I realize that my life as a semi-professional bike blogger seems impossibly glamorous. However, that’s only because it is. For example, I recently received a visit from the Shoe Fairy:
Here’s a worse picture taken by me:
They also come with an extra set of laces, in case they take yours away when you get arrested, or you don’t like the color:
In recent years I’ve moved increasingly towards riding with flat pedals, and now generally only use clipless if I’m riding a full-on road bike. (The other pair of shoes I got from the Shoe Fairy are road shoes, by the way, and I’ll report on those in due course.) In summer I wear sandals, if I don’t want my feet exposed I wear Vans, and if it’s cold or wet I usually wear these things, which are in no way bike-specific but are accidentally a good bike shoe:
They’re stiff but not too stiff, the grip is decent, they do a reasonable job of keeping out the cold and wet, and the laces are just the right length that I don’t have to tuck them in.
To date, I’ve never owned an actual pair of dedicated flat-pedal bikes shoes–nor, to be honest, have I felt a strong need for them, since the aforementioned footwears seem to do just fine, and also it seems to me one of the best things about flat pedals is that you don’t need special shoes. Nevertheless, when the Shoe Fairy flitted on by with a sack full of wares I was intrigued, and figured I’d see if I had anything to gain from a purpose-built pair.
Ideally I’d have tested them out on my singlespeed mountain bike, but it’s been raining for like the past three days, so instead I headed out on the weatherized Eye Of The Tiger Bike during a lull in the precipitation:
Here they are on my feet:
You have no idea how hard it was to find a squirrel to take that picture for me.
Here’s what the sole looks like:
The squirrel ran off by that point, and you have no idea how hard it was to contort myself enough to take a photo of the bottom of my own foot.
Here they are on the bike:
Luckily the squirrel reappeared and was willing to help me take an action shot.
[And no, the water bottle is not subliminal advertising, they just sponsor all the local races and were giving them out at Grant’s Tomb, and when there’s a free water bottle on offer you’d better believe I take it.]
I’ve been wearing the highwaters since the weather got colder and I highly recommend them
Anyway, here’s what I think of the shoes after one (1) ride:
I think they look good! Certainly if you were walking around in them nobody would think you were wearing some kind of special footwear for a highly specific sport–I mean, yeah, okay, they might if you’re also wearing the shants, but the sport wouldn’t necessarily have to be cycling, it could also be rodeo clowning.
I ordered my usual size and the fit is right on; my foot isn’t particularly narrow or particularly wide though so I guess take that into account.
After the rabbit runs around the tree and goes in the hole I usually tuck the resulting bow underneath the laces. These have a little elastic strap to tuck the laces under, and it’s easy to do because there’s a little grabby loop on said elastic strap that you use to lift it all up. It’s faster than stuffing it under the crossed laces of your already-tied shoe.
I did very little walking but they felt just fine–a little stiff maybe, and you probably wouldn’t want to wear them if you weren’t riding at all, but I imagine they’d be just fine for an on-the-bike, off-the-bike kind of day.
They’re quite grippy on the pedal. They also feel quite light. While I certainly don’t sit around lifting shoes before heading out a light one does feel nice when you’re riding, and these feel lighter even than the sandals. I’m a toes-out walker and pedaler, so the soles and/or heels of my shoe will often hit my chainstay if there’s a little extra bulk in those areas (like the plastic heel cup on a Sidi), but these didn’t hit it at all. I did feel like I could detect some air coming in around the toe area, which is good, until it gets really cold out, at which point it’s not. But of course these aren’t winter shoes, and of course the same thing goes for your sneakers.
The soles are stiffer than the non-clipless shoes I usually ride in, which was welcome, though the wider your pedal the less I think that matters. Vans are quite flexy; I don’t mind that at all on those big Crank Brothers Stamp pedals, or the long Grip Monarch pedals on my Homer, but on a pedal like this it can be a problem. It’s not about “power transfer,” it’s about your foot being fully supported, and if it’s sort of hanging off the pedal or wrapping itself around it like a monkey paw because your pedal is small and your shoe is bendy then that can result in strain and hot spots, at least in my experience. Anyway, these seem supportive.
It rained steadily for the last quarter of my ride, and while my feet didn’t stay completely dry they weren’t soaked either. The real weak spot for Vans is rain, since suede and canvas just gets waterlogged. So these are better in that respect.
Of course, these are only my impressions after one single ride, and there’s still plenty of time for them to suck. In the meantime though I like them, and I’ll keep wearing them. Hopefully it will be dry enough to get back on the singlespeed soon.