14 December 2007

Handsome, practical cycling shoes

Posted by todd under: Footwear; Reviews .

A couple of years ago, I bought a pair of shoes mainly because I thought they would slip nicely in and out of the toe clips on my bike.

They did, but that was not enough to earn me a pardon for my crime against fashion.

The shoes were all-black, narrow and smooth, with sort of a rectangular shape that ovaled off on the front, and they had an orthopedic-looking sole. My sister told me that she first saw these hideous shoes sitting next to a doorway where I had left them; not knowing they were mine, she wondered what was wrong with their owner.

After wearing these “sensible” but unsightly shoes until they wore out (after which my wife told me she hated them), I got something a little more fashionable.
Just the shoesSkechers in toe clipSkechers side viewFortunately, the new shoes — the Urbantrack 60311 by Skechers (right) — turned out to be cycling-friendly as well.

I got mine for less than 50 bucks at Shoe Carnival. They look nice with both jeans and khakis. You might even get away with wearing them with a shirt-and-tie outfit. Here’s why they are great for cycling:

  1. The shoes easily slide in and out of toe clips, because they are fairly narrow and have thin soles. They have a flat front, which also works great with toe clips. My other everyday shoes, a pair of New Balance tennis shoes, are thicker and wider. The sides of the shoes tend to get hung up on the toe straps as I am pushing my feet into the toe clips. Then I have to reach down and free the straps while I am riding. That’s not what I want to be thinking about in traffic.
  2. The shoes fit nicely into my Burley shoe covers, again, because the shoes are thin and narrow. I wear the shoe covers on rainy days to keep my feet dry; more about these in a future review. (Preview: They’re great.)
  3. While they look nice enough to wear to work, they don’t get scratched up like dress shoes do.
  4. The soles grip the pedals well.

I bought the Skechers mostly for their looks, and I had reservations about how long they would last.

However, I have been wearing them on and off the bike almost every weekday for at least a year now, and they are going strong. The soles are not as delicate as they look; they are holding up very well. And by the way, the shoes are quite comfortable.

Skechers has a number of shoes of a similar style and shape, in various colors.

Verdict: Highly recommended.

P.S.: I don’t use toe clips on my Breezer Uptown 8, and I don’t think I need them. I do use them on the other bike I ride to work, a Bridgestone XO-1 (that’s the bike in the picture here). The Skechers work great on both bikes.

You might be familiar with cycling-specific shoes, which have inflexible soles and are made to clip onto specially made pedals. I have never worn these, and I don’t think I ever will. They are unnecessary for my type of riding. Furthermore, Grant Peterson of Rivendell Bicycle Works, a longtime rider and veteran of the bike business, says cycling-specific shoes are unnecessary for every type of riding.

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About the picture atop the page

Yes, that's me, Todd Van Campen. No, I'm not wearing a helmet. Yes, I usually wear one, so please don't scold! Seriously, I endorse wearing a helmet! Pinky swear! In fact, I almost ALWAYS wear one (while riding a bike anyway). (On the other hand, if YOU don't want to wear a helmet, I have no problem with it.) I don't remember what happened on this particular day. Fortunately for all of us it makes for a less-nerdly picture. My exceptionally talented professional photographer friend Charles Bertram took this photo.

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Art for art’s sake

I asked my 6-year-old son, Caleb, an avid bicyclist and artist, to draw a bike for me. I think he did a great job!

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