So why did I choose the Shimano SH-R086L SPD mountain bike cycling shoe, you ask?
I was looking at mountain bike shoes since some time now, trying to figure out which one is the right one for me. This is not an easy task, especially with so many good products like Pearl iZUMi, SIDI or Bontrager competing on the market today. The abundance of cycling products in general and cycling shoes in particular doesn’t make our life easier.
Now that we agreed (bear with me here…) that selecting the right mountain bike cycling shoe is not an easy task, I wrote down some guiding lines to help you choose the right shoe for you:
The cycling shoe should be a good value for money. This means not too expensive but it should have useful features. I will usually not go for the best product offered as I am no professional and probably do not need all the features that are offered on the top-models. I would go more in the direction of mid-range-plus cycling shoes. Keep in mind that a big chunk of bicycle accessories’ price is going into making it light-weight and manufacturers tend to take this into the extreme. If you don’t feel like you need the lightest shoe on the market today – you might get some good deals on cycling shoes.
- The shoes must fit. Without them fitting perfectly, there is no reason to even think about buying them. Cycling shoes must fit snug on your feet as you will be riding them for hours and because the best they fit your foot, the more power you will have while cycling. As cycling shoes today are usually made out of synthetic materials, take into consideration that they will not tend to expand. This is a good thing when talking about cycling shoes, as one of their most important feature is being sturdy and tight so you don’t loose energy when cycling. Just as with soccer shoes – for a kick to be really strong, the shoe must be really strong to not observe the energy of the kick.
- The shoe must be comfortable to operate. The SH-R086L offers here two velcro straps for quick loosening/tightening the shoe on your foot and a quick release ratchet strap for exact fitting.
- The shoe should look good. After all, let’s face it – some of our riding is showing off with our nice, recently purchased “feathers”, be it shoes, ultra-light wheels or even a whole bike.
- The shoe should be from a well known manufacturer with dealers close by to where you live. This way you know the product has a “father” and that you can get support if, god forbid, problems arise.
I think the Shimano SH-R086L definitely fulfills all those features mentioned above.
- Durable and lightweight rubber tread offers excellent traction and walking comfort.
- Stable and durable fiberglass reinforced polyamide midsole. This is important so the shoe will not deform TOO easily and cause energy loss whole pedaling.
- Breathable mesh and polyurethane-coated synthetic leather upper, provides a secure and easy fit for comfortable long ride. When you ride the bike around 10mp/h (16 km/h) you already feel wind in your toes that ventilates the shoe.
- Volume + fit lasting for roomier toe box.
- Micro-adjust buckle (ratchet type) and dual straps securely holds foot and allows subtle adjustments.
- The shoes come with two stickers, one for each shoe, for sealing off the front part of the sole, where the cleat is attached to the shoe. This is for sealing off the shoe from water getting in through the cleat crew holes.
- The shoes also come with cleat nuts for attaching the cleats (not shipped with the shoes).
Look, Feel and Usage
- I find the Shimano SH-R086L have a great streaming shape. I like the simple design and the use of simple colors. My Gary Fisher Sugar 2 is black so I think it fits the shoes.
- The Shimano SH-R086L fits my foot snugly. I guess this is something everyone has to try for him or herself, as the length, width and height of feet vary from person to person. When you try the shoe on, walk with it (both shoes!) for a while and see if you can get used to its structure. Aim your toe towards the ground and press hard down – if you feel pain or pressure in your toe, the shoe might be a bit too small for you. Don’t take a too big shoes – the shoe must fit snug on your foot (consider what socks you use!) or otherwise your foot will “swim” in the shoe, making you loosing cycling power.
- The sole has good grip on rocky or loose dirt surfaces (I actually tested it!). On the other hand it is rather comfortable to walk in. Those are not hiking shoes but for short distances (pushing your MTB over a rock?) they do great.
- Using the SH-R086L is a piece of cake, it really is! I used it the first time without any experience with cycling cleats and had only 5 minutes to practice using it before going on a tough single trail uphill (don’t try this yourself!). I was amazed by the ease of use – attaching is very natural and is supported by a funnel shaped shoe sole that guides the small pedal to the cleat. Detaching is also very easy, natural and quick: you just turn your foot outwards, away from the bike and the shoe detaches from the pedal. This is crucial when driving through sand, rocks or anything else that makes you slow down unexpectedly.
- Price is only slightly above $100. Competitor shoes in this category cost around $40 more.
- Comfortable sole for walking on rough terrain.
- Upper shoe strip is a ratchet buckle for quick and accurate tightening of the shoe.
Could be better
- I doubt if the waterproof sticker will keep the shoe dry for a long time.
- Shoe insole (sockliner)is a bit spartan. Shimano could learn something from Bontrager with its mid range RL Mountain MTB cycling shoe, that has an adjustable insole for people with difference foot arches.