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Dirt Rag Magazine

Bell Builds Community Through the Joy Ride Ambassador Program

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Photos: Josh Sawyer and Emily Walley

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A community is a village, a town or a city, but a sense of community is not defined by proximity. It’s the nurse and the lawyer, the photographer, designer and the park ranger; it’s the social media specialist, the bike shop salesperson and the mom all pursuing a common goal.

Joy Ride (27 of 27)

A few years ago Jessica Klodnicki, Bell Helmet’s executive vice president and general manager, found herself standing alone at a bike shop. She’d expected to join a scheduled group mountain bike ride but no one else showed up. Ultimately, she made her connection, but the experience wasn’t what she’d hoped for. As a relatively new rider, she was looking for a group ride that was committed, organized and fun; she was seeking community.

If you mountain bike, you’ve likely heard a friend say, “I really want to start mountain biking, but…”

Fill in the blank: I don’t have a bike; I can’t afford a bike; my bike doesn’t fit; I don’t know what to look for in a bike; I don’t know the trails; I don’t have anyone at my level to ride with; I’m afraid to join a ride. And so on. These are huge hurdles associated with mountain biking. Whether the reason is social, economic or psychological, the barriers seem to be just a little bit bigger for women.

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To mitigate some of these challenges and grow the sport of mountain biking among women, Bell Helmets has implemented the Joy Ride Ambassador Program. Historically, Bell has been perceived as a masculine company, but Joy Ride aims to open doors to the female consumer.

The program is motivated by and modeled after Girls Rock, a Santa Cruz all-women’s mountain bike group founded by Klodnicki not long after that lonely morning at the bike shop. With her tireless dedication and passion for the sport, an eager following of burgeoning and advanced female riders, and the support of the ever-present Santa Cruz bike industry, Girls Rock has grown from merely four women to 400 since the spring of 2014.

“It showed us that there was a real need for women of all levels, everything from beginner to advanced to come together and have the opportunity to ride,” said Klodnicki.

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I spent this past weekend observing the Joy Ride kickoff with Bell’s Ambassadors and had the pleasure of meeting many of the Girls Rock members at social events. There was a unanimous wave of excited chatter about what has developed from four ladies in a parking lot.

As an outsider, I could see and hear the joy throughout the room. Girls Rock was certainly born out of desire and drive. Perhaps Klodnicki’s personal hurdles are what gives this program its energy. She wanted someone to ride with; she assumed other women did as well and she made it happen.

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The Joy Ride Ambassador Program

With the support of Bell, eight women from Nashville, Tennessee, to Edmonton, Alberta, will build a community of female mountain bikers within their respective locations. Each ambassador is expected to offer a regular all-women’s mountain bike ride every month for one year. Bell wants to expand this program in the future, but it wanted to “start small.”

Inevitably, challenges will present themselves for each of these women and limiting the group size allows the company to be connected, involved and supportive throughout the ambassador process, seeing that each of these women succeed in their programs.

Bell received over 200 applications for the Joy Ride Ambassador Program, many hailing from epic ride destinations, but opted to move forward with some less-traveled locations. “We really wanted to find spots where there was opportunity,” said Klodnicki.

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While Bell had several bike companies offer to sponsor the Joy Ride program, it declined, wanting to be flexible and keep doors open to all of the bike industry. Essentially, Bell chose not to team up with anyone so it could team up with everyone. Each of the Joy Ride Ambassadors is encouraged to do the same in her own community.

Ibis, Blackburn, Camelbak, Giro and Luna Bar all provided generous support for the kickoff weekend. While Bell certainly wants strong brand recognition at each Joy Ride event—the ambassadors have all received Joy Ride helmets, apparel and pop-up tents—the ladies were encouraged to seek support from everyone they know, including friends involved in other ambassador programs. It’s important to Bell that the Joy Ride program is all-encompassing.

The name “Joy Ride” and the associated apparel is the result of surveying 750 women about why they ride, their style preferences, wants and needs. Bell heard the word “joy” repeatedly throughout the process. You’ll notice that while the apparel has a feminine quality, it tastefully stands out from much of what you see for women. With the Joy Ride gear, Bell was striving for “purpose built while being aesthetically beautiful.”

The Joy Ride program is focused on the four following pillars:

1. Obsessed with dirt
2. Welcoming and inclusive
3. Fun! (and sometimes educational)
4. Organized, but flexible

Bell is providing a “prescriptive tool kit” for the ambassadors which included a vast array of suggestions for building a community: pre- and post-ride activities; educational programs; partnering with local shops, brands and businesses; giveaways; social media accounts; trail etiquette; volunteers and role assignments; ride levels and more.

Klodnicki emphasized the importance of the ambassadors dividing the women into self-identified ride levels. The ability to challenge yourself is present when you ride with others at a similar or slightly more advanced level than oneself. It’s the “if she can ride it, I can ride it” philosophy. I’ve personally found this beneficial to my own growth as a mountain biker.

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Ultimately, these eight women must tailor their programs to fit into their respective communities. Terrain, weather, personalities, riding level and personal preferences will all be factors of how these programs evolve.

From frigid cold to unbearable heat to moisture, the fourth pillar: “organized, but flexible,” may be the biggest challenge for some of the ambassadors. For instance, after three weeks of 70 degrees and sunshine, Bell hadn’t expected a weekend of heavy rain and high wind. We spent the first day in Santa Cruz having a blast on the new Ibis Mojo 3 in a steady drizzle, but riding on day two was out of the question.

Meet the Joy Ride Ambassadors

A 20-year age gap spans the youngest and eldest ambassador. Through their diverse careers and backgrounds, they represent a small cross-section of the U.S. and Canada. While they have some connections, most of these women do not have a background in the bike industry. Perhaps this makes them a better fit for the ambassador role. A few of the ambassadors have already held their first Joy Ride and they were stoked to share their successes.

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Isabelle Jacques, North Vancouver, BC: Isabelle raced mountain bikes as a kid, but was always training with boys. It wasn’t until a few years ago that she started riding with women and that’s when she saw her riding skills really progress. She’s a certified Professional Mountain Bike Instructor and enjoys sharing riding strengths with friends, i.e. swapping downhill techniques for cross country skills. “I find that this program is almost something I’ve been waiting for … let’s just get out there and have a good time.”

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Samantha Jones, Kansas City, MO: When returning to her hometown of Kansas City, Sam was the only woman at the Lawrence MTB Club weekly rides. She started a Thursday night women’s ride, and the ride grew to 16 people before winter.

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Nina Karpoff, Edmonton, AB: As a resident of Edmonton, Alberta, Nina’s mountain bike rides are currently challenged by cold temperatures and unfavorable trail conditions, but she left the Joy Ride weekend feeling prepared. In addition to being a skilled rider, she’s also a talented photographer. Be sure to follow her on Instagram.

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Amber Krueger, Madison, WI: Amber lives 15 minutes from singletrack, but she expressed that Madison needed the Joy Ride program to encourage women to explore the area’s trails. She completed her inaugural Joy Ride event in February with a seasonally appropriate fat bike ride. Seventy women gathered at the Quarry Ridge trailhead for coffee and doughnuts before hitting the trails on Surly demo bikes. The trail offered a short loop for all riding abilities. As a representative of the midwest, Amber is one of the ambassadors that will be challenged by cold and wet trail conditions. As a Wisconsin native, I can appreciate the brisk, negative-8 degree event but Amber thoughtfully combatted the cold with a heated tent and a bonfire.

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Karina Magrath, Coeur d’ Alene, ID: Karina is Professional Mountain Bike Instructor certified. She was accustomed to large women’s riding groups when she lived in Seattle, but the percentage of women on her Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, group rides was small. She’s looking forward to her August Joy Ride camping event at Farragut State Park, in Athel, Idaho. Women will ride from the campground to trails that offer opportunities for beginner, intermediate and advanced riders. She’s already received 100 RSVPs.

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Veronique Pardee, Tucson, AZ: It’s been over a year since Veronique and a fellow cyclist started the program In Session. The group was inspired by the Trek Dirt Series and developed from the realization that she hadn’t spent much time “sessioning” trail sections and features. She had up to 13 women at the rides and as they neared its anniversary, she wondered how it would grow. At Veronique’s first Joy Ride event, she gathered 55 women. She was really focused on the social aspect of this ride, so she shuttled people out and back from a local brewery where they were offered $1 post-ride beers.

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Missy Petty, Knoxville, TN: Missy is a sponsored racer. Her home city of Knoxville won the Bell Built grant in 2015, and the Appalachian Mountain Bike Club is using the funds to build a gravity trail at Urban Wilderness. The location already has up to 40 miles of trail and this challenging terrain will offer Missy’s Joy Ride group trail access for all skill levels only a few minutes from the city.

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Kendall Ryan, Richmond, VA: Kendall learned to ride from Luna Chicks, an all-women’s team, and she’s convinced that’s why she’s had such a positive riding experience. Richmond was the recipient of a Bell Built grant in 2014 for the Richmond Regional Ride Center, and they’re continuing to expand on this trail network of beginner and intermediate friendly trails.

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Why do we need programs like Joy Ride?

The Joy Ride Ambassador program provides a sense of camaraderie and community. It fosters motivation, builds relationships and keeps people moving, but there’s more.

To get a little perspective on how the Joy Ride program would affect mountain bike advocacy at large, I spoke with Laurel Harkness, IMBA Region Director for Northern California. Laurel has been riding since 1987, but it was three years before she rode with another woman. For her, it’s inspiring to see a program like this and it’s a great gathering place for stories that she can retell at a later date. She also sees tremendous value in terms of hierarchy of engagement. It’s where beginners start.

“I see this demographic as being very important and untapped,” said Harkness. As a veteran mountain biker and a single mom of two kids who also ride, she represents a less-publicized demographic at land manager meetings and seeks to help change preconceived notions of who a mountain biker is. Her son rides to find the next best fishing spot and her daughter goes out seeking a great photo spot. Currently, IMBA memberships are 80-percent male and 20-percent female. Harkness would love to see that level out. A program like Joy Ride is the springboard.

Congratulations to this amazing group of women that will inspire, promote and grow women’s rides in their communities. These eight women are planting the seed for a future of ambassadors across the nation and, hopefully, across the world. Follow all these ladies on Instagram, check out their ride pages on Facebook, and be sure to attend a Joy Ride if you’re in their area.

Become an advocate for all women’s rides by helping Bell build a map. Drop a pin so you can connect with women across the U.S. and Canada; host a ride, find a leader, build a community.

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Dirt Rag Editor’s Choice 2015 – Katherine’s Honorable Mentions


Dirt Rag Editor's Choice LogoEditor’s Note: Katherine, our new web editor, wasn’t on staff when the 2015 Editor Choice Awards were being collected for Dirt Rag Issue #188, so her honorable mention list is made up of stuff she purchased during the past year on her own dime.

If you want to know what the rest of the staffers chose as their favorite bikes and gear of 2015, pick up the latest issue off a newsstand near you, or purchase a digital copy now.


Chromag Trailmaster Saddle – $96

Ed picks 15-1

The Trailmaster is my just-right saddle. It features a medium-sized platform, has a “medium” amount of padding (it’s not super soft, despite how thick it looks) and is neither too flat nor too curved nor too deeply channeled. Similarly to SRAM’s Guide brakes, I can ride my full-suspension bike all day and not notice this vital component because it just works. I usually ride wearing lightly padded liner shorts, but the saddle is padded and comfortable enough for a brief outing if and when I forget my chamois.

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The perforated natural leather top wears a classy striped pattern and has aged admirably, with just a small amount of barely noticeable cracking on the rear after almost a year of rides. Otherwise, it still looks remarkably new and doesn’t feel as if it has lost any of its support.

The Trailmaster looks smaller than it feels under butt thanks to its padding and edges that are generously rounded off for ease in maneuvering off the saddle. At only 4 mm longer than Chromag’s dirt jump saddle, and featuring a soft nose, it might not be the best platform for people who spend a lot of time slid way far forward to grind out climbs, but I have been pleased with the Trailmaster on 99 percent of my rides.

The Chromag Trailmaster has chromoly rails, weighs 310 grams and measures 284 mm by 140 mm.

SRAM Guide RSC Brakes – $410/pair

Ed picks 15-3

SRAM’s Guide brakes have gotten so much love in the past year and have worked so well that they have nearly been forgotten, but they should still be on your radar whether you’re upgrading or building a bike from scratch. In fact, after choosing them for this list, I had to go for a quick pedal to think about how they feel; these brakes are so good that I have been able to ignore them, trust them and just ride.

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The RSC Guides have impressed me with their modulation, reliability and adjustability. They don’t feel grabby nor do they replicate the unnerving, brake-pedal-to-the-floor-then-catch feeling of the old Avids I replaced. As a smaller rider with smaller hands, I appreciate tool-free reach adjust and true, one-finger braking that is always smooth. After many rides—not always in great conditions—these brakes have stayed true, quiet, powerful and proven to be very low-maintenance. Read Mike’s review if you want all the technical details.

Giro Wind Vest – $80

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Simply called “Wind Vest,” this is Giro’s least-expensive outerwear offering (price is the same for men and women). Despite the steep price tag for what seems to be a simple piece of gear, I have found it to be worth every dollar. On any ride when the temperature is 70 degrees or below, this vest goes with me. I never know if I’ll get cold on a long descent or end up sitting outside a coffee shop in the shade. It wads up small, stuffs into its own pocket (inside the vest) and can fit in the hip belt pocket of my hydration pack or a rear jersey pocket.

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Giro’s vest is made of Pertex Nylon Rip Stop fabric and features a perforated rear panel that means a less-sweaty back when riding with a pack. My vest shows no signs of wear after almost a year of abuse being worn under backpacks, stuffed into gear bags and rained on. It wicks moisture and is highly wind and water resistant. It’s an indispensable piece of gear with multiple uses that I’m never sorry I carried and often very glad to have.

The vest is slightly fitted but doesn’t have the upside-down triangle shape of hardcore roadie gear. It lacks grippers and still has room in the hips. It is comfortable enough off the bike that I also wear it running and hiking. The women’s sizes run almost a full-size large, especially if you want this to fit closely.

Surly Bikes Racing Sucks Hat – $28

Ed picks 15-5

Before you wave a rigid carbon pitchfork in my direction over my bad attitude, know that I bought this hat specifically to wear at a 12-hour mountain bike race. Since then, I have ditched my other baseball-style head coverings and reach for this Surly cap exclusively. It features fancy pinstripes, a high-qualty embroidered patch, Flex-Fit stretch, polyester and Spandex construction and a standard brim (as opposed to flat, bro-brah nonsense). The hat has even held up to multiple trips through the washing machine. Those are nice touches but, really, my favorite thing is that this hat says “Racing Sucks.”

Most people understand that the sentiment is supposed to be funny, and I can feel good about my day knowing that I made some people laugh. Even better are the ones who don’t know how to react to a woman wearing a hat that says “sucks.” I wasn’t allowed to say that word as a young child but we’re all adults now and, if you have a sense of humor, you should have this hat.

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Inside Line: First ride with the new Giro Montaro helmet


Photos by Justin Steiner

Giro has had a huge hit on its hands with the Feature, a great all-purpose trail helmet that doesn’t break the bank. The new Montaro builds on that success with several new technologies that make it more of a premium product.

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The first key design priority on the Montaro was making it more easily compatible with goggles. Giro says it is one of the few half-shell helmets on the market that can perch a pair of goggles on your forehead below the visor. To make it work the visor tilts really far up with several detents along the way, making it unnecessary to lock it in place with screw tension at the pivots. The vents along the rear of the helmet are also lined with a rubbery plastic that helps hold the goggle strap, a nice touch.

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Ventilation was another key aspect of the design, and the Montaro has Giro’s Roc Loc Air retention system that keeps the body of the helmet suspended slightly above your head, allowing air to move in and through more easily. If you do end up warming up and sweating, you should notice a lot less of it ending up in your eyes thanks to the super-absorbent brow pad that uses the kind of material you’d find in a ShamWow. If you pull it out and squeeze it in your hand a rather disturbing amount of sweat comes out.

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Other features include a clip-in GoPro mount, easy to adjust straps and a MIPS liner on all models. There are eight colors and three sizes for the standard Montaro and three colors and two sizes in the women’s Montara version, which is otherwise identical. It will go on sale for $150 this October.

Montaro

Giro_H_Montaro_MatteBlueLime_34_MIPS Giro_H_Montaro_MatteBlackTurquoiseSpeckle_34_MIPS Giro_H_Montaro_MatteGlossBlack_34_MIPS Giro_H_Montaro_MatteFlameWhiteTitanium_34_MIPS Giro_H_Montaro_MatteTitaniumFlame_34_MIPS Giro_H_Montaro_MatteLimeMountainDivision_34_MIPS Giro_H_Montaro_MatteWhiteLime_34_MIPS Giro_H_Montaro_MatteBlackLimeFlame_34_MIPS

Montara

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In action

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Review: Giro Alpineduro winter SPD boots


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Giro may have made the perfect “shoulder season” footwear with the Alpineduro. Seriously. These are amazing boots.

Looking more like a pair of Italian hiking boots than the typical tech-y bike shoes, the Alpineduro fits in perfectly with Giro‘s New Road ascetic of performance riding wear without the typical racer influenced design cues. At $200 they slot in below Lake’s winter boots, and right around the same price as Shimano and Specialized winter boots.

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The upper is synthetic leather, with very few seams or panels, meaning less entry points for water. A seam-taped waterproof bootie inside the shoe keeps out any water that might find a way past the outer materials. Insulation is provided by Primaloft, and Vibram contributes the sole. The toe and heel have minimalist rubberized protectors to protect these high wear zones.

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Between the rockered sole and not-too-stiff nylon shank, these boots are very walkable, and the cleat pocket is just the right depth for grind-free walking and easy clipping in. I never have issues with traction on any surface, and are they comfortable enough to wear all day off the bike. I wouldn’t recommend taking a really long hike, but for rambling about, climbing over rocks, or just hanging out at the bar or campsite, there are few cycling footwear choices that are better for all around use.

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My feet stay warm down until about freezing, and after that they start to get cold, but that mostly seems to come from the cleat. A thicker pair of socks might help, but between the typical narrowness of Giro’s uppers and the general snug fit—even after going a half size up from my normal 43.5—I could only fit a mid-weight hiking sock without cutting of my circulation. In the 20s and teens I prefer the Lake MX303’s, below that I usually just switch to standard winter boots and platform pedals. You mileage may vary, as my feet seem to get cold easily.

I like the lace closure, but the little elastic lace keeper pulled out of its stitching after a few weeks. Giro caught an early production run issue having to do with a newly trained employee. It is a minor issue that should be corrected now, and seemed to affect only a few pairs. I just tucked the loose ends of the knot under the crossing laces. When I think about it, I’ll just resew the end of the elastic myself, should be a 5 minute job.

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While most of my riders this time of year are pretty short, I did spend about 22 hours straight in some awful weather during a 175-mile trip in early December, including a good bit of wet rail-trail, getting lost, and a lot of riding around in rural Pennsylvania in the middle of the night. The weather ranged from high 50’s at the start, to high 20’s. There were at least eight hours of rain in there as well, and a pretty serious sleet storm. All in all, a real test of a pair of shoes.

I didn’t bring rain pants on this trip, so eventually the water stared running down my legs and into the boots, but up until that point, my feet remained dry and comfortable. The low back on the boots prevents achilles tendon rubbing issues, but it is so low it may cause some issue with rain dripping of rain pants and into the boots. Giro is working on a pair of gaiters to go with this boots for riders looking for more coverage. I look forward to trying a pair out.

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After my feet got wet, my wool socks and the insulation did a fine job keeping everything warm even as the temps dropped. I changed socks once, and expected to shove my now dry foot back into a swampy mess of a boot, but after only a few hours of rain free riding it was only slightly damp inside. Impressive, considering how waterproof they are.

Other than adding some arch support, I’ve been comfortable in these shoes, but I do wish for more toe box space. Some wiggle room for my toes is always appreciated. If there was some way to allow for some volume adjust to compensate for thick or thin socks, I’d be ecstatic. Maybe if the laces ran down further towards the toe? That seems to work on my non-cycling winter work boots.

Alpenduro DR-9

If I was planning to do a lot more mountain biking in these, I’d want more aggressive lugs at the front of the boot, or maybe even a couple of screw in lugs. But really, there are already plenty of winter shoes like that on the market. I’m digging these for all around mixed surface use.

And finally, I am glad to see the synthetic leather outer. As much as I love leather, riding around these parts in the winter exposes footwear to a lot of road salt. Without regular care, that road salt will mess up a pair of expensive leather boots in a hurry. The outer material shows no sign of being affected by the salt, and clean up quickly with quick wipe with a paper towel.

Alpenduro DR-8

I’ll admit I’m a big fan of how these shoes look. Simple, understated, classic. But theAlpineduros aren’t just all show. With the type of riding I like to do, and the amount of cool and damp weather I see, these boot may get worn more often than anything else I own.

 

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First Impressions: Giro Empire VR90 shoes


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Over the past two months I’ve been putting substantial trail time in on Giro’s top off-road offering, the Empire VR and it’s quickly becoming one of my all-time favorites.

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Giro’s new lace-up VR90 utilizes an old-school lace closure for a comfortable, snug fit. Laces rule because they don’t create pressure points anywhere across your foot and they’re lighter than straps, buckles and dials. The one-piece synthetic leather upper is supple and comfy, like a nice set of slippers made for dirt bashing. The lower is made from full Easton EC90 carbon with a full Vibram rubber sole. There are also foot bed adjusters which Giro calls “SuperNatural,” so you can adjust arch support.

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At 348 grams each (size 44, no cleat) this is just about the lightest hard-core mountain bike shoe there is. For comparison, utilizing our reliable Feedback Sports Summit Scale here’s how they stack up compared to top level, size 44 shoes from Sidi, Shimano and Lake with identical Shimano SPD cleats:

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Not only do I appreciated the light weight, comfortable fit and tight lace closure, but also the full rubber sole, especially in wet conditions. The sole gets great traction over rocks and roots with no open carbon spaces to slip or loose grip—something I really appreciate here on the east coast as winter rolls in. One thing to note with laces: While mine never loosened during a ride because I made sure I got them really tight, if they do you can’t just reach down on the fly and snug everything up like with straps, buckles and dials.

So far durability has been excellent. Look for more down the road as I get more trail time under my laces. Retail price is $300.

 

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