No non-motorized sport melds athlete and technology like cycling. Every aspect of the body-machine interface is designed to increase efficiency and speed -- even down to the rider's shoes. Hard, stiff soles stop the arches from collapsing and wasting energy, as they would in flexible tennis shoes, helping transfer every bit of the rider's power to the pedals. Light and streamlined, these shoes minimize rotating weight and reduce air friction. The innovative road, mountain and triathlon models below, all designed to work with clipless pedal systems, take efficiency and comfort to new levels.
-- Roy M. Wallack
Dialing for dollars
Specialized BG S-Works Road and Mountain Shoes: Lightweight shoe with a mesh- and synthetic-leather upper, stiff carbon fiber in the sole and a unique dial-lacing system
Likes: Ultralight at 9 ounces for the road shoe and 12 ounces for the mountain. The Boa closure system, with a dial that tightens a continuous steel wire crisscrossing the upper, provides an effective and form-hugging custom fit.
Dislikes: $300 is a painful chunk of change.
Price: $300. (800) 245-3462; www.specialized.com.
Stiff but flexible
Keen Springwater mountain bike shoe: Leather and mesh shoe with a three-Velcro strap closure and high-traction rubber outsoles for hike-a-bike hoofing.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Friday, May 01, 2009 Home Edition Main News Part A Page 4 National Desk 1 inches; 25 words Type of Material: Correction
Bike shoes: A Gear review of bicycle shoes in Monday's Health section listed an incorrect website for Keen footwear. The correct Web address is www.keenfootwear.com.
For The Record
Los Angeles Times Monday, May 04, 2009 Home Edition Health Part E Page 3 Features Desk 1 inches; 27 words Type of Material: Correction
Bike shoes: A Gear review of bicycle shoes in the April 27 Health section listed an incorrect website for Keen footwear. The correct Web address is www.keenfootwear.com.
Likes: Comfortable and efficient. Works great on or off the bike. Stiff enough to transfer power well but flexible enough under the ball of the foot to allow for good hiking over long distances, a frequent occurrence in mountain biking. Giant toe bumper protects foot. Webbing attached to highest Velcro strap locks the heel down for a great fit.
Dislikes: Heavy at 17 ounces per shoe.
Price: $130. (800) 509-5336; www.keen.com.
Just your size
Shimano M230C mountain bike shoes with Custom Fit: Shoes that are molded to the shape of your foot.
Likes: Fits perfectly. My D-width foot, which felt a bit cramped in the other shoes reviewed here and required a break-in period, was instantly lovin' life in the M230s. The custom-fit process, performed at a trained bike retailer, includes heating and fitting the insole and the shoe with a vacuum process that contours materials in the strap, heel cup and instep to the shape of your foot. Weight: 13 ounces; higher-end models are lighter.
Price: $249. (800) 353-4719; www.shimano.com.
Scott USA Tri Carbon triathlon cycling shoes: One-strap, micro-fiber/nylon shoe with carbon-fiber sole that has a special feature allowing for extra-fast swim-bike transitions.
Likes: A time saver. Similar to many one-strap tri shoes, which triathletes typically leave snapped into their pedals to shave seconds when departing from the swim-bike transition area, the Scott saves even more with its 1/4 -inch high, medial side "breakaway loop." It allows you to tie the shoe to the crank arm in an upright position rather than dangling upside down, easing entry; the tie breaks off with your first revolution.
Price: $229.95. (208) 622-1000; www.scottusa.com.
Wallack is the author of "Bike for Life: How to Ride to 100." firstname.lastname@example.org