In the first look article and video, Neil briefly went over the design features and functions of the SD15. Let’s look a little closer at how these shoes were designed before talking about how they performed.
Design FeaturesThe Sidi SD15 shoes have some great design features that marry the classic Sidi cycling shoe with features that cyclists who spend a good amount of time off the bike have been looking for, whether that’s while at camp or during hike-a-bike sections. One of these features is the “Tallone Heel” cup system which Sidi implements on their cycling shoes to combat heel slippage.
The “Suola Outdoor” sole on these shoes is flexible with an aggressive tread pattern using softer durometer rubber than most shoes I’ve seen. This provides great grip on hard and loose trails, as well as both dry and wet surfaces.
The closure/tightening mechanism on the SD15 is Sidi’s own TECNO-3 system that uses a dial to twist a micro ratchet that tightens cords that crisscross the tongue on the shoe.
These cords tighten the upper, made of a Politex material. Sidi describes it as “…constructed of several overlapping layers with different physical-mechanical properties, the compacted PVC is then coupled to two fabrics (knitted fabric + felt) that is then film dyed for long-lasting color retention. “Politex” offers strong resistance to ripping, laceration, stretching and fading. “Politex” is made in strict compliance with European regulations and is a totally “green” product.”
Intended ApplicationIn product line organization, it is interesting that Sidi doesn’t put the SD15 on their MTB product page with such MTB shoe icons as the Sidi Dominator 7, shoes that you will undoubtedly see on any given race start line. The MTB product page has 8 other models of MTB shoes in addition to the Dominators. Rather than group them in this shoe category, Sidi has placed the SD15 on their “Outdoor” product page. This page is separate from the MTB, Road, MEGA, and Women’s product headings that Sidi has created in their cycling category of products. The SD15 shares the Outdoor product page with two other models from Sidi, the “MTB Epic” and “MTB Defender”. Best I can tell, the “Outdoor” products from Sidi are designed for more time with hiking in the dirt than any other line. The “Suola Outdoor” sole is only found on this line of shoes and is more like a regular boot’s sole that covers the entire bottom of the shoe compared to the Sidi’s MTB line that have a sole like a road shoe, but with “islands” of tread in the front and back.
The “Outdoor” line also appears to have the only models offered from Sidi using the “Politex” upper material. I presume this is because these shoes are intended for hard use off the bike where an upper is desired that “offers strong resistance to ripping, laceration, stretching and fading.”
Fit & First ImpressionsWhen I first received the Sidi SD15 shoes, they appeared to be of very high quality, which I expected, coming from Sidi. They felt very comfortable when I first put them on my feet. My feet are on the high arch end of the spectrum and are somewhat narrow. I have what I can only describe as a low volume foot in the mid section of my foot, likely a product of the higher arches and narrowness. This results in my shoes needing to be cinched almost all the way closed on many of the shoes I have owned over the years. I very rarely have issues finding shoes that fit in the 45 size however. The Sidi SD15 were no exception. They fit well from the beginning, even if I did need to cinch them down pretty far, I never got to the point where the two sides touched together over the tongue.
FlexibilityThe softer rubber on the soles and amount of flexibility make the Sidi SD15 a very comfortable shoe to walk in. I could probably even hike in these all day and not have issues, even though I haven’t walked more than a mile in them for any given period of time. I have never used carbon soled shoes, but normally run my cleats pretty far back away from the toes to prevent my achilles tendons from being flexed too much while utilizing the stiffer part of the shoe near the shank. The soles are so flexible in fact that I can easily bend the mid-foot shank into an arc in my hands.
The flexibility is great for walking and hiking comfort, but unfortunately affects the feel of the shoe and power transfer while on the pedals. I can feel the shoe flexing around the pedal and while I don’t get a hot spot on the Shimano XT Trail pedals I am using, if I was using a pedal like the Crank Brothers Egg Beater or other minimal pedal platform, I suspect it would be possible to get a hot spot or at least feel uncomfortable where the shoe bends around the pedal. The shoe bends to the point where the heel drops below the plane of the pedal a very slight amount. It isn’t so much for short rides, but it is noticeable during longer rides. In fact, I used the Sidi SD15 shoes in 4 single speed races this summer. I considered using the stiffer shoes I have, but the SD15 shoes are so walkable that they played a key role in my single speed races. The course was very flat except for a couple steep pitches. I geared high at 32×16. That gearing left me with a lot of torque and too little traction when trying to climb the steep pitches. I decided to run up these short steep sections on foot and keep my gearing high to ride at 20-25mph on the flatter sections that comprised the rest of the course. It paid off. I stood up on the podium at each race and felt more comfortable running in the SD15 than any other MTB shoe I have used before.
Hike-ability & BreathabilityThis comfort also applies to bikepacking where hike-a-bike sections are anticipated. Bikepacking seems to always involve hike-a-bike sections in my experience. Whether it’s a downed tree across a trail, crossing a stream, or a rocky loose section that you could normally clear when unloaded, walking with your bike is just part of bikepacking. These shoes will be great in those moments.
Speaking of crossing streams, I rode with the Sidi SD15 shoes through creeks a few times and they dry rather fast. The politex seems to absorb some water initially, but dries rather quickly on the outside, similar to a terry cloth towel in some respects. There are mesh vents on the toes that drain water rapidly, allow for air flow into the shoes, and also serve as flex points. There are also numerous holes that provide some ventilation along the upper of the shoes. Although they aren’t quite as ventilated as I might like for riding in the heat of summer, they offer great abrasion resistance in rocky terrain and should be a good all season shoe.
ToughnessAlthough they provide good abrasion resistance, the politex allowed artichoke thistle thorns to penetrate through and poke my feet. These thorns are very tough and I have yet to find a shoe that prevents them from poking through. I was hopeful that the politex was tough enough to fend them off. It’s a lightweight material that is abrasion resistant however, and I would rather have those qualities than a heavy armor on my feet for the rare thorny occasions.
Fortunately, the tongue of the Sidi SD15 shoes can pull all the way forward, out from under the cords of the TECNO-3 closure system. That allows access to the very toe of the shoe to push out thorns in situations like this.
WeightThese shoes weigh 427 grams each for a total of 854 grams for the pair, or 1 lb, 14 oz. Although I have seen lighter shoes, the weight isn’t bad at all for the great deep-lugged, high-traction sole, cord closure, and abrasion-resistant upper you get with the Sidi SD15 shoes.
The Sidi MTB SD15 shoes are available currently in three color combinations: black/orange, sand/black, and black (reviewed). They retail for $199.99.
For more info and to find where you can purchase a pair, please visit www.ciclista-america.com