By Adam Newman
Sidi might be a household name in the cycling business, but as a share of the shoe market, they are a surprisingly small player. With most cycling shoes selling in the $99-$150 range, Sidi refuses to compromise quality and fit and thus commands a higher price premium.
Then again, they have the experience in cycling shoes to demand those prices: They were the first to design a shoe with an adjustable cleat position (instead of nailing it to the sole), the first to offer a nylon sole, the first to incorporate Velcro, the first to use a ratcheting buckle and the first to offer a shoe specifically for mountain biking and cyclocross. And though they are best known for their road shoes, a full 40 percent of their sales are in the mountain bike market.
What you get when you pay a premium price is premium construction and fit. They are designed and made entirely in Europe – even some of the carbon parts are made in factories that produce parts for Ferrari and Masterati. Some models are available in as many as 72 different sizes, including narrow, standard and wide lasts, from B to EEE widths. Women’s sizes are more tapered to accommodate a woman’s naturally narrower heel.
The Dragon 3 model sits at the top of the heap. Ridden by Nino Schurter to a World Cup championship in 2010, they helped him become the youngest ever rider to win both a World Cup and a World Championship. Sidi threw in the kitchen sink of technologies in this one: the replaceable SRS tread is softer for better traction since it doesn’t have to last as long as the upper, the heel retention system is adjustable so heel lift is almost non-existent, and the Techno II buckle system uses a monofilament closure for precise fit and easy adjustment. New for 2012 is an integrated rubber toe guard, replacing last year’s bolt-on version.
The heel retention system is only available on the Dragon 3, and I can tell you it works just as advertised. Inspired by Italian road racer Ivan Basso, who had resorted to duct taping his shoes to his feet, it allows you to close the fit around the ankle and lessen the need to tighten the forefoot straps as tight. With it adjusted properly, you can actually undo all the forefoot straps and the shoe will stay on.
Watch for a full review of the Dragon 3 model in a future issue of Dirt Rag.
The Spider shoes are a USA-specific model designed for cross-country riding and cyclocross. They include a large traction pad under the arch of the foot to aid in remounts or pedaling when not clipped in. They also incorporate the SRS replaceable sole system. The black version has a full Lorcia synthetic upper, while the white has mesh. See our review of the Spider shoes in Dirt Rag Issue #156.
Pictured here is the women’s Dominator model, with its new-for-2012 snakeskin upper. (Yes, it’s also available in black.) Behind it is the Diablo GTX insulated, Gore-Tex winter shoe, which is cut slightly roomier than the other shoes to accommodate a thicker sock.
Important to remember though, is none of these shoes are going to perform their best if they do not fit properly. Despite a wide dealer network, Sidi often struggles to fit its shoes to customers at the retail level. Solution: the Mobile Fit Studio, a van with more than 100 sizes of shoes on-board and trained fit experts who arrive at events and help customers find the perfect fit. Staffers fit an average of five shoes on each customer, since in their words: “good enough isn’t good enough.” The service has been so popular that Sidi plans to expand its fleet of vehicles in the coming years to reach more riders around the country.
Stay tuned for more from our trip to visit Sidi in California, as we demo’d the brand-new BMC Speedfox 29er.
I originally stated that Sidi were the only cycling shoes made in Europe, but that is incorrect. Vittoria Shoes (no relation to the tire makers) are also made entirely in Italy.