The 313g Adidas Race SL road shoes feel like mesh slippers with cleats attached, and at US$175, cost US$75 less than the 315g adiStar Ultras, a serious consideration in our weight- and performance-conscious world.
The German company's design philosophy appears to be "thin is in," evident in the thin mesh upper and barely-there thin alu-carbon sole. This is a blessing or a curse, depending on your foot-bone sensitivity. Since 2003, Mavic has been in charge of developing the cycling apparel, footwear and accessories using the Adidas brand under a license agreement. So, it's an internal group of people in Annecy, France at Mavic who think, create, develop, test, and prototype for the whole range of cycling products with the Adidas logo on.
The first thing I did before mounting the Look Keo cleats was replace the sockliner/insole with my tried and trusted Specialized Body Geometry footbed. My narrow size 46EU/12.5US feet need a bit more support than most sockliners offer. After years of switching brands (Nike, Carnac, Shimano and Lake), my feet have felt best in narrower-fitting shoes.
The closure system on the Race SLs works fine on the upper portion of my foot, but the Fast Strap Custom concept (two Velcro-back bands linked with a quick-zip cord) bunch up the shoe's material and don't offer enough play-around room if I'm wearing thin socks. As winter rolls into northern California, bringing cooler and sometimes wet weather, I'll be wearing slightly thicker socks and booties, making the Race SLs my cool-weather shoes.
I suffered from a bout of hot foot during my maiden voyage, and after readjusting my cleats the second time out, felt like the shoes I and were getting to know one another better. Note: many people benefit from sliding their cleats all the way toward the back of the shoes - give it a try.
Likes and dislikes
I've never cared for a micro-ratcheting closure concept, and have suffered through too many ill-conceived three-strap Velcro designs. The Boa-wire dial system by Specialized is a favourite, so I'm spoiled. But, once you get the right feeling and fit with road shoes, it's quite easy to settle into a quick and easy comfort zone. It's just a bit more tedious with the thick Velcro-backed enclosure found on the Race SLs.
And, the cleat drilling is limited to three-holed systems, which rules out many top-notch pedals. My skinny heels felt right at home with the miniscule heel cups, though, something I've struggled to find until recently.
Overall, performance-wise I was quite pleased with these shoes. I was able to sample the Ultras during the Look USA media launch, and for the differences (carbon versus alu/carbon outsole and micro-ratchet versus Velcro strap closure), it boils down to personal preference. Yes, the mostly silver Race SLs look like Shimano's flagship custom shoes, and there's a black and silver option. Sometimes there are those in the weekend warrior peloton that aspire to be different, and the Adidas Race SLs would make a good addition to your kit.
© BikeRadar 2007