Monday, December 22, 2014

Shimano temporarily made a good touring shoe (maybe)

Someone sent me a link to what seemed to him like a good touring shoe by Giro. It looked okay, but on the same page I saw something that was as close to a real old-style touring shoe as you're going to find these days.

Meet the Shimano SH-UT70. Closeouts are all over the world of e-commerce. 

You're not going to find a walkable shoe without a place for SPD cleats. The cover for this one at least looks firmly secured.

I'm always afraid to point out when Shimano makes a good product because then they'll notice and kill it. It's like in King Lear (Act III Scene VII) where Gloucester's loyal servant points out that he still has one eye left. Cornwall takes care of that in a hurry. "Out, vile jelly!"

Yeah, I was a friggin' English major. Certainly explains a lot about my financial struggles.

Go to Shimano's consumer site and they've never heard of it, because it's not in the lineup for 2015, but apparently it was out there for a couple of years. The Duke of Cornwall has already squished it.

A really good toeclip-friendly touring shoe needs a tapered toe without bulky bumpers. It needs a sole without a thick rand coming up around the sides of the shoe. It needs a stiff sole, but not a thick sole. It should have laces rather than a rail yard of Velcro or ratchet straps. The UT70 has all of that. It looks a lot like really old-school leather cycling shoes that died out in the early 1980s with the rise of step-in road pedals.
My brother, who has one weird leg, found he could not use this pair of old Dettos I gave him back when they weren't that old. He returned them to me. I might glue some rubber strips to the sole to improve walking traction and use them for summer day tours on the classic steel road steed.

Some day I will have to do a weight comparison between a light leather shoe like this, or one of its mesh-upper heirs with an alloy-cage pedal and a toe strap, and a reinforced shoe for step-in pedals along with a mid-grade step-in pedal. By now, of course, exotic materials have brought the weight down on the step-in systems. But I bet there was a time in the middle of the evolution of shoes and pedals when there was no weight advantage at all with the step-in system.

In racing the two times toes straps were inconvenient were at the start of a race when a whole peloton was trying to clip in at once, and just before an attack, when racers would check to make sure their straps were tight. Nowadays they check to make sure their shoes are tight. And nothing warns them if their cleats are a bit run down and are going to pop out under the explosive load of a sprint. Woo Hoo! We goin' DOWN! SMACK! SCRAAAAAPE! Human crayon. Massive pileup. And a whole peloton fishing around for the cleat interface isn't a whole lot smoother than a whole bunch trying to flip up their toeclips and snug the straps. The step-in is slightly more convenient because it's hands-free, but no one talks about the other costs. It's another thing that isolates The Cyclist from regular people who ride bikes and want to blend efficiency with off-bike functionality.

If you choose to use a toothy pedal cage and no strap system you will want a thicker shoe sole made of material soft enough to allow the pedal cage to bite in, but not so soft that the cage chews the sole away too quickly. All this has been covered extensively by far more revered experts well before my humble observations. I mention it because I like to cover a topic thoroughly.

Take away the strap and you no longer have to shun bulky rands and toe bumpers. That does not mean such details are really useful, only that they are no longer an inconvenience. Personally, I don't believe that every casual shoe has to look like some kind of hiking boot.


Steve A said...

I shall have to check my closet to find what I think is a good shoe from Shimano. Per your theory, that'll have to remain a SECRET!

greatpumpkin said...

After I read this, I ordered a pair. Today I rode in them for the first time. They are very good for both riding and walking. It's like old times to wear a shoe that actually goes into toe clips without fighting.