Sidi don't refer to their new Spider SRS Lorica as cyclo-cross specific but they may as well have, as the shoe is nearly ideally suited to this task. First and foremost is the newly available all-Lorica upper in place of the standard Spider's Lorica and mesh construction.
Omitting the mesh reduces airflow to virtually nil but come the chillier temperatures of fall, the upside is notably warmer feet – even with standard socks – while breathability remains very good. The mesh-free uppers are also virtually impervious to sand and thick mud. Even after following packs of riders though sandpits or long beachfront run-ups, we noticed not a single grain irritating the space between our toes.
We also came to appreciate the Spider's nylon midsole, which is admittedly more flexible than carbon plates but also easier to run in – a key feature when you're approaching barriers at warp speed or have a long staircase to contend with. Heel slip is negligible even without the clever Heel Security System add-on of the company's higher-end models (though those still feel better).
The soft-compound replaceable tread blocks lend an unusually confident grip, especially when the ground is wet, and the toe has a cleanly integrated rubber guard to decrease wear and ward off rock and tree strikes. At one recent race, we were able to approach a concrete staircase run-up with significantly more speed than chasing competitors with less secure soles.
Sidi may have gone a little too soft, however, as the forward-most tread blocks started showing significant signs of wear after just a couple of weeks of racing (the rest of the tread is holding up well). Sidi acknowledge that 'cross puts rather unique demands on footwear and say they may offer individual toe pieces in both the soft and hard compounds as a result – a good thing, considering full tread sets retail for US$54.99. Running the optional toe spikes might help in that area, too.
Our main 'cross-related gripe with the Spider SRS Lorica is the ovoid-shaped cleat pocket, which lends good pedal stability when clipped in but doesn't always guide your foot onto the pedal after remounts as well as more open designs like Northwave and Mavic. While we've had great luck with Shimano SPD and Time ATAC designs, CrankBrothers' Egg Beaters and Candys – both of which are extremely popular in 'cross for their ability to shed mud – have been less consistent. In addition, that oval pocket restricts allowable cleat positions with wider pedal systems like Look Quartz.
As always, fit and construction quality are superb on the Sidis, with a snug, sock-like feel, flawless stitching and individual panels whose edges meet perfectly at every seam. The padded main strap is adjustable for length and lateral position as with other buckled Sidi shoes but new for this season is a more cleanly integrated strap base and additional ventilation holes on some of the plastic bits. Padding thickness has decreased compared to previous generations but this didn't create any issues even when the strap is cranked down.
The classic Caliper buckle and toothed twin Velcro forefoot straps make their familiar appearance, too, and provide their usual rock-solid hold. Folks with particularly wide feet will still find the toe box to be on the narrow side and if you've got bunions or other podiatric anomalies, the shiny Vernice surface finish is a tad less pliable than standard Lorica. As is always the case with Sidi, arch support is minimal at best, so be sure to consider the additional volume of aftermarket insoles when sizing if you intend to use them.
At 810g per pair (size 44) the Spider Loricas are also on the heavy side for a high-end shoe but if 'cross is your thing, we've encountered few shoes that are equally purpose-built for the job – never mind ones that fit and are built this well. Past experience gives us confidence that these shoes will last multiple seasons, too, and after a few minutes in the mud all shoes are heavy anyway. Mountain bikers will enjoy similar benefits, too, especially if you frequently find yourself riding in inclement weather. The occasionally tricky cleat engagement and fast-wearing toe won't be as problematic, either.