Shoes are quite literally the foot soldiers of cycling. They are an essential piece of kit. Anybody that’s ridden in daps with clips and straps will attest to the difference with hard soles and stiff resistance. This point is so important that I’ve used bad poetry to illustrate it.
While cycling in the Loire this summer, my footwear reached crisis point when the entire sole came away from the footbed of my Mavic mountain bike shoes, leaving the cleat as the only point of attachment. It came as more than a mild concern. I was rescued by my club-mates who procured a tube of shoe glue and provided me with a well-loved but still serviceable backup pair. The glue worked so well that I almost forgot all about it, right up until the point when large sections of the tread also started breaking away like a meteor burning up in Earth’s orbit (I’d like to say it’s because I ride so fast, but the truth is less impressive and more prosaic). The shoes in question – a pair of the dependable Mavic Rush – have been subjected to prolonged stints of saturation, hill walking and abuse of all forms, during training for the three peaks cyclo-cross. They have been great servants. But they are undeniably end of life. I plan to celebrate their memory by floating them into the Bristol Channel and giving them a Viking burial at sea.
Queue the successful search for a new pair. And WHAT a new pair; the beautifully made Fizik M4B.
Slipping them on in the shop, was like putting on a comfortable pair of slippers, or at least how I imagine that to feel if I owned a pair. The shoe hugged the contour of my foot and the materials felt cosy. The upper is made from Microtex, the same material that coats their saddles and claimed to be ‘light, good in wet conditions and cleans up well’. After my first cross race in them – our own JIF ‘calfburner’ – I can certainly attest to the first and last bits of that statement and given that some of the course was pretty boggy, probably the middle bit too (a longer review period will confirm).
Particularly impressive is the lacing system. Utilising the BOA closure system – a dial that loosens and tightens the Kevlar cable that replaces laces or straps – the shoe opens and closes swiftly with very little to catch on surrounding countryside obstacles. But perhaps the most noticeable thing was the firm sole. For too long, my abused shoes had provided the platform of a sponge. Moving back to a shoe with great stiffness led to immediate and noticeable performance benefits. Sold! To the man in green.
When assembling my cycling bits I try to look at it as a system. While nothing (NOTHING) improves the system more than great fitness and improved skills*, all the little component parts can improve the efficiency. I think I’ve found my latest little tweak; a turbo charge for the feet.
*Always look at your riding before your kit when you’re looking to improve. Great kit is the icing on the cake and not the cake itself. Of course my riding could improve, but in fairness. the sole fell off the bottom of my shoe 🙂
A modified version of this article also appears on the Cyclopaedia blog pages.
Top image: Wikipedia commons. Viking funeral pyre and Fizik shoes by me.