Russians are snobs. One of my favorite Russians (an adult male) used to systematically break people down by their footwear. “Americans will wear nice clothes, but then wear sneakers like a clown nose.” or “Indians, they dress in incredible silks, covered in gold, but then wear dollar store slippers.” I can only imagine the treatment cyclists might get. Walking around in bike shoes, even the hybrid mountain bike versions, are the fashion equivalent of an adult diaper. Not something to wear off-trail and certainly not on a public street. Perhaps that’s why bike shoes are off the radar of everyone but the most bike obsessed.

And yet, ride long enough and most urban cyclists swear by the benefits of clipless pedals, those wonderful inventions that, sadly require a rigid sole and a metal kleat to attach human to machine in blissful efficiency. For too long have cyclists voluntarily purchased and worn shoes that either look like the barnacles of a tropical tug boat or mini spaceships. Even more awesome several (mostly American) companies have started making attractive “lifestyle” bike shoes that look like attractive shoes, but have specially designed soles to enable cleats.


The first “attractive” bike/lifestyle shoe that I was aware of came from the UK by designer Quoc Pham.

Only for men and how it BURNED. Because those are really freaking hot. 

History Lesson:

if you wanna kick it old-style and ride platform pedals or clips, the “in the know” choices were always adidas or vans. These did not have anything you could screw a cleat to, so you just used clips or platform pedals. Possibly it was just a convenient youth demographic cross over but the super flat rubber soles had a certain functionality (more so the solid adidas). Then, perhaps having a eureka moment both companies started making shoes for cyclists. Adidas came out with the limited edition Brooklyn Machine Works (below) and Vans is pumping out a full range complete with color range and cute details, like a cog on the back heel. These have a more youthful/hipster appeal.

















Cadence makes some nice, very simple shoes, too.




Mike Green (of BikeBlogNYC) really likes Onitsuka Tigers.  They’re part of that original ‘identifying solid sneakers that will also work on a bike’ trend. But they’ve been hip to their cycling contingent for a while.







Spring 2012 they are coming out with bike specific shoes that do look pretty retro-foxy. Which, for years is like the “mega trend” of cycling: Retro. It’s part of the romantic thing that people get all dreamy about: jerseys that sort of look like the ones the legendary French riders from the 1950’s wore. Classic styling that seem more grown up and harking back to a time when cycling was an internationally respected man’s sport. No one seems to think of the American 1950’s, but that’s another story.

It’s such a huge trend that even Bontrager (a mega big bicycling company) made these cute things:


Though I’ve never seen them in a shop, anyone wearing them or anywhere that wasn’t the internet. As if to say, “We recognize style. We’re hip. But that shit totally doesn’t sell.”

In reality one (Italian) company totally owns the retro cycling shoe thing. Vittoria has been making cute cycling shoes with little holes for air vents, since way, way, way before the internet and only slightly after the invention of matching one’s jaunty sweater to one’s fixed gear and dapper shoes.


If there’s anyway that you can resist them, you’re either younger than 29 or haven’t totally lost your mind to cycling, yet.

What’s Hot Now:

But then there was the Kursk (Sorry, Pavel). It was a streetwear shoe by CHROME (SF) that sorta looked like a Vans shoe but had a sole that allowed an SPD kleat to be installed. They became pretty popular & Chrome has expanded to several models, including some rather unattractive women’s options (see hideous pink thing) and far more exciting… limited editions, like the current COG Magazine collaboration.





I’m pretty sure that CHROME is the current de-facto brand for lifestyle bike shoes. Still, I’m a lady, so I was WAY EXCITED when I discovered… DZR Shoes.

First, they’re totally pretty. Dignified pretty, I’m pretty sure even that snotty Russian would agree. DZR’s have the special sole AND they were originally designed FOR WOMEN. I know, crazy. The company’s lead shoe designer had worked for a major bike manufacturer (making those spaceship things) and upon moving to SF decided to make something awesome. But, the “Bike Fashion” marketplace being 90% + male they added some men’s designs. Let’s put it this way: I own 2 pairs, one’s totally worn out & I really need the hot new summer loafer version.

If anyone’s wondering, I’m size 39.

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2 Responses to Everything You Know About Bike Shoes is Wrong

  1. Suzette says:

    I’ve put thousands of miles on my bikes over the years. My buddy and I did a 1000 on the TransAmerican trail last sumemr. I’m talking sometimes 80 mile days with 100 degree heat, 50 to 70 pounds of gear and food/water climbing up and down the Appalachians all day. Much more then most of these weekend warriors with their $5000 bikes will ever face. That being said, I have never owned riding clothes. Why bother? Shorts if its hot, pants if it’s not. Shirt and maybe a thermal if you’re cold, no shirt if your hot. Why wick sweat? It was designed to evaporate off your skin. Quit getting in the way and let your body work like it’s supposed to. To me, the riding clothes are just a way for cyclists to be trendy. If you like trendy, then by all means go for it. As far as making you more aerodynamic, and reducing chafing, and wicking sweat and blah blah blah it’s all unneeded. I’ve done many thousands of miles in jeans, a band t-shirt and boots no problem. And I don’t ride clipless at all. Ever. The most I worry about clothes when I ride is to remember to tuck my pant leg in my sock so it doesn’t get caught on the chainring.

    • admin says:

      Hi Suzette – I think that’s a fine strategy for anyone riding an upright bike for short distances, I can’t imagine doing the ride you describe in jeans – it would be painfully uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m sensitive, but I think that there is a reason why road racers wear kits, dutch bike folk wear anything they want and many people try for something in between, based on their riding, style, budget and personality.

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