Two of pro cycling’s biggest teams, Omega Pharma Lotto and Leopard Trek, are riding in Northwave’s latest top-level shoe. The all-new Evolution SBS has a highly-meshed upper with a carbon sole, and a surprising material choice to shape the inner foot bed…
We like the shape: the upper is fairly low in height, the toe box quite large in comparison and nicely structured. The tongue has the same mesh fabric as the upper, encasing a thick, comfortable level of padding, and the deep, structured heel cup holds the foot ﬁrmly. The carbon sole is pretty minimal, but retains all the stiffness you need. A small opening at the toe channels cooling air under the foot, with ‘exhaust’ holes behind the cleat.
A replaceable heel bumper helps protect the carbon from getting scratched. Two lightweight straps handle tension up front, and the micro ratchet ankle strap can be set to one of four positions, adding an inch to its length. It’s controlled with one large lever, and small individual clicks let you make minor adjustments even when riding.
What’s unique about the Evolution, though, is the foot bed. Rather than using a high tech carbon or nylon, Northwave employ a shaped piece of wood, claiming it can absorb 80 percent more heat than a standard nylon inner, and that wood is better at absorbing vibration. The wood last is formed and shaped perfectly, and combined with the carbon sole results in the stiffest shoe we’ve ever tried; the feeling of solidity between shoe and pedal is remarkable.
With no ﬂex from heel to toe or laterally, the Evolutions make out-of-the-saddle efforts or climbing extremely positive. We can’t verify Northwave’s heat reduction claims, but we can say that on a few ﬁve-hour test rides we didn’t experience any problems with hot spots or dampness. There’s plenty of adjustment in the cleat ﬁtting bed, and the stainless ﬁttings are great quality. The thin soles also make ﬁtting cleats a breeze, even with short bolts.
At 379g for a pair of size 44s, the Evos are reasonably light; we’ve tried lighter shoes but none that combines this level of stiffness and comfort. They’re pricey, but equivalent level models from Sidi, Giro, Shimano or Fizik cost half as much again.