Monday, December 21, 2009

Sidi Genius 5 Pro Carbon Shoe Review

This is an odd name for this shoe, since the sole is not fully carbon and it is not their "pro" shoe.  Maybe it was lost in the translation from Italian?  Anyway, I needed some new shoes, since my old Specialized shoes are starting to collapse to the right (too many stop lights...).  Can't remember the model, but they are six or seven years old, have a plastic sole, a click-type buckle (what the hell do you call those things?), and was not their top 'o the line.  Let me be clear - I love(d) these shoes - they are wide and I have wide feet and feel great when you jump out of the saddle and hammer (some sort of special "Body Geometry" crap that Specialized trademarked).  I really thought that I would go with another set of Specialized, but when I was looking at the new models, I noticed that, while the parts were replaceable, there were not as many as Sidi and they didn't have old parts.  I'm sick of throwing shit away because one little part is worn, but not replaceable - that's why I ride Campy.  Anyway, Sidi now makes a wide ("mega") size and almost every part is replaceable (and they still have old stock), so I figured I'd join the pack and get me some fine Italian pleather.

First off, these are some fine looking shoes - for bike shoes, that is.  Pleather uppers, with a clicky buckle and two velcro buckles.  The clicky buckle is pretty cool - there are two release tabs, each one acting as kind of a half-click if you need to loosen.  If you want to totally loosen, you press both at the same time.  Nice touch.  The velcro straps, as far as I'm concerned, are the best feature of this shoe - they have plastic teeth/grooves that secure the straps, which are essential, due to the fit (see below).

The soles are not actually fully carbon fiber (please take note, LBS Dude - do some research on products that cost over $200 before making such statements with confidence), but a plastic sole with carbon "injected" into it.  Supposedly, it is 37% stiffer than a plastic sole.  Hard to tell exactly, but these are stiff little fuckers - much more so than my old Specializeds.  Not sure how they compare to full carbon fiber, but are probably not as stiff.  As far as I am concerned, I like the fact they have a plastic bottom.  I have mild carbophbia, so the thought of scratching up a full CF sole scares me a bit - I really don't want my shoes crumbling beneath me.  I don't think you have to be overly paranoid about over-torquing the cleat bolts or getting a scratch or two on them.  Also, the cleat has a hole (and provided screws) for the Look "memory" tabs.  This is cool, since I use Looks - the memory tab is a little plastic piece that stays bolted on and allows you to have a perfect fit on new cleats.  The heel pads are pretty good and prevent slippage.

As for the fit, I must say, I'm not fully sold yet.  The uppers are definitely wide enough - there is more room in the toe box than my Specializeds, which is great.  My toes can wiggle and, therefore, they are warmer than my old shoes, even though they seem to have better ventilation (I'm writing this in winter).  In fact, the uppers are so wide, I really have to pull the velcro straps tight - good thing they have the special locking "teeth."  This tends to make my feet pull up very slightly if I am really hammering super hard out of the saddle in a high gear.  If you are a sprinter (I mean a real sprinter), I would look for something tighter, if you have wide feet.  That's not really a problem, for me, though.  The problem I am having is that the sole doesn't really seem to be for wide feet.  It's like they took a regular sole and put a larger upper on it to make it a "wide" shoe.  Not sure if the sole is the same as a regular width, but I wouldn't be surprised.  What this means is that the ball of my foot is slightly over the edge of the sole, making for some discomfort.  Since it's winter, I haven't done more than a 20 mile ride with these, which feels OK, but 100 miles in these might be tough.  My feet might get used to them - don't know yet.  I am getting a fitting tomorrow, so I'll see if an insert might help.  What this means is that I might be selling these on Craigslist soon, If I can't get the fit right.  The Specialized sole really is way wider on the ball of my foot.  Too early to tell if this is just getting used to a new shoe, or not.  I'll post something in a month or two to let people know how they are going.

Update: So, I had a PT do a bike fit and he tweaked the shoes with shims between the cleat and the sole.  The shims are tapered, so it tilts the sole upwards on the side to the frame side of the shoe.  Basically, this is just making it more like the Specialized shoes and their "Body Geometry" design.  He also put some Louis Garneau insoles in (thirty-odd bucks).  These two tweaks, along with proper cleat placement, basically eliminated the weird feeling I was getting on the balls of my feet.  My PT seemed to think it was the "flat" sole of the Sidis that caused this.  He also said that, in his opinion, the insoles of Sidi shoes are shit and that you should replace them immediately.  So, the short of it is that I spent more $$ to make my Sidis  more like the Specializeds.  If the longevity of this shoe is less/the same as my old Specializeds, then I'm going back, Italian coolness be damned.

Planet Bike Super Flash LED Rear Light Review

OK - kind of weird to be reviewing a $15 rear blinkie.  Not much to be said about this - I've been cycling through crappy rear lights (pun intended) for over 10 years and this is simply the best for two reasons: 1) it's bright as hell with the 1/2 watt led flash and 2) it has a solid bracket and mounting system.  I just bought another one so I'll have two of these going at once.

The brightness of this thing is superior.  You are visible from a long ways away and the blinking pattern creates a defining flash that really captures your attention.  You get two brackets with this - one for a seatpost mount and one for a seat stay mount.  You can also just clip the thing, sans bracket, on a belt, cloth loop on your bag, etc. (see below)  The seat stay mount is great if you have a short seat post with a seat post bag.  I assume you could mount the seat stay bracket on a rear rack, as well.  Once the thing is put into the bracket, it stays there.  I've lost many a removable rear lights through shoddy bracket mounts, so this is key for me - I commute on crappy pavement and have several bumpy downhill stretches, so I need something that won't go flying off.

One this really needs to be addressed by Planet Bike in order to make this the perfect rear light - it needs a locking mechanism on the "clip" so when you clip it onto a bag it doesn't come flying off.  Nothing fancy - just a little thumb screw that you can tighten that would "complete the loop" on the clip, preventing the thing from flying off of your bag when you hit a bump.  The other night, this new light flew off my Seal Line backpack when I was hammering home (late for dinner!) and hit a little bump.  I really appreciate the fact you can clip it onto things, but there needs to be a better way to secure it once it is clipped on.  For now, I'll make due with a piece of duct tape on the bottom.