Friday, 30 March 2012

New Shoes!

I got a new pair of shoes today, delivered from Wiggle. Ever since I first used SPDs (for those who don’t know what they are, here’s an explanation), I’ve used the same make and model of shoe, the Specialized Tahoe. These are a shoe that I can comfortably walk around in, can cake an SPD cleat, and have laces.

Laces are actually a bit of a pain at times in cycling shoes. I always end up eventually with the right hand lace shorter than the left due to chain wheel/lace interaction. I suppose the problem is self-limiting, but it’s annoying to have one short lace and one long. The old pair had also been through a lot - I bought them a few days before the 2010 Border Raid 600 - so have done nearly 12,000 miles with my feet in them, in all weathers.

Lara had told me that her Sidi boots were very good, so I did a bit of looking, and found the 2011 model of the Sidi Five XC shoes on Wiggle. These were quite a bit cheaper than 2012 shoes on offer, so I picked the same size as my Specializeds, and they arrived today.

The most obvious thing about them that differs from my existing shoes is they have a much firmer sole. I had been warned about Sidi shoes being quite narrow, but I found they fit ok for me. They feel more snug than my Tahoes, but the adjustability of the closure is good. These shoes have two velcro straps and a ratchet buckle system that allows you to adjust the tightness of the top strap. I had to read the instructions to work out how to use that - it’s easy once you’ve done that though, but I think this is the first time I’ve had shoes that require you to RTFM!

I fitted a brand new pair of cleats, trying to mimic as closely as possible the same position and alignment as on my existing shoes. Tricky given the difference in shape. When I put them on for the first time, I went over on my ankle a couple of times while trying to balance on one foot whilst putting the second shoe on. The bumps on the sole are much narrower than the sole on most shoes, and this took a bit of getting used to.

There was a bit of adjustment when getting going on the bike - clipping in felt slightly strange with the different shoe. The hard plastic sole also means more care is needed when not clipped in, as a foot can slip off more easily. It was made a bit trickier when riding fixed as you can’t freewheel to clip in. But I got used to it quite quickly.

The feel of these shoes, when riding, is very different to the Tahoes. The hard sole and snugness of the shoe mean that it feels like power is being delivered to the pedal far more efficiently. It almost felt like a new bike, and I was cycling quite briskly. I headed out of from work, through Cambridge to the east and looped via Swaffham Bulbeck, heading south then back home via Six Mile Bottom (hur hur) then through the Wilbrahams and Fulbourn. Probably about 20 miles, and my average speed was probably 17mph. Not setting the world alight, but it felt effortless. My feet felt slightly more constrained in terms of lateral (twisting) motion. I think part of this is that the sole protrudes more so there is some friction against the pedal. This is a good thing from the point of view of cleat life since walking on the shoes doesn’t seem to be damaging the cleat, unlike with the old pedals.

I find myself wondering if my power output is increased with these shoes. Certainly, they feel like they are more efficient. I guess that the more rigid sole should be more efficient, and also the ratchet allows better control of how tight the shoe is. My right foot is slightly bigger than the left and I did feel by the end that it was compressing very slightly at the arch. Hopefully a few more days’ riding and they’ll be broken in. I hope so: next weekend I’ll be riding an Easter Arrow for my Brevet 25,000 award. One reason I bought these shoes this week was that the Tahoes were hardly used at all when I rode the Border Raid 600k, and the shoe was digging into my instep for the duration of that ride, which was very uncomfortable. These shoes don’t feel like that will be a problem, though.

I’m very happy with these shoes so far, and now I’m wondering why I didn’t try something different sooner!

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