Tuesday, December 20, 2011

The stylish randonneur

Most of the time I ride in a pair of old Shimano touring shoes which look like sneakers but have the advantage of stiff soles and standard SPD cleats. Being easy to walk in they're perfect for most purposes but the soles are a bit too soft for longer Audax rides. My faithful Shimano SPD-SL road shoes are just about worn out after years of faithful service, so I've been hunting around for a high quality replacement.

Way back when I raced bikes on the road in the mid 1980s, leather shoes were all the rage. They had both leather uppers and thick leather soles and big slotted cleats which locked in onto the back plate of a pedal. Toe clips and straps held the whole lot rock solid. They were impossible to walk in for more than a few steps because the large, often metal, cleats  protruded from the base of the sole. Despite the fact that the SPDs are a much better system, the old leather shoes were far more comfortable - particularly on long rides.

Since I've been salting away a few dollars each week into a "bike account" all year I've been able to lash out and treat myself to a few bike items in the lead-up to Christmas. When I saw a company called Dromarti offering old-style leather shoes I didn't need much prompting. (I've since noticed Vittoria offering a similar pair of leather shoes with the model name 1976.)

At $A275 shipped, they were't cheap but my first impressions based on around 100km of riding are generally favourable. The shoes are made by Italian footwear firm Marresi and come in either black or a very fetching brown. They're as stylish as all hell. Like leather walking boots, leather cycling shoes take a bit of time to wear in and we still have a little way to go but the wonderful comfort of leather I remember from way back is there in spades with the added stiffness of a plastic sole. They're ok to walk in too, though they feel a little narrow after the Shimano shoes. Something tells me this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

4011km so far this year.

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