A top of the line, super light, super stiff road shoe from specialized with a unique "twist" on comfort.
A shoe exactly like this with some tri specific features. (which is supposedly coming as the 2012 TriVent and that we hope to be reviewing soon)
One of the best cycling shoes we have worn... Many more miles needed to make the final decision.
Specialized has put a lot of work into the design of the S-Works Road shoe, so we were excited to get to check them out. You are probably thinking, "why would you want a road shoe when there are so many tri specific options available?" Well, that was our thought as well, but with so many positive comments out there on the shoe and sponsored athletes such as Jordan Rapp choosing this model over the tri specific model from Specialized, we were anxious to put them to the test.
The first thing you notice when you take the shoes out of the box is how nice they look. Yeah, this really isn't going to make you faster, but you can just tell that they are a quality product. While you are admiring the beauty of the shoe, you will also notice it feels like you are holding air. The shoes weigh in 235g, which is ridiculously light for a shoe. So, they are light and look cool, but they have quite a few other important features that are specific to Specialized.
First, and we feel most importantly, is the BOA SM-1 closure system. Once you have tried the BOA system, it will be nearly impossible to go back to other types of systems such as velcro, ratcheting straps, etc. There is simply not another system that is currently available that gives you the comfort and adjustability of the BOA system. The BOA works by simply turning each dial to tighten or loosen the fit, as you can see in the image below.
The nice thing about the BOA dials is that it allows you unlimited adjustability, even on the fly as you are riding. If you have ever left T1 and had that uncomfortable feeling of "Man, I wish that strap was a little tighter, etc", it is much easier to reach down and turn the dial while riding than to fiddle with straps. The BOA is also designed to distribute the tension evenly with hopes of preventing hot spots or unwanted pressure. The S-Works shoe has 2 dials. The top for the ankle and heel and the mid dial for the forefoot in arch, which provides for a very snug fit.
Here is a great video that shows more detail on the BOA SM-1 system.
Another nice feature of the BOA system is the ability to order replacement parts if something were to go awry. The shoes come with a tool to remove the dial in case the cable gets tangled. We did experience this on one pair of the shoes, but it is an easy fix.
Next, is the FACT ( Functional Advanced Composite Technology) carbon technology that is used for the soles of the shoes. By layering the fibers of the carbon, Specialized is able to produce a very light (less rotational weight is always good) and very stiff (one of the stiffest we have tested) and thin sole.
The S-Works shoe has a 3 bolt cleat pattern that supports Shimano SPD-SL, Look, Time, and Speedplay. It also features a replaceable heel tread.
Next is the BG (Body Geometry) Fit features which are also specific to Specialized. They have put a lot of time and research into this aspect of the shoe. Simply put, they have added a wedge that they feel helps you have a more natural and efficient pedal stroke by giving you better knee and ankle alignment. You can see this in the graphic below.
Here is a video that does a great job of explaining their thoughts on the BG fit of this shoe. We can say that this wedge is noticeable when you go from riding another brand of shoe and it does take a bit of riding to get used to the feel.
The upper of the shoe is what Specialized calls Micromatrix. We have no idea what that is but we can attest that it is very comfortable. The shoe is vented very well as we have had it out on many 100+ days with no discomfort at all. And of course it is a water resistant material.
One of our reviewers experienced a little bit of irritation on the inside ankle near the tongue of the shoe. ( Maybe he has "kankles" ) You can see this in the image below.
Time will tell on the durability of these shoes, but so far, they have held up really well. This will be updated in our final review.
So, back to the issue of wearing these Road shoes during triathlons. We don't see any issue at all for longer distance races. Sure they will be a little more difficult to get into as they are missing a heel loop and some other little features. But, we think the few extra seconds it takes to get into these shoes are well worth the added comfort and other benefits you get from the shoe. And hopefully, the 2012 TriVent will combine all the goodness of the Road shoe with triathlon specific features, which could possibly be the perfect shoe.
TriBomb Bottom Line
So far, we are digging these shoes. More to come in the final review.