Cycling shoes are a contentious subject. What you wear on your feet says more about your cycling intent than anything else. Gravel fashion appears to have firmly embraced the lace-up. Consigned to the history books by other cycling disciplines, the gravel trend setter fell in love. Perhaps more for a desire to be different rather than their simplicity.
Whatever the reason, lace-ups are fashionable again and every brand features at least one model in their lineup. Despite the resurgence, there are doubts regarding their performance merits. Many feel that laces are only in trend, because retro is fashionable right now. The reality is there is no comparison between laces and newer closure systems.
Dial-in a great fit
One system which has rapidly taken centre stage in the world of retention, is BOA. The wire lace and dial system is simple to use, hard wearing and can be adjusted on the fly. Ever found your lace-ups go sloppy and need tightening up after a few hours riding? Thought so.
With BOA you just twist the dial to tighten, twist the other way to loosen. It’s so simple to use that you can do it mid pedal stroke and adjust the comfort and tension. Even done up super tight, the dual BOA dials give consistent pressure; secure but not so tight as to pinch.
Swiss based Suplest are just one of many brands who see the merits in BOA and feature the system on all their high-end shoes. And if the eye watering price is anything to go by, the Suplest Cross Country Pro, is definitely high end.
As you’d hope for from a three hundred quid pair of disco slippers, there’s carbon soles, super light uppers, mesh venting and they’re finished in a shockingly loud colour so everyone knows you have deep pockets… A more subdued black and red is also an option if the neon red featured here is too loud for you. Personal preference here, but I love the neon red. It’s different, which is what I want from an expensive product rather than blending in with the crowd.
Comfort and Performance
Of all the kit to test, other than saddles, shoes are the toughest to review. Contact points are important but equally very personal. With shoes, one persons slipper is another’s gruesome torture device. But, I think anyone would struggle to find any discomfort wearing the Suplest Cross Country Pro.
For starters, the insoles are from German brand Solestar. These guys specialise making aftermarket cycling insoles and know a thing or two about comfort. Although not of the custom mouldable variety, they offer great arch support with no hotspots, which is welcome for anyone planning on riding long distances.
The upper features a thin carbon layer, which spreads the pressure of the BOA laces and offers a comfortable fit. This carbon shield prevents the BOA wire from cutting into the softer material below and causing discomfort. The ‘Anatomic Wrap’ tongue enclosure is arguably the Suplest Cross Country Pro’s best feature. One side wraps around, the other wraps over, resulting in no annoying bunching up of material across the top of the foot. There’s simply no pressure points or chafing.
The ERGO 360° carbon outsole is stiff but has just enough give to provide flex where needed. Preferences vary, but I personally prefer a sole that isn’t granite hard. A little flexibility goes a long way to improving all day comfort and these soles have just a touch of bend in the pedal stroke. Off-road shoes they may be, but you won’t want to do much hike-a-bike in them. The minimal grips on the soles speak for themselves and want to stay fixed to your SPD pedals, with only short flurries of off the bike action.
Performance benefits do not come from just the carbon sole however. BOA’s strength and resistance to stretching means no power is lost on the pedal upstroke. If you were to return to lace-ups after riding in any pair of BOA equipped shoes, it will feel like pedalling in flip-flops.
The crucial factor that made me fall in love with these shoes is the comfort and softness of the upper and the width of the toe box. These are wide shoes, deviating from the narrow offerings that most brands seem to offer.
I should say that again – These are wide shoes. Many people will want a narrow shoe and so the Cross Country Pro will not be for them. But if like me, you have wide feet, you will never be more comfortable on the bike.
Even if Suplest are too wide, too expensive or too red, you should consider BOA equipped shoes when next looking out for new kicks. Having ridden in trendy lace-ups for some time, the benefits were instantly apparent. In this case, technology moves on while fashions stands still.
Last modified: 9th November 2019