Not a full-blown review, but more of a “this is what I think of them after a couple of hundred kms” – and perhaps more importantly, how is the Bike Tart coping with being a white shoe wearer?…
First point to note with these shoes – they are not as wide as the rest of the Northwave range. I couldn’t help being a bit miffed about this too as that was possibly my most important criteria, comfort aside. They’re not even as wide as the ‘Extreme’ version of the same shoe (which loses it’s ‘Tech’ moniker on account of the fact that it has no dials or ratchets), which was the shoes I tried on for sizing to base my size order on (given that the ‘tech’ version wasn’t available to try on anywhere locally). That said, I can get by with their width. Not ideal, but not awful either.
And on the subject of those ratchets, my least favourite thing about these shoes is exactly that – basically because sometimes the gaps between notches means they’re either too tight or too loose. I find all shoes ratchets suffer the same fate, and it’s exactly why I stuck with the S-Works shoes despite them not actually fitting all that well and having an angled sole which is completely wrong for me*. The boa adjustment is perfect from that perspective.
That said, one thing Northwave have done very well on this shoe is their own take on the boa system. Called ‘Speed Lace Winch’, it’s a carry-over from their snowboard boot – if the truth be told I reckon it’s actually better than the Specialized system as the cord that is used doesn’t kink like the boa wire does whilst also offering the minute adjustments of the boa setup. Just a shame they decided not to use two of them on the shoe really…
There’s a few other neat tricks about these shoes – the whole upper is one piece meaning no irritating joins or stitch edges (one thing that put me off Lake and caused me a bit of discomfort with Bont), and there’s a cat’s tongue / shark skin textured surface on the inside of the heel which helps grip your sock and eliminates heel slippage (although the heel cup is actually pretty good from that perspective anyway). For the Speedplay users, there is also a Speedplay adaptor coming soon for these shoes which will further reduce the stack height of the Speedplay cleat, effectively making them lower than even most Speedplay-specific soles. It’s a shame they haven’t put as much thought into the actual insole itself, but many people (myself included) will disregard the stock insole in favour of an orthotic or adjustable footbed – my own weapon of choice being the eSole.
And the colour? Ok, I’m a convert. I *really* wanted to order the orange and yellow ones just because they weren’t white, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Unfortunately the RadioSchleck-Nissan-Trek ‘black, red & white with a hint of blue’ ones weren’t available either (because, ashamedly, despite the pro team connection I actually really like the look of them). I hate to say it but I ‘get’ the white shoe thing now, and – god damn I hate admitting this – I’m even making our laundry situation a royal pain in the arse by wearing sparkly new white socks with them (nearly all of our washing is otherwise coloureds). Sucked in.
Despite the width not being up to the rest of the Northwave range and the fact that the ratchet can restrict you to a too tight or too loose adjustment, the only shoes I’ve found more comfortable in recent times have been the Giro Factor. Why didn’t I go for those? Well, because Giro don’t offer the Factor (or the velcro-only SLX for that matter) in their ‘HV’ – high volume – wide fitting, meaning they look stupid on me as the velcro strap on them only comes about halfway over. That, plus the colourways aren’t great unless you get the SLX, and then I was less keen because of the velcro strap approach (which is purely a visual thing, sadly).
Despite my general dislike of the look of velcro shoes, I think my next shoes will be just that – it’s the only way to get the adjustability of the S-Works boa (or indeed this new Northwave Speed Lace Winch) without the “we know better so we’re going to put an angle on the footbed” tilt they force upon you*. There’s also a few good points made here by Rich Land about why velcro shoes are a good idea.
Overall, I’m a big fan so far. Sure, I’d prefer them to be just a touch wider – or even just as wide as the rest of their range – but they’ll do as they are, and they’re certainly not uncomfortable despite not quite being wide enough. They look good, clean up easily and have no unbearably annoying features, although I do wish that ratchet was easier to fine tune.
*Seriously Specialized, offer a flat footbed as an option, and I don’t care if you charge me for it!
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