenarios.

Flow tested the shoes head-to-head and read on to see which one will suit you better.

Shimano SH-WM82

Shimano SH-WM82 mountain bike shoe.

Positives: Light and stiff for good pedalling efficiency! Deep tread recesses the cleat.
Negatives: That hot pink trim ain’t for everyone. Synthetic upper is less malleable.

Contact: Shimano Australia
Price: $189
Weight: 315g each or 630g/pair (size 39)

We loved the SH-WM82’s ski boot-style ratchet buckle across the arch/ankle, with its two buckle-levers. The larger lever lifts to tighten the strap; and smaller top lever presses to loosened the strap. This escape lever was a real favourite, especially when it came to post-ride shower queues. But the real beauty of this fancy lever system is that we could operate it on the fly, meaning we could tweak the shoe-fit without having to pull over.

We loved the racket buckle.  It was comfortable and worked well.

The sole on the SH-WM82 is good and stiff, with no torsion. This gave us a solid contact point with the bike, one that did not absorb any of that force we put into our pedal stroke, and we could feel variations in the bike’s handling and the track surface through the shoe. And hint of lateral bend, barely detectable to the naked eye, meant our feet were not left fighting to bend against the shoe through every stride or stroke.

The WM82’s hardy rubber sole has a well spaced, high-profile tread that rises above the cleat (we used the SM-SH51 SPD), and the benefits of this arrangement were immediately clear. The ‘recessed’ cleat meant we could clomp around HQ and even down the stairs to the car without going for a skate.

Placing the cleat a little lower than the sole makes on-foot journeys a little safer.

Out on the trails, the combined effect of the sturdy, non-slip sole and the deep tread meant we could walk over rock and through sand, mud and damp grass with confidence – especially useful at this year’s Scott24, when the rain played havoc with track conditions, and while we were filming on the rocky trails around Alice Springs.

The WM82s have held up well to two months of abuse on the sharp rock and gritty sand of our test tracks in Alice Springs and on the dust and rock in Darwin and the mud trails of the Scott24 in Canberra. (If mud is a regular feature in your riding diet, you can get spikes for the WM82 from any Shimano stockist.)

After two months, the synthetic leather shows no tears or general wear, and it shines up well with a quick wipe with a damp cloth. The soles have a bit of rock scuff – around the spike holes – but this is pretty good compared to the amount of wear we usually see on shoes worn on the trails around Alice Springs, where the rocks are super-sharp.

The Shimano Wm-82 on the trails of Alice Springs.

 

Bontrager RL Mountain WSD

Bontrager RL Mountain WSD mountain bike shoe.

Contact: Trek Bikes Australia (Bontrager)
Price: RRP $169
Weight: 310g each or 620g/pair (size 39)

Positives: Light shoes with stiff soles, comfy leather upper and stylin’ looks.
Negatives: Cut very low around the ankle. The ‘two-position’ Micro Fit buckle is a pipe dream.

Bontrager’s latest race offering for women, the RL Mountain WSD, scored high in style points and comfort, with good energy-transference capabilities, and shares many of the features to be found in Bontrager’s pro-level race shoes.

Like the Shimano SH-WM82, the Bontrager RL Mountain has two velcro straps along the foot and a ratchet-style fastener around the ankle to help the shoe clamp around your foot. As well as looking high-tech, the RL Mountain’s two-in-one silver ratchet buckle held firm and offered a snug fit, though the split-unit catch in the buckle seemed to deliver more gimmickry than subtle ‘two-position’ Micro Fit adjustment.

The RL’s silver ratchet buckle held firm and offered a snug fit.

Fit-wise, the RL Mountain differed from its Shimano cousin in that it was cut lower around the ankle, and the heel cup felt a trace shallower, with a narrower general shape and a slightly more pronounced arch. For us, this amounted to less surface area for the shoe to grab our foot with and a trace more wriggle room around the ankle while we were pedalling. But the leather upper and tongue on the RL Mountain did give a more subtly moulded fit than could be achieved by the Shimano’s synthetic upper, making the Bontrager a comfier choice for those longer rides. And shucks, if you have the Cinderella hoof this shoe is made for, you’d be winning in the style stakes because the Bontrager RL Mountain WSD is one good-looking clodhopper. Black with aqua-blue and silver – we love it!

The Bronze Series Composite sole was not quite as grippy on rock as its Shimano cousin, and the tread’s tighter, more intricate tread pattern collected a few Central Australian pebbles under the ball of the foot. But overall, the Bontrager RL Mountain held up to the test conditions we stomped and pedalled it through in Alice and on the dried-out, sandy clay trails around Christchurch, and the silky dust of an intemperately warm Mt Buller in Victoria.

A good sole, but also a stone collector at times.

After two months of steady hammering, the RL Mountain shoe still looks sharp. The buckle on this shoe has fewer scratches and dings than its Shimano counterpart, and the leather upper and synthetic rand has few if any abrasions. On the under-side, there are a few cuts under the toe, but generally the sole shows little wear – the RL Mountain is still revving to go.

Collecting dust, for testing purposes.

The Verdict

The Shimano SH-WM82 and the Bontrager RL Mountain WSD race shoes have been cut to fit the female foot, with a narrower, lower-volume toe boxes and shallower heel cups, and offer a snug fit, if the shoe fits, of course.

Matching the right shoe to your foot shape and size is the key, though. If you’re looking to add one or both of these race shoes to your riding kit, try them on later in the day, when your feet have walked a few kays. ‘Cause let’s face it, for most of your racing, you’re not going to be daisy-fresh.

The bottom line: these two high-performance race shoes are topnotch. But epic backcountry tour riders and comfort queens beware: these podium-hoppers are not for you. Stiffer than that proverbial banana in the pocket, the Shimano SH-WM82 and the Bontrager RL Mountain WSD offer good connection with your bike, improved pedalling efficiency and plenty of opportunity to adjust your shoe-fit without interrupting your cadence. Put a pair on and get ready to put a foot on that podium!

Specialized S-Works MTB Shoes

Take a look around the ranks of the elite National Series cross country field and you’ll see S-Works shoes on an inordinate number of feet. It’s not without reason – these are fantastic shoes, and not just for racing either. We’ve been running these shoes for almost six months now, and in that time they’ve established themselves as our go-to shoe for all kinds of riding.

While there is a tougher EVO version of the S-Works MTB shoe, we’ve been surprised by the versatility of the the standard S-Works shoes – they’re more than just a race item.

The first things you notice about the S-Works shoes is their weight (not much of it, at 340g/shoe) and the fact they use a Boa lacing system for the two upper closures, rather than traditional buckles or straps.

Lightweight is paramount in race shoe, but only if it’s achieved without sacrificing stiffness, and the S-Works shoes delivers here too; the FACT full carbon sole is rock solid.

The Boa laces are brilliant! They’re low-profile, don’t gum up with mud and have very fine adjustment to get the ideal fit.

The Boa laces really are cool; they use a nylon cable, tightened or loosened simply by turning the dials. You can make very fine adjustments to the fit, so it’s easy to get an even fit across the whole shoe, and the dials are low-profile so you’re unlikely to smash them off on a rock as can happen with some larger buckles. If you do happen to damage a dial, they’re replaced easily, and the torn key to remove them is supplied too. The dials seem impervious to mud as well, so you’ll never have that frustrating situation of battling to undo a mud-filled buckle again. We did manage (somehow) to put a nasty crimp in the cable of one lace, which means it doesn’t loosen off entirely smoothly, but it’s a minor issue.

With a rubberised mid-sole it’s not such a drama if you slip a pedal. While the tread blocks on our shoes are starting to show a bit of wear, they are replaceable if need should arise.

We’ve used these shoes for a lot more tramping about the bush than they’re really designed for, and consequently the tread blocks are starting to show a fair bit of wear. Fortunately the tread blocks are all individually replaceable. The carbon sole is scuffed up, but it’s purely aesthetic, and we’ve recently noticed a tiny amount of separation between the upper and the carbon sole. It’s only a millimetre gap at the moment, but we’ll keep an eye on it. Still, given how we’ve trashed these shoes, using them for all-mountain riding on seriously rocky trails, well outside their intended purpose, we’re very impressed with the durability. The materials and construction quality are clearly top notch and worthy of the S-Works tag.

For a full-carbon soled race shoe, these guys are quite forgiving of sloppy pedal entry. If you do happen to miss the cleat when engaging, the tread blocks in the middle of the sole mean you’re not likely to have your foot slip right off the pedal.

We do wish these shoes came in half sizes too, as our foot sits just in between the 42 and 43 Euro sizes. They’re a tiny, tiny bit large, but because the Boa system is so good and secure, it has never been an issue.

While these are an expensive shoe, the pricing is in line with high-end offerings from other brands, and we struggle to think how these shoes can be improved upon. We’ll report back in another six months to tell you if the durability is a good as we expect.

 

Teva Links Mid

For years the flat pedal crew, ourselves included, have had two options – wear 5.10s or hack our shins up. The trouble is however, some find 5.10s that little bit too grippy.

Enter the Links Mid. Mr in-between, light, grippy (but not too grippy) and stiff soled. If you aren’t so mid-top inclined, Teva also offer a standard lower cut Links shoe. [private]

Upon first impressions, we were a little worried that the Links would be not too dissimilar from riding in standard skate shoes, but after a little testing we were really impressed. In terms of grip, the sole isn’t nearly as soft as 5.10’s sticky rubber compound, so the Links relies a little more on it’s sole pattern to dig into the pins of the pedals. For testing we coupled the Links to a set of Deity Decoy pedals and the pins matched to the sole pattern of the Links really well.

With that said, they’re still not quite as grippy as 5.10s, but provide sufficient traction when things get a little bumpy and as an advantage over 5.10s they make the task of adjusting foot position much simpler.

Over an extended testing period the Links have worn really well, durability on these suckers is definitely a plus. They are super comfy and we have worn them for a few day long downhill epics and can happily report no dreaded blisters come days end.

If you’re after an alternative to 5.10s, or even due for a new pair of flats, definitely take newcomer Teva into consideration.

To find a Teva dealer near you call Teva on Ph: 02 8306 3332

Testing out the Teva’s on the local downhill trail.

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Bontrager oven crispies

From the stiff Silver Series Carbon sole and the super-adjustable Micro-Fit buckle to the attention to detail coarse anti-slip heel fabric, there’s a lot to love about the RXLs. [private]

Remembering our old 2011 RXLs, it’s easy to appreciate the changes to the new 2012 model. Now a strip of fabric is fitted externally, from toe to heel cup, just above the sole and upper join to improve the shoe’s scuff resistance in this high-wear area.

Pop them in the oven for a snug and toasty fit.

Additionally, the RXL now comes with a custom heat-molded footbed. We had visions of the RXLs molding like a carbon skin suit to our heels, where they would always at the ready, never to be taken off. Turns out it’s just the sole inserts that are moldable, though they still left us with a super-snugly tailored but comfortable fit.

Aussie shoe-cooks take note, though: the RXL’s how-to sheet is one instruction manual that you must read carefully. I almost fired up the oven to 200ºC instead of 200ºF! Talk about an expensive carbon tax.

Overall, the RXLs offer the perfect fit for cross country racing and for high-speed reps to get away from those pimps who will want your shoes. But even if they do get their hands on your slippers, good luck to ‘em. These babies are custom molded! [/private]