These past few weeks at at bianchista towers we have been wearing a frighteningly lurid pair of the high end mtb shoes, the ‘Extreme Tech’ model from Northwave, with sleek looks and styling straight outta Italia.
Now whilst the colour may not be to everyone’s taste, (admittedly the model tested served quite a shocking compliment of neon yellow and a burnt neon orange tone) the ‘Extreme Tech’ is also offered in a classy looking white version, great for those old school euro-cycling fans who believe any deviation of glowing white shoes to be an inexcusable strike against ones name (teamed with fresh white socks natch!)
Recently a similar pair of fluo-slips have been spotted gracing these fair feet, also from Northwave. I purchased the base-end Sparta model a couple of months ago with the intention of racking up the commuting miles on these cheap and cheerful numbers, with between 14 and 26 miles daily clocked up on my journeys between home and work. Both ridden in size 39 (UK6) it made for a good contrast and comparison in ride features from both models. The fit is definitely more refined on the extreme tech model, the comfort difference was pretty huge.
The Extreme Tech is crafted out of a one-piece upper, eliminating seams from the construction. Not only this, but the upper is made from an incredibly supple and comfortable fabric, that feels not dissimilar to wearing a high end leather sneaker, the sort that gives a little but maintains its shape and suppleness. The upper is made from a light leather-like material, and utilizes Northwaves ‘BioMap’ system – creating a shoe that compliments the biomechanics of the pedalling motion, from the footbeds to the arch supports.
Another bonus is the drizzle resistance of these shoes. They really do take a long time to soak through, great news for the days when caught unaware without overshoes. Ideal for those of a dirty disposition, mtb’ers and Cross’ers will dig how easy the shoes are to clean – a simple wipe with a wet cloth is all that’s needed to get them glowing again.
The shoes fasten with a combination of a padded ankle strap, micro adjustable via a sturdy exterior buckle, and the tightness can be dialled in to the inside of the shoe, for those with smaller feet like myself, requiring a little tightening to secure the foot.
Above this lies a boa-style click fastener, monikered the ‘SLW’ in layman’s terms its Nothwaves ‘Speed Lace Winch’ system. The easy grab click allows you to tighten the wax coated Plyamide ‘Dyneema’ cord to the exact flavour to suit. I found they seemed to run a little smoother and easier than the boa system found on other shoe models, certainly smoother after a few good soakings. The little red click latch unlocks the winch for easy loosening.
So how did the shoes ride? Well the carbon sole provided excellent power transfer, I noticed riding up a big hill on my fixed gear the day after switching from the nylon soled equivalent that the soles were super stiff when pedalling, meaning I was able to eke a little more out with ease when powering up the hill. The sole has a carbon section injected into the outer, made up of a natural rubber unit, so everything in contact with terra firma is hard wearing and resilient. I could potter about in these shoes fairly comfortably, and during Wimbledon I pretty much hiked around a mile at the start and end of each day across a muddy golf course to fetch my steed.
There are two removable studs for cross junkies to use as they belt around the rough stuff. There’s also a nice welded piece of protection around the toe box area, keeping that delicate upper from scuffing, something Im forever seeming to do as I unclip and scuff curbs in the city.
I found it hard to wear the meshed spartamodel after trying the extreme tech, such was the level of fit the upper provided. It has even trumped the road shoe I currently hold on a high mantle, the specialized S-Works shoes… so much so the pennies are being saved to purchase the road version once my s-works bite the dust in a couple of seasons.
The shoes can be hunted down and found for around £200, in both road and mountain bike SPD versions, in a few different colourways. Overall id give these shoes a 9.5/10, such was the comfort of the upper and the quality to which the components are made (the dial-up buckle system was particularly impressive, even after a few wet outings – it ran as smooth as ever, and was easy to use with the nice shaped handle).