The refined Micromatrix synthetic leather upper is impressively supple, nearly devoid of seams and fully lined, making for a luxurious feel – even for those with funky-shaped feet – in combination with the generous toebox.
Ample airflow is provided by open mesh inserts over the toes and along both sides of the foot, the fully ventilated – and well-padded – tongue, and a functional sole vent just ahead of the cleat.
Foothold is rock-solid, too, thanks to the well-shaped heel cup and a trick dual-zone Boa lacing system. One dial sets the tightness around the ankle while the other sets the snugness from there forward, and both have a wide range of adjustment.
Unlike previous Boa systems, the tiny new S1 dials on the S-Works shoe can also be micro-adjusted in either direction without completely releasing the reel for easy tweaks on the fly. The open cable guides are less prone to clogging than older Boa guides plus they allow you to quickly unhook the line and pop out the tongue for quicker drying after a wet ride – or to air out the shoes after a particularly hot ride.
The carbon sole plate has been updated, too, with a stiffer flex pattern and lighter weight thanks to a hollow foam core construction and two longitudinal ribs running just under the arch.
The cleat area is textured to prevent slip, graduated markings facilitate cleat placement and adjustment, and the shoes are even easy to walk in for short stints given the generous fore and aft treads. In addition, the heel pad is easily replaceable (with hidden interior screws accessible from beneath the insole) and the toe pad wraps up slightly around the upper to prevent scuffs.
In spite of the lighter weight, all of Specialized's Body Geometry features are still built in. The carbon sole plate wraps up and around the inside of the foot for superb arch support, the metatarsal button on the footbed does a good job of keeping your toes from falling asleep (as long as you're okay with feeling the little bump beneath your foot), and at least for this tester, the integrated forefoot wedge makes a tangible difference in pedalling efficiency and knee comfort – and it can be neutralised for those riders who either won't benefit or just don't want it.
Gripes are few and far between, and decidedly minor: the shiny uppers look great when new but look disproportionately worn when they're inevitably scraped up (the black colour should hold up better in this respect), they're rather pricey at £199.99 (US$350) a pair and… that's it.
Specialized's new BG S-Works kicks have proven to be a fantastically light, supportive and efficient pair of shoes that are just as comfortable at hour five as they are at hour zero. They've held up well, and they even look good while doing it. Total win.