If The Shoe Fits

The fall riding season is an ideal time to enjoy the speed and efficiency of a road racing-style bicycle:

Lately, my favorite road racing-style bicycle has been the so-called “Vengeance Bike,” shown here in the Yonkers foothills:

As I’ve mentioned, my affection for this dated hunk of plastic has taken me by surprise, yet it runs so deep that I’ve even flirted with the idea of trading my beloved Litespeed for it. Indeed, as of yesterday morning, I had not ridden that Titanium Fred Sled since July 9th, when my son and I enjoyed trip up and down the locally famous “River Road.” So I set about correcting that to see what I’ve been missing:

Well, it turns out I’ve been missing a lot. The bike felt good. Like, face-meltingly good:

Also, I’ve been on an all-friction diet for months now, so the Ergo levers were a big change–not because of the indexing or the integrated shifting, but because of the shape of the levers themselves:

This lever design is already over 20 years old and already qualifies as “vintage,” but the contour of the lever blades and all the other little stuff they did to make them feel comfy in the hand was downright luxurious. Then there was the gearing:

Between the Vengeance Bike (low gear of 42×21) and the Normcore Bike (low gear of 42×24) I’ve gotten used to riding road bikes with higher gearing, and even come to appreciate it. So the gearing on the Litespeed (low gear of 34×29, not to mention all those gears) felt decadent–almost too decadent, like when you get in one of those super-soft hotel beds and your head sinks so deep in the pillow you can hardly breathe.

I’m no less fond of the Vengeance Bike, and my preoccupation with friction drivetrains and older bikes shows no signs of abating, but this is undoubtedly my finest road bike.

Of course, semi-professional bike blogging isn’t just about riding vintage titanium bicycles. It’s also about rigorous product testing. As you recall, I’ve been testing a pair of flat-pedal shoes from Pearl Izumi–which, I should note, I’m liking more and more as I wear them. Well, in addition to those, they also sent me a pair of Quest road shoes:

I was in need of a fresh pair of shoes since my beloved Sidis are getting pretty worn:

And my son is now using those sweet Brancale shoes I got awhile back:

So the Shoe Fairy’s arrival was timely.

My current relationship with clipless pedals is that I reserve their use for full-on road racing-style bicycles, and now use flat pedals for everythign else. Presumably I could have had my pick of Pearl Izumi’s Fred shoe litter, right on up to the $425 PRO Air. So why did I choose a $100 shoe that most Fredly types would probably consider “entry level?” Well, because as you might expect from someone who’s been on an all-friction diet, I’m deeply mistrustful of BOA closures, which pretty much all the higher-end shoes seem to have. Years ago, when BOA was a new thing, I was riding with someone whose fancy new S-Whatever shoes failed, and I resolved right then and there to never, ever use it. In any case, working my way down Pearl Izumi’s line, I eventually came to these simple-looking low-tech shoes and figured they’d do the trick.

Anyway, yesterday my new cleats arrived:

[Here I was thinking I could shop online anonymously…]

And for my inaugural ride in my Normcore road shoes, naturally I selected an appropriate bicycle:

Here’s the sole of the shoe:

And here it is from the side:

Until very recently, for the road biking, I had been using Shimano SPD-SL pedals. However, the Vengeance Bike came with Look’s first clipless pedal, and naturally in the spirit of period-correctitude I wanted to ride it with those, so I re-cleated my Sidis appropriately:

Then my neighbor gave me a pair of old Shimano 105 pedals, which I put on the Normcore Bike, since it’s a rolling Shimano 105 museum, and since it uses the same Delta cleat as the Look, being a rebranded Look pedal and all:

Then my son decided he wanted to use road pedals since that’s what all the cool kids at the track do. So I gave him the Brancales and put my Shimano SPD-SLs on his road bike and his track bike. By that point two of my three road bikes were now using pedals that took Delta cleats, so I bought another pair of old Shimano 105 pedals for the Litespeed, since they work well, and you can get them on eBay for about what a pair of cleats costs, and the transition was complete. Now I’m officially using an obsolete pedal standard on all my road bikes–though I can be sure I’ll always be able to get cleats, since Delta has now become the spin bike standard.

As for the shoes, I only have one 20-mile ride on them, but so far so good. It’s tough to argue any road bike shoe looks good, but certainly there’s nothing offensive about these–though the socks may be another story:

Obviously you don’t buy a road shoe with walking in mind, but you also don’t want to bust your ass on the way to the bathroom, and the big rubber heel thingy makes them the most walkable road shoes I’ve ever used:

Alas, the venerable Delta cleat offers no traction whatsoever, but with a modern cleat like the Shimano SPD-SL, which has little rubber grippers, you’d be in pretty decent shape duck-footing it around the charity ride rest area:

Of course, it remains to be seen how long the heel thingy lasts, and it does not appear to be replaceable like the one on the Sidi:

Otherwise, I’m very pleased with the fit and feel, and the only quibble I had was that I could feel the edge of the tongue on whatever that big tendon is that tightens when you lift your foot:

But again, it was minor, and it’s probably just because they need to break in a little. By the way, I also have a similar situation on my right Sidi, but for the opposite reason–they’re too broken in, and the soft edge of the ratchet strap is cracked so the harder part kinda digs into that same area:


But of course that’s replaceable too.

Obviously if you’re a BOA-averse rider who couldn’t care less about crabon soles and shoe weight and all that nonsense shoes like the Sidi Genius are very good investments, particularly because they’re “serviceable.” (As far as I can tell there’s still a model that uses ratchets and Velcro without any dials.) However, so far the Pearl Izumi seems like a very nice shoe, especially for $100. It’s certainly orders of magnitude nicer than the inexpensive shoes I had back in the last century, which seemed about as substantial as a water shoe:

I’ll still keep the Sidis in service and give them a little refurbishment one of these days, but one should always have two pairs of road shoes, and so far these seem like they should work well. I’ll let you know how they hold up.

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