as my hall cupboard will attest, there is currently a particularly wide range of cycle-related footwear available on the market, offering styles and sizes that ought to suit even the most demanding of the pelotonese. these can be divided, fairly simply, into two distinct genres: those you can wear offroad and those you probably shouldn't. i am aware that there is a small subset of intrepid cyclists, hellbent on proving that the humble (and not so humble) road bike can tackle most surfaces laid in its direction, but that's probably a different story altogether. and one for a different time.
i think it also safe to say that, while the chunkier soled offroad footwear will happily provided its services without hardship through gravel, mud, grass and tarmac, the same cannot necessarily be said for the far smoother soled road shoe. crank brothers do offer an adaptor that allows the use of road shoes with their offroad pedals, one that works remarkably well, but that's not to say you could then scrabble up a grassy slope while wearing said shoes. bearing in mind the mantra horses for courses i would likely advise that, if you intend to ride offroad, whether on a springy farm gate or a cyclocross bike, you would best contain your choice of shoe to one exhibiting a reasonably chunky sole.
at this point, we come across yet another difference between the two styles. though the placement of three-point cleats sitting proud of a smooth carbon sole is the principal reason most roadies walk like ducks, this situation is enhanced by the stiffness of that very carbon. to put it more bluntly, road shoes are very difficult to walk in, an occurrence that is not there purely by chance.
road-riding usually takes place at a higher rate of knots than does passage through the mucky stuff, encompassing as it does while in race mode, the need to outsprint your pals in the peloton or climb strongly for a considerable number of kilometres. in order to maximise power transfer, losing as little energy as possible in the process, those road shoe soles are designed to offer little or no flex.
offroad shoes on the contrary expect to be both walked in and, when it comes to cyclocross, run in. the criteria for the soles of such shoes is altogether different than their roadgoing brethren and something of a compromise at that. yet again, power transfer cannot be ignored, especially since this style of shoe is more likely attached to the pedal by means of a far smaller cleat. yet a certain dialed-in amount of flexibility cannot be ignored. getting that bit right can make the difference between a good and a less-good pair of shoes.
specialized's recon offroad shoes are not necessarily the fellows you'd choose to wear when racing cyclocross, but then the majority of 'cross bike owners have no intention (or ability) of so doing in the first place. their demands are subtly different from those who may prefer to choose the more competition oriented s-works xc. recon's prospective customers want the best of both worlds that the shoe offers. even with a pair of crank brothers cleats in place on the tan-coloured soles, it's quite possible to walk to the shops to see if the co-op has taken delivery of any more cartons of alpro plain soya yoghurt (unfortunately they hadn't, but thanks for asking).
specialized classify their recon footwear as suitable for mixed terrain. if i might quote from the website "Designed for riders who take one look at that switch from paved to gravel and say ‘yes please". i cannot deny that my perambulations on a 'cross bike tend to fit precisely into that demographic. given the perennial demise of islay's road surfaces, i have for the time being, decided that scuttling about the estates ought to be undertaken on a cyclocross bicycle, occasionally (ok, frequently), finding that the overwhelming desire to offer my world famous impersonations of jeremy powers or sven nys gets the better of me, in which case, i have need of underfoot grip in the undergrowth.
in short, this may be the ideal shoe for the velocipedinally impulsive.
the chunky tan coloured sole features a pair of removable toe studs, should you find yourself shopping for soya yoghurt more often than riding the book of 'cross. in full battle mode, those appear to be of considerable practical benefit. though my chris hoy thighs would obviously and tirelessly carry me across the rough, gravel besotted hill path leading to foreland road, in order to suffer for your art, i shouldered the bicycle and ran (all terms of athleticism are entirely relative) up the gravel slope against the flow of water heading in the other direction.
though there was the threat of having need of a paramedic when re-mounting, the soles fulfilled their destiny with aplomb.
the shoes' uppers are fabricated from an easily cleaned synthetic leather material that has so far proved to be every bit as robust as it looks, with little evidence of scuffing. whether for reasons of keeping up with the trendy or more for touring bike pragmatism, the recons are lace-ups, with a midway mounted elasticated loop to keep the ends from investigating the pointy bits around the circumference of your chainrings. i figured the laces might actually be a tad on the long side, but in practice, no foibles have been so far noted.
however, aside from their rugged robustness, all would come to nought if they failed in the comfort stakes. happily, that's precisely where the recons excel. specialized as a company have a grand reputation in the field of body-fit products, therefore the contouring of the insoles does everything it can to support the foot no matter the trials and tribulations thrown in its direction, while the width, for my feet at least, cossetted, supported and threw flower petals underfoot.
if your competitive urge remains latent or dormant, yet the odd excursion into the hinterlands holds more than just a passing attraction, these are the very shoes for you and your feet. and your pedals. and your bicycle.
specialized recon mixed terrain shoes are available in black/tan only, in euro sizes 39 to 49. recommended price is £180.
thursday 3 march 2016..........................................................................................................................................................................................................