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Lake Cycling, bought in early 2012 by a Dutch company, has reinvested in their brand and cycling shoes, and may become the first company to recognize the growth of cyclocross by launching a cyclocross-specific model. While companies like Pearl Izumi have announced designs like the Project X that may work well in cyclocross (due to toe flex for running), Lake’s upcoming shoe is the first shoe we know of marketed exclusively for cyclocross.
Cyclocross-specific shoe? Is it necessary? You may have been doing just fine with your mountain bike shoes, but since the disciplines can be quite different, Lake Cycling believes different shoes are justified if the market is there.
The new cyclocross shoe is based on the top-of-the-line MX331 mountain bike shoe, and retains that shoe’s technical materials, including Outlast-lined, goat leather uppers, two Boa enclosures with a PowerZone feature to accommodate narrower or lower volume feet, and a heat-moldable carbon insole and carbon sole.
What makes this cyclocross specific, in Lake Cycling’s mind? It’s not a flexy toe, since the company’s experience working with Jeremy Powers convinced them his “stiffer is better” philosophy is the way to go. Instead, the company reduced weight and grip. To reduce weight, at least on its pre-production prototype, the company eliminated two of three large lugs near the cleat, and removed a majority of the rubber coating on the carbon sole in areas away from the cleat. The thinking is that in a cyclocross race, you won’t have all the rocks and slippery roots you might find while mountain biking, and thus the extra grip and weight are unnecessary. So for the growing number of cyclocross specialists out there, the sole was put on a diet for cyclocross racing, but if you also have summertime BC Bike Race aspirations, the mountain bike version of the MX331 may be a better choice. The downside could be that if you’re not quite accurate in your attempt to clip in after a remount, the exposed carbon behind the cleat may prove to be a very slippery surface when you’re attempt to stomp on a metal pedal. We’ll certainly see in testing, and the company emphasized the shoe we saw is still a prototype and the design could be refined with further testing.
What the cyclocross version of the MX331 lacks in rubber lugs and coating, it makes up for in removable spike and cleat options (as in soccer and football cleats, not SPD). Each shoe has no less than eight screw holes that accept removable spikes and soccer/football/baseball cleats. The idea is that when things get sloppy, snowy or icy, add all the grip you want for your barrier dismounts and schlep up that run-up (but try to avoid making an imprint on your competition with those eight spikes, should they be sprawled out in front of you).
The shoe comes with spikes and rubber and metal cleats, but they’re the “standard” options widely available in sporting goods stores should you lose one. And since football cleats can be set up so that the contact points are on the outer edges of the shoe, you could add some extra grip and stability with a wide lug stance.
If all that sounds like too many options and technology for a cyclocross shoe that will soon get covered in mud, perhaps the Dutch orange color may be a selling point. Look down at your shoes, envision Vos or van der Poel riding away from the field, and put in an attack.
Spike and cleat options are no good if the shoe doesn’t fit, and Lake’s fitting options should accommodate many types of feet. The company will offer a men’s and women’s shoe, and a men’s wide size option. The company said that the main difference with women’s shoes is actually the upper, not the sole, since their research revealed that women actually tend to have a taller, higher volume foot, especially around the arch. The company’s dual Boa enclosures have a lifetime warranty, and have a Boa PowerZone feature that adjusts for lower volume, narrow feet by allowing extra Boa cable slack to be extended and locked in place on the opposite side of the shoe (see photo in the gallery below).
While some brands like Shimano offer heat-moldable uppers, Lake Cycling’s MX 331 mountain and cyclocross shoes feature heat-moldable carbon soles and insoles. Both can be warmed up in an oven, and then just by sitting in a chair with the shoes on, you can conform the soles to your own feet.
The cyclocross version of the Lake MX331 will retail for the same price as the mountain MX331, at $370, and although it offers a ton of technical features, at that price, it’s certainly not for every budget. It’s worth saying that we’re firm believers that two well-fitting pairs of affordable shoes is better than one expensive set if you live in a very wet area and race both days on a weekend. Clean and dry shoes are always a good thing.
Lake Cycling hopes to have the production models available by this fall. We hope to get you a full review by then if we can get our hands on a set in time.
More info: www.lakecycling.com