Wil Tests & Reviews The Ride Concepts Powerline
Alongside established players including Five Ten, Shimano, Giro and Specialized, Ride Concepts is the freshest pair of feet to walk into the room. Having launched just two years ago, Ride Concepts differs from those other brands since it is focused solely (geddit? Ohhhhk, I’ll let myself out…) on mountain bike footwear and nothing else. The Tahoe-based company hasn’t exactly wasted any time since its arrival either. A quick glance at the current range shows 16 different models across Men’s, Women’s and Youth specific shoes. That’s a lot of choice for any brand, let alone one that didn’t even exist when Shimano launched 12-speed XTR.
Most of the Ride Concepts shoes are of the flat pedal variety, and the Powerline sits at the top of that particular tree. It’s a premium flat pedal shoe that’s designed for All Mountain and Enduro, and it’s also one of just two shoes in the range to feature the softest and stickiest rubber compound called DST 4.0 MAX GRIP (apologies for shouting, but it is an American brand after all).
The Powerline is available in three different colour options, and in sizes from US 7 (EU 39.5) up to US 13 (EU 47). Ride Concepts also makes a women’s specific version, which is called the Skyline. The Skyline uses a lower volume LAST with a narrower heel, and comes in smaller sizes.
To see how the Ride Concepts Powerline shapes up against the competition, I’ve been riding a pair of the latest generation shoes for the past three months. Here’s how they’ve held up so far.
Fit & Sizing
Depending on the brand, I’ll typically wear a size EU 44 to 45. Conveniently, Ride Concepts (RC) actually offers a EU 44.5, which works out as a US 11. As other reviewers have commented elsewhere, the fit on RC shoes is pretty true to size. They have a medium width and volume – a bit narrower than a Five Ten shoe, but quite similar to Specialized, Bontrager and Shimano.
The Powerline is a mid-top shoe, with more coverage around the inside ankle and a deep moulded heel cup that gives you a secure in-the-shoe feel. Compared to RC’s more trail-oriented shoes, the Livewire & Hellion, the Powerline has a slightly wider toe box and a bit more volume overall, making it suitable for those who ride in cold conditions or who just prefer wearing thicker socks.
They’ve got a high quality seamless upper, which uses a full lace-up construction. I like laces. It’s easier to fine-tune the shoe’s fit with laces compared to a shoe that uses Velcro straps or BOA dials. For someone with a low-volume foot like mine, laces allow you to snug the shoe up more evenly, and more comfortably. I never had the laces slip during use, and there’s a neat elastic guard for securing the flappy bits so they don’t end up snagging your chainring.
A large section of padded mesh over the toe area is designed to increase ventilation, but overall I wouldn’t say these are the airiest option out there. They’re certainly less breathable than my well-worn Shimano GR7s for example. Part of this is due to the long gusset for the tongue, which surrounds the foot with more fabric. That gusset is effective at keeping debris away from your tootsies though, and it gives you a bit more splash protection too.
Thanks to their generous padding, the Powerlines are lovely and comfy – both on and off the bike. The soles are quite thick though and they also have a pretty tall stack height – I actually had to lift my saddle height a touch with these compared to other flat pedal shoes I’ve been using lately.
Part of the comfort comes from the padded footbeds, which use D3O inserts at the heel and forefoot to provide a little more shock-protection. There’s also a thin D3O insert hidden in the medial collar to shield your ankles against the crankarms, and a moulded toe cap for when you accidentally karate kick a rock.
Along with a soft EVA midsole, the Powerlines dish out plenty of damping on long, rough descents. Indeed the harsher the trail, the more comfortable they feel compared to stiffer and thinner shoes. On big alpine terrain, I found my feet were less fatigued after several hours of riding, making multiple days of shuttling and lift-assisted gravity riding more appealing. The flip-side is that there is less dexterity available for your feet, and it’s harder to feel the body of the pedal underneath all that padding. Swapping the footbeds for something firmer and more supportive will bring back a lttle of that dexterity, though for riders who want to feel every edge of their pedals, I still wouldn’t recommend these shoes – they’re too thick and doughy for that.
All that protection and padding also leads to more weight. The Powerlines are pretty chunky at 910g for the pair of my US 11 test shoes. Compare that to just 780g for the Bontrager Flatlines, and 864g for the Shimano GR7s. That might not sound like a big difference, but since shoes are rotating mass, small weight savings add up over an hour or two of trail riding. It’s the same reason why some riders spend up big on carbon crank arms and pedals with titanium axles.
While other shoe brands have partnered with Vibram and Michelin for their rubber outsoles, RC has collaborated with a brand called Rubber Kinetics. This is the same company behind the new range of Goodyear bicycle tyres, and is currently producing all the rubber for RC’s footwear range.
RC uses three different rubber compounds for its shoes; DST 4.0 (softest), DST 6.0 (medium) and DST 8.0 (firmest). Only the Powerline and TNT shoes feature the DST 4.0 compound, which is the stickiest option of the lot. The rubber is then formed into hexagonal tread blocks to provide more biting edges, and this pattern is repeated across the entire sole. The underside of the shoe is pretty flat and consistent overall, not unlike a skate shoe. Personally I’d like to see deeper tread at the toe and heel for better hike-a-bike traction, since the Powerline is a little slippy while trying to push your bike and scramble up steep slopes.
As for grip on the bike, the Powerlines are brilliant. I’ve been using them with Shimano Saints, Funn Funndamentals (basically a DMR Vault ripoff), and OneUp Aluminium flat pedals. I’ve had no issues with sticking to the pedals – the soft rubber clings eagerly to sharp pedal pins, and there’s good friction thanks to those hexagonal tread blocks.
The rubber isn’t quite as gooey Five Ten’s venerable Stealth rubber, though it is stickier than the rubber found on my two current favourite flat pedal shoes; the Shimano GR7 and Bontrager Flatline. That said, while the DST 4.0 rubber is sticky, it can feel a little too springy – whether this is down to the internal padding of the rebound characteristic of the DST 4.0 rubber, I’m not entirely sure, but I did have one or two moments where I actually bounced off the pedal body. Those moments weren’t particularly common though, and the overall traction with these shoes is right up there.
One thing I will say is that the DST 4.0 rubber soles have worn well given how sticky they are. Of course you will get better long-term durability with a DST 6.0 or 8.0 sole, and I’ve also gotten more wear out of my well-loved Shimano GR7s and Bontrager Flatlines. Compared to Five Ten though, the DST 4.0 rubber is definitely the harder wearing of the two.
The Powerlines are a thoroughly comfortable flat pedal shoe that offers exceptional grip and excellent damping on rough terrain. They have solid protection and great vibration damping that’ll suit riders who are looking for comfort for big days out on big terrain.
The thick soles mean they do mute some of the communication between your feet and the pedals, and they’re also pretty weighty. As a result, trail riders will find them a little doughy, so I’d suggest RC’s Hellion shoe for those who want a lighter option. It’s also worth mentioning here that RC is about to update the Hellion with the softer DST 4.0 rubber, so they’ll soon enjoy the same sticky performance as the Powerlines.
Still, for heavy hitters who value protection and high-speed damping, the Powerlines are a terrific option. They’re a particularly impressive shoe given the young age of this company, and there are no doubts in our minds that they can confidently stand alongside the biggest names in the business.
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