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Cycling Shoes, Cleats & Accessories

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Types of cycling shoes and their features

There is a bike shoe for each type of riding - so road, mountain, triathlon and also commuting or city riding. As such features differ.

Road cycling shoes

These will typically be light, stiff and ventilated. The stiffness is to maximise energy transfer through to pedals. This rigid sole does however, make road cyclists feel (and perhaps even look) a little like penguins out of water when walking! Road riding shoes are definitely not to be walked in for long stretches - just into the cafe!

Mountain bike shoes

Unlike their road bike counterparts, mountain bike shoes have greater flex and the cleat system is embedded into the shoe, meaning nothing protrudes (as it does for road riding shoes) and therefore walking is a lot more comfortable and easy to manage. This is logical given mountain bikers will usually be getting off and on their bikes, carrying them over obstacles etc.

Triathlon shoes

The main point of difference between a road riding shoe and a triathlon shoe is usually a velcro strap on the latter. This allows the rider to get their foot in faster and easier when transitioning from the swim to bike, and the bike to run.

City bike shoe

This tends to be a hybrid between a cycling specific shoe, and everyday footwear.

Remember that shoes, pedals and cleats might all need each other for the bike shoe system to work, but usually they are in fact purchased separately. As such it is important to ensure you are buying a shoe, cleats and pedals that are all compatible.

The difference between a 2-hole and 3-hole system

Bike shoes that use cleats will usually come with holes drilled into the soles.

2-hole system (SPD)

SPD refers to Shimano Pedaling Dynamics, Shimano being the first brand to introduce the concept. The SPD is compatible to all types of bike riding.

3-hole system (Look-style)

Because this system delivers maximum energy transfer, it is most commonly used for road shoes. The system covers a greater section of the sole and therefore ensures more power coming through from a wider touch-point.

Types of cycling shoe closures

The main styles of closure for cycling shoes include velcro straps, ratcheting buckles and wire laces that are tensioned with dials. However, we've increasingly seen a trend towards old-school style, traditional 'lace ups'.

Cycling shoe sizes and fitting

Keep in mind that brands don't adhere to a universal sizing chart, so the size that works for you in, say Shimano, won't necessarily be the same figure as Sidi. Also as is the case with running shoes and fashion shoes, sizes differ from market-to-market, so for example a size 5.5 in the US will be a 39.5 in Europe.

Remember most feet usually swell during sport, especially in hot conditions. So allow a little amount of give or indeed, if your foot is prone to swelling then consider a ratchet system that can enable you to easily loosen the fit whilst on the fly.

When trying on the cycling shoe, if your toes make contact with the top of the shoe when you're trying them on, they're likely to be too small. Conversely, you don't want there to be too much give either side of the foot, for if it can move side-to-side too easily your knee stability may be compromised when cycling.

Cycling shoe care and maintenance

Recommendations and/or instructions will differ from brand to brand so it's ultimately best to refer to these. However, depending on the type of shoe and the materials from which it is made, care instructions could include anything from using a soft brush or damp cloth to wipe down the shoe, to spraying them with whitening product (if indeed they were white to begin with!), wrapping them in a towel, placing them in a delicates bag and putting them on a soft wash cycle in the washing machine. For cycling shoes with a ratchet closing system, consider applying a small amount of silicone based lubricant (and then wipe away the excess).

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