Never mind the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness; this is the time of year of short and sharp muddiness. Cyclo Cross is with us again; the one-time Cinderella off-season activity is now more than ever a ‘proper’ sport in its own right. Look at the range and quality of the off the shelf bikes from the big manufacturers and the exotica from the smaller players.
Having the proper kit for ‘Cross is now pretty much the norm, you can compete on your old steel tourer with clips and straps etc… but would you want to?
The Shimano M181 is one such piece of proper kit; a superb shoe well suited to the rigours of both the MTB circuit and the Cyclo Cross course, it’s light, comfortable and efficient – feeling and performing more like a road shoe than an off road one.
The M181 is the second shoe in the off road competition range and differs from its more expensive brother mainly in the stiffness of the sole (i.e. it’s not Carbon). Don’t let that worry you though Shimano’s sole is plenty stiff enough.
Up top it’s made of soft compliant mesh and leather which is comfy right from the word go, not too hot and not too cool and the combined Velcro and ratchet strap retention system allows a load of adjustability and non slip security.
Down below the stiff / rigid fibreglass sole gets as much power to the pedals as you can lay down, the mud spikes dig in nicely to pull you through the run ups and the chunky rubber outsole adds a stable platform for off the bike manoeuvres.
However one of the paradoxes of a stiff SPD sole, is that when / if you do walk on a hard surface then your heel has a tendency to pull out and the metal spikes do skid around a bit. God alone knows how you’d walk anywhere in the Carbon soled version.
As importantly as anything else it washes well and comes up looking spick and span everytime.