Mountain bike shoes always used to be clunky-looking, heavy, and hard to fit whereas road shoes have traditionally been studies in minimalism. There are many reasons for this disparity but it boils down to the fact that mountain bike gear has to soak up a lot more physical punishment.
Yeah, but can't you make our MTB shoes lighter, sexier and, well, lighter, we asked? It seems like adidas have listened. The effect the relationship adidas had with former partner Salomon is evident in the structural and aesthetic engineering of the flagship adiStar XC shoe, a pair of which I've been riding for several weeks on in the Santa Cruz mountains in Northern California. It seems the latest trends in trail running and fashion shoe design have spilled over to the cycling side.
Ratchets, wires and Velcro still comprise the main ingredients of a good cycling shoe, but to address the challenges faced by rugged off-road riding takes something more: brain power and know-how gleaned from experience. I was hoping to find out if adidas could deliver a shoe which demonstrated these qualities.
I have large (Euro 48/12.5US) and narrow feet, which makes it difficult to find truly exceptional cycling shoes that won't take away from my riding pleasure. After consulting with Mavic USA's Michael Berlinger about my feet and intended use, he shipped me size 47s. I aligned and clamped the new Crank Brothers cleats to the carbon soles, and off I went on my maiden voyage.
Unfortunately, my first foray in the adiStars was short lived. The female cleat fittings stripped out after a few simple turns of the allen key / hex wrench before hitting the trail. I limped through an easy afternoon of trail riding. A quick-fix was to reposition the cleats on the second level fittings. Once home, I remedied the situation by replacing the female fittings with a single-level pair from Shimano in my workshop.
I also replaced the standard adidas insole with a pair of Specialized Body Geometry footbeds, specifically the red arch support. This immediately improved my fit and function, which made for a much better riding experience the next time out.
Structurally, the adidas Fast strap SL system and Ultra SL micro ratchet was a little tricky (I'm accustomed to Velcro straps and laces), but after a few times in and out it became natural. As big as my feet are, it's still a challenge to find something narrow enough. The addition of the Specialized footbed seemed to help. The moulded heel counter doesn't rub or pinch, and the lugged sole does the job when it's time to hike and bike. The red and black styling is attractive and subtle and overall it was a case of mission accomplished.
Price: $210US. US sizes: 36 - 48 (including half-sizes). Visit www.adidas.com/cycling