Friday, May 28, 2010

Review: Keen Cycling Sandals

One of my fellow bike club members, Harvey Wong rode around in cycling sandals all the time. The shoes looked very cool (well, Harvey's a pretty cool looking dude anyway), and so I was very excited a few years ago when the local bike shop had a sale on Shimano Men's Cycling Sandal - SH-SD66 (45-46). When I went to the store, however, I was disappointed. I found the sandals too uncomfortable for me to contemplate even wearing. Lisa found that the sandals fit her much better (no, we didn't try the same size sandals), however, so she got a pair.

When Lisa sent her cycling shoes in to get fitted for some orthotics, she rode the sandals full time. At first she raved about how nice her sandals were, and she clearly thought they were cooler and more comfortable, which was the point. But the sandal was so flexy that she had trouble clipping out, which meant that she wouldn't even contemplate riding her single, and it definitely made her decide that she did not want to wear them on the upcoming tour. She first had to flex her ankle to the point where the shoe itself would move, then she'd have to flex the sole to the point where the cleat would dis-engage.

When I saw the REI had a sale on the Keen cycling sandals, I got very excited. We went to the store and I tried on the various different sizes (they come in half size variants, which makes it critical to go to a store to try things on to get a perfect fit). They were very comfortable in the store, but since the store didn't let me stick on SPD cleats to find out how they would engage or dis-engage from the pedal, I had no way to find out except to buy a pair. Except that we were one day too early for the sale. Nevermind, I'll just bring the coupon with me and show the cashier, and maybe she'd let me have it at the sale price anyway. No dice. Well, an IM to a savvy-shopper friend brought me an on-line link (now expired, so here's the shoe with Amazon pricing) that was even cheaper than the REI sale, so there was no way I'd make a special trip just to pick up the sandals. I would have been willing to pay the REI sale price in exchange for the privilege of trying out the shoe in the store, but not full price.

The shoe arrived yesterday, and the first thing I did was to weigh it. It came in at 436g per shoe (with cleats), which is 20g heavier than my SIDI Giau Cycling Shoes! But they are incredibly comfortable, with the straps guaranteeing that I wouldn't have any hot spots on the uppers (I have a couple of bunions that make regular cycling shoes chafe a bit there).

I took them out for a longer test ride today, and the shoes are just about perfect. There's no problem engaging or dis-engaging cleats, and when I get off the bike they are perfectly walkable (though the cleat does still click on pavement). One interesting problem is that the little grooves in the sole actually grab rocks and trap them, so they're not very good for walking on gravel --- after walking through gravel, you'll have a bunch of tiny stones in your sole that you'd have to work off. There's just the barest hint of flex (much less than expected from a sandal, though now that I know the weight I'm just the slightest bit disappointed), though on the upstroke unless you cinch down the sandals really tight you'll get a bit of loose bounce, which should go away as the weather gets warmer. The sandals are easy on and easy off, but by choosing to use a draw-cord as the closure rather than velcro, you still need care: you must tuck the draw cord back into the laces or your chainrings will chew up your draw-cord like nobody's business.

I'll still wear my SIDIs for touring the alps (open toes in cold rain is no fun!), but for casual riding to the store, library, or the occasional ride to the doctor's office will be all done with these. In fact, maybe as I get used to them, I'll be encouraged to ride all over the place and even do long rides with them like Harvey does with his sandals. They certainly aren't losing much in the stiffness department. Recommended.
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