Apart from the flip flops (I love flip flops), I opted for just one pair of shoes to wear on the bike.
Bontrager RL Shoes
£69.99 from Evans Cycles.com
I chose these shoes in the end simply because they were the most comfortable and cheapest shoes I could find. I wanted a pair of shoes that were stiff and ideal for cycling, while at the same time being comfortable enough to wear all day long. The problem I found with the Specialized Experts is that they tended to pinch a bit after a long day in the saddle, let alone several days or months.
The Bontrager’s are almost too loose – but for cycling like this where speed isn’t everything, I’m glad to have the additional comfort.
They’ve lasted well over 8000km so far, although it does look like the material might slowly be wearing down. Hopefully they last a good few thousand km more before I need to consider replacing them….
Mavic Alpine MTB Shoes
£71.99 from ChainReactionCycles.com
These are a great choice for cycling, but their added advantage is that they can easily be used as casual off-bike shoes. They have a stiff plastic sole, and a laces-velcro combo to keep them snug.
The best part about them though in my eyes is that the cleats can easily be removed and a cover put on – a great compromise between cycling shoes and casual shoes.
I briefly considered the Specialized Sonomas, but they have the rather strange feature of needing to cut out part of the sole to fit the cleats. What you’re meant to do after that, I’m not entirely sure.
I used these shoes while touring in Japan, and like these for use on shorter tours when I know I’ll be spending a fair amount of time off the bike.
On Choosing Shoes…
So I’ve “done a Stu” and bought up every conceivable size shape and make of shoes I could get my hands on, in the attempt to find the perfect pair of round the world cycling shoesmuch in the same way as I’ve tried with the saddle.
The options out there are truley overwhelming, so it’s nigh on impossible to be able to try them all out…. And so follows my findings…
Specialized BG Expert MTB Shoes
£129.99 from Evans.co.uk
I’ve started out with the Specialized Expert shoes, which I bought a couple of years ago full of trepidation and anxiety about entering the world of cycling shoes. From the outset there were many many questions – right size, too long, too tight, too loose. And because they’re BG shoes, they then have the combinations of different insoles, inserts etc etc.
The result is that they’ve been a great pair of shoes, but I’ve always been concerned whether they’re right for my feet, and whether they have the right fastenings.
I could probably do with a size up, as I often find that I have numb toes after a long ride, or that the width is just a little too narrow for my elephant like feet…
That said, they feel like they do the job of transferring power to the peddles – stiff carbon soles, no heel lift, amazing ventilation and above all very hardwearing. They’ve been in more than their fair share of accidents, and even when I’ve emerged broken and bloody, they have survived.
The most irritating thing I’ve found about these shoes is that they seem to have changed their design recently – the toe end no longer has a protective plastic covering, which may make no difference whatsoever, but leaves me thinking that there’s a better chance of the shoe falling apart….
Incredibly hard wearing
Strong sturdy toes
Tight (due to sizing?)
No ratchet system (don’t know if this is an issue)
Slight change in design..
So the other shoes I’ve thought about…
Sidi Dominator 5, mega and standard.
I came across these purely based on the number of positive reviews I heard about them, so bought a couple of pairs to try out. The great thing (I thought) about Sidi is that they offer a “Mega” range, which means extra wide for flat foots like me.Ttried out a 46 Mega, and a 46.5 standard, and found that the 46 felt bigger (a testament I suppose to the width of my feet).
Although these shoes look nice, from the outset I was a bit indifferent toward them – they lack any ventilation, their soles are stiff (but not carbon stiff), and above all their ratchet system is irritating. If you eventually manage to align the strap into the hole (easy to get the angle wrong or slide it under the ratchet altogether), then the number of levers means its incredibly fiddly and unreassuring to adjust (felt constantly like they would break). If I weren’t dependant on these shoes lasting me the next two years without problems, I’d probably go for them.
I also found that when wearing them throughout the day in the office (a SIDI on one foot and my Experts on the other), they felt about the same in terms of comfort (bearing in mind the Experts have been thoroughly broken in by now). But the SIDIs seemed to have a very small area in contact with the ground, akin to walking on geta or something, making me worry that I’d eventually twist and snap off my ankles.
I did however, like their Velcro straps, which have little teeth to engage with each other for extra security. Their extra wide size also made them the most comfortable “decent” cycling shoes I’ve ever tried on, with plenty of room for my oversized toes…
Aside from that though, there was little to excite me about these shoes. Yes, perhaps my only opportunity to own Italian shoes that are worth more than my old car, but that’s not going to keep me going on the cold days when I’m miserable in the saddle.
I tried the RXL and RL MTB shoes in the store, and instantly found that both the 46 and 47 of the RLs were incredibly comfortable, to the point where it felt like I was wearing my trainers (which are currently disintegrating in what looks like a heap of fabric). Not reassuring.
The RXLs though they only had in a rather tight 46, and so with the size up. My first impressions were that although they looked great, they still weren’t that comfortable to me. The length was too much, and tighting up the straps too much just left me with the same issue of feeling like my feet might drop off and I wouldn’t even notice.
The ratchet was the best one I’ve tried so far, smooth, easy to adjust and use, nice strong reassuring movements. But still, with every move my heels moved around and left me feeling unconfident. Even the fronts of the shoes made me feel that they would offer little protection against such pains as stubbing your feet against bed posts or similar….
It’s a shame, because I really wanted to like these too…
So what’re my options? Well, having thought about it, I may be better off with no ratchet strap at all. As Dave’s pointed out, such a strap is a lot more prone to breaking then purely Velcro straps (I guess), and the Experts are tried and tested, so perhaps a size up will provide me the comfort and drive I need…