I took a ‘first look’ at these shoes back in February.
Since then, they have covered a few thousand kilometers in a variety of conditions and on a number of different bikes.
The weight was one thing that impressed me as the shoes were released form their cardboard cavern to be beaten and stamped around UK roads, both north and south.
They are impressively light. Any concerns about their robustness were soon dispelled. These shoes have taken their fair share of tarmac pounding. Even an incident mentioned in the Speedplay test that involved a very fast ‘dab’ to correct a seemingly inevitable crash left only a small mark and tear to the toe cap which developed no further despite the many more miles covered.
Concerns when purchasing shoes, especially at this level, are fit and comfort. The shoes need to be an efficient balance of stiffness and slipper-like weight, but such ingredients without comfort are a poor mixture.
Having particularly wide feet, comfort can often be a challenge for me. Finding a shoe that fits the proportions of any foot can be difficult, but Northwave have created an accurate fit with the SBS Extreme Tech.
The SBS ratchet closure system offers a sizable range of adjustment. It can be adjusted in full flight on the road, where it proved sufficiently large and tactile to locate easily, and intuitive enough not to necessitate averting eyes from the road.
The two-stage fit is accomplished quickly and there is more than enough scope to fit both wide and narrow feet. The arch support is good and although a flatter foot may need a different insole, the adjustable ratchet and SBS may well have this covered.
The sole is of especial importance in a cycling shoe and one that attracts a lot of attention from manufacturers and riders alike: stiffest, lightest most feel etc. The SBS can’t claim to be the stiffest sole out there: despite its full carbon construction, it is punctuated by seven holes to ventilate the foot.
For me, the sole is a good balance. It offers a large amount of stiffness there; not so much as to induce a numb spot or pain on a long day, but enough to maintain confidence in the power delivery. The vents worked effectively, providing an impressive air flow that was welcome on warmer days and easily remedied on the cooler ones with either an overshoe or a slip of card under the insole, the latter perhaps not the most elegant solution, but one that proved effective despite its application in a pair of shoes costing nearly £300.
After using these shoes for around nine months, I can say they are now pretty much slipper-like on my feet; easily adjusted for seasonal socks and offering a good balance of low weight, stiffness and comfort.
The relationship between Speedplay and Northwave means you can build a solid setup with the latter’s signature lollipop-shaped pedal. Although well abused, these remain my favourite shoes and will continue to be used for many more miles to come.