Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mad $'s vacuumed away

In my constant pursuit for perfection with my gear, I've been battling with my shoes and pedals. I've used Speedplay for quite a while now with intermittent interruptions with other companies' pedals. The list has grown to encompass nearly every pedal manufacturer out there: Look, Shimano, Time, Crank Brothers, Speedplay, Bebop...I'm probably leaving a few off.

I've managed to use less shoes, but this year decided to replace my very nappy looking Northwave's with some fresh new kicks. I got Lake cx330c. They are very well made shoes, extremely light, and I love the lacing system. But, the first pair I ordered seemed to be a tad on the short side so I sold those on fleabay and ordered up another pair a half size larger. The length seemed right on these, but after a few rides something still didn't seem right. My foot seemed to slide around inside the shoe, and only stopped if I really cranked the BOA lacing down, but then the shoes felt too tight. I decided these shoes just didn't fit my foot properly.

So, back to the web for more research. I landed on Shimano's website and noticed they had semi-custom footwear - the 310 model. I decided to go try them on at my local chi chi boutique bike shop, Signature Cycles, who also had the custom fit system, and finally cough up the dough for a proper fitting shoe instead of relying on the Internet guess and check system. Upon initial fitting, I decided the shoe felt like a slipper. Could it get even better with the customization?

Having your foot vacuum sealed for a few minutes is not the most pleasurable experience! After various steps of baking parts of the shoe in a small Shimano oven, a hose was attached to the shoe, a bag was placed half way up my leg, a strap latched the bag to my leg, and the vacuum was turned on. Quickly, the air was sucked out and immense pressure was placed on my foot. The pressure gained. My foot hurt. My foot fell asleep. Ah, happy numbness, this isn't so bad. Repeat the procedure on the other foot. Pain, tingles, numbness, bliss.

After all was said and done, I had a visibly tweaked shoe on both feet. My feet felt like they were in a glove now instead of a slipper. It was interesting to see my right foot was clearly smaller in circumference than the left. I never knew this.

Summary: the shoes kick ass. They look pretty good, have an excellent carbon sole, and have the holes drilled exactly where they should be. But, they cost a ton of money. $400 after taxes!!!! Today I rode them for the first time, and I must admit they are far superior to any shoe I've used. There are so many neat little parts to the shoe they are too numerous to mention. I have to list one though - the inside lining. It's like a lint brush; smooth stroking down and very rough going up. This really helps lock the foot in place and even makes the shoes a bit more difficult to remove! The previous Northwave's I had I would've labeled before the Shimano's as good to great since they fit me fine and basically I forgot about them when cycling. Now I must admit they are simply average. They worked. They are for the average Joe.

Since I got new shoes, I decided to give the Dura-Ace pedals a shot again. The Look pedals I recently got for my mountain bike have almost no float, and provide a very secure, locked in feeling. I really like that feeling. The Dura-Ace offer a similar feeling while having an even larger cleat to work with. I've always shied away from pedals that really lock you in to one position, partially because I drank the Speedplay Kool-Aid and believe that they offer "knee saving rotation", and partially because they are simply easier to set up. Worry about fore and aft, who cares what direction they are pointing, just make sure the cleat is on the proper shoe! Well, since I shelled out the $$$ for the shoes, I decided to drop even more $$$ for some retail Dura-Ace pedals knowing I would be looked after at Signature Cycles. They did not disappoint. They cleats seem to be set up perfectly by them, and I was really enjoying the shoe-pedal interface during today's morning ride. Did I finally find the holy grail of pedals and shoes? So far, I think so. But I need a lot more rides to reach a conclusion. One thing's for certain - the shoes are awesome.
On this one you can see how it's curved around the heal. It was not like this before the fitting.

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