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Friday, June 08, 2018

Review: Sidi SD15 MTB Shoes

The thing about cycling is that it's extremely fashion driven. The last time I bought cycling shoes, Velcro was still the thing. Then when I wanted a pair of shoes that would fit while wearing my waterproof socks for an upcoming tour (yes, I'm expecting rain, why did you ask?), I found that my ancient SIDI shoes (so old that I'd have to drill out the cleats if I wanted to install new ones, but screws and all sorts of things have already fallen out) would fit nicely, but not my newer Pearl Izumis.

Of course, SIDI no longer had the exact same shoes I bought years ago, so I had to settle for the SIDI SDS15s, which were the cheapest available, especially with the REI 20% off coupon. I didn't look very carefully at the shoe, since REI sold any color you wanted, as long as it was black. I did notice that it had some weird lacing system, but I figured as long as it wasn't shoe-laces, it'd be OK.

I was very surprised to discover that the buckling system was a ratchet that's driven by a circular screw-type latch. It took a bit to figure out, but I discovered that I liked it a lot: just like with laces, it was easy to fine tune the tightness and the fit, but unlike laces, it was impossible for any excess length to get caught up in the chainrings (the bane of all cyclists), and while the toe is still Velcro, it doesn't seem to do much.

I was impressed by how comfortable the shoe is to walk in. Now you don't buy cycling shoes to walk in, but when you're preparing to do a long tour with your 6-year old, it's quite likely that there'll be many times in the day when you're going to walk him around town, or maybe even carry him on your shoulders, so walking comfort is a much bigger consideration than it would be for my adult tours, where the expectations would be that I'd get on the bike and stay on the bike for many hours without  break. The shoes do have a higher stack height than my older Pearl Izumis or SIDIs, to I did have to raise my seat a bit to retain the same fit. But that's an easy adjustment.

The biggest issue with the shoes is that there's definitely lower performance compared to my older SIDIs or Pearl Izumis: the sole isn't as stiff. Again, this is the trade off for improved walkability. As touring shoes go, this is probably the precise amount of stiffness you want: stiff enough for cycling without generating hot spots, but not so stiff that you can't walk in them. I think I'd be a much more enthusiastic hiker during my tour in Japan if I'd been wearing these instead of my older SIDIs. For many of my tours which might have a hiking component, I'd ended up carrying separate walking shoes. From that point of view, these save the weight of a second pair of shoes.

It's general advice not to change equipment just before a tour, but I've already put quite a number of fairly intense hours on the shoes. They work. They're not the shoes you'd want to have for a fast century or an enthusiastic club ride, but for touring, I think they'll be perfect.
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