Best tri bike shoes 2014
A top quality tri-specific bike shoe will save you transition seconds and provide ultimate power transfer. Nik Cook tests a quartet of race-day contenders…
... and don't forget to check out our other 2014 round-ups: best aerobars, best wetsuits, best lightweight run shoes, best trail shoes, best energy bars, best bike helmets, best TT helmets, best recovery drinks and best tri-suits.
Vittoria THL Carbon Tri
Price: £145 from www.chickencycles.co.uk
The Vittorias are the cheapest pair of shoes here and, at 330g, also the heaviest. Typically for an Italian brand they size up a little narrow so, if you’ve wide feet, you should aim to try before you buy. On the road they’re comfortable in bare feet with good padding in the heels and, although only some of the sole is carbon, we’ve no complaints about stiffness and power transfer, and had no issues with hotspots.
The ventilation through the mesh uppers is excellent but drainage is limited to two small holes on the sole. For transition, the heel loops are on the small side as are the tabs on the main straps, which could be tricky to locate in the heat of competition. Heel bumpers provide protection as they bounce on the tarmac in transition.
Verdict: A few transition niggles but not a bad pair of shoes for the price – 81%
Pearl Izumi Try Fly IV Carbon
Price: £149 from www.madison.co.uk
Developed with Ironman legend Tim DeBoom, the plush Try Fly IVs are the most comfortable shoes on test and definitely suited to the long haul. They tip the scales at 303g, power transfer and stiffness from the carbon soles is excellent with no hint of hotspots, and both drainage and ventilation are good.
Out of transition, the main closure straps don’t give you a huge gape for fast feet entry but they still function smoothly, while the leather heel loops are a good size. Once in, you’ve no worries of straps rubbing on cranks and the tabs are very easy to locate for undoing as you roll into T2. If you’re running with your bike, toe bumpers and replaceable heel bumpers ensure you don’t need to worry about scuffing your shoes.
Verdict: Great value, extremely comfortable and friendly for long-course feet – 90%
Mavic Tri Helium
Price: £275 from www.mavic.com
In previous years, the yellow Mavics have justified their price tag by consistently being the lightest, but, at 279g, they’ve lost that crown to the Northwaves. Their fit is typically narrow for a European brand, but once on and adjusted they’re incredibly comfortable without socks. The main straps can be cut to length, and while you might not be happy taking scissors to £275 shoes it’s necessary to prevent them catching on your cranks.
The full-carbon soles provide excellent power transfer, the ventilation is superb and drainage has been significantly improved for 2014. The heel loops are a decent size, the main straps hold the shoes wide open for easy entry and there’s a fairly chunky heel bumper to protect them when you’re running through transition.
Verdict: Still lurid, no longer the lightest but a quality pair of triathlon bike shoes – 83%
Northwave Extreme Triathlon
Price: £249 from www.i-ride.co.uk
Pick up these shoes and the first thing you notice is their lack of weight – they tip the scales at a svelte 243g. Their fit is generous and, with no stitching on the uppers and plush padding, comfortable for sockless racing. The main strap performs well and has a handy extra piece of Velcro to ensure it stays in place while waiting on your bike in T1; there are even handy little loops if you’re doing the elastic band T1 trick.
The heel loops take three fingers, there are bumpers on the heels and toes for running through transition and seven drainage ports on the soles. Ventilation is good while the stiffness of the carbon soles is impressive. Finally, if you’re a Speedplay fan, £11.99 buys you an adaptor that allows you to run the pedals in direct contact with the soles.
Verdict: Lightweight, stiff, comfortable and loaded with tri-friendly features – 93%
And the winner is…
Northwave with its Extreme Triathlon shoes!
Don't forget to check out our other 2014 round-ups: best aerobars, best wetsuits, best lightweight run shoes, best trail shoes, best energy bars, best bike helmets, best TT helmets, best recovery drinks and best tri-suits