FLAT SHOE REVIEW (update)
Ride Concepts Long Haul Update (4 Models Ridden)
One of the best things about this platform we publish to is the freedom it provides, meaning I can add new information about several products that I hadn’t learned when I first wrote about each of them. In this case, I’ve found that I now appreciate the performance of one shoe model that I didn’t have success with at first, and another shoe has been a disappointment in terms of durability. These are significant updates, but this also means I can use this opportunity to update two more pairs of shoes with slightly less compelling information that is noteworthy nonetheless. Hooray for the internet… I guess?
Ride Concepts Livewire
I have spent time in four different Ride Concepts models since the brand launched in Sept. of 2018. Most of my ride time has taken place with the Livewire model, which I reviewed for the launch. I finally had to retire this pair a few months ago because I was wearing a groove into the sole of the left foot, which is my front foot, from using the same pedals and identical foot placement. Other than the groove in the rubber, they have held up really well. They offer solid protection from impacts and are very well made.
The Livewires offer a somewhat stiffer sole than the competition and I find this gives me more power, both pedalling and when I need to move the bike around or bunnyhop. In fact, now that I’m testing some new pedals, I may put them back into service if the pin damage doesn’t match up with the new pedals because otherwise they’re still good to go. The grip isn’t as sticky as some so if you are looking for that gummy FiveTen feel that requires you to plant your ass to reposition your feet, these may not be for you.
The other pair I rode in and enjoyed in terms of grip and structure was the Hellion. It’s a more expensive shoe at $130 USD. It’s a little lighter and, like the Livewire, it incorporates D3O protection, but otherwise it’s very similar with the same features including RC’s DST 6.0 rubber on the sole, which is less tacky than the DST 4.0 that comes on the TNT and Powerline.
Early on I was switching between the two models, particularly during the wet seasons. One day I came back from a ride and noticed the outsole was separating from the upper all the way back to the ball of my foot. I wasn’t aware of an impact that caused this and Ride Concepts told me they haven’t had issues with this on the Hellions.
I liked wearing the Hellions and I am becoming obsessed with fixing anything that can be repaired, so it was repair time. I got some two-part JB Weld Epoxy (we should ask for a sponsorship) and re-attached the sole to the Hellion and continued to be pleased with their performance. After a few months, the right sole also separated, although less dramatically than the left. I also noticed that the upper was beginning to suffer wounds and the material had started to feel somewhat brittle and easily torn. I will likely break out the epoxy again, because these still have life in them, but as you can imagine I’m not able to recommend these shoes for their durability.
The third Ride Concepts shoe I’ve ridden in a lot is the Powerline. It’s a premium model at 150 USD and it offers a weather resistant upper with welded seams, D3O ankle protection for the inside of your bony lower leg, and a stickier 4.0 rubber compound on the sole. Like the Livewire it has a robust feel on the pedal but it offers even better protection. The fit isn’t quite as good in my experience and the toebox is a little tall, meaning it’s hard to lace the shoes and get solid pressure over the top of the forefoot. I got used to this however and it hasn’t seemed to affect performance.
When I first got these shoes, I wasn’t happy with the grip. They didn’t stay put as well as the Livewire or Hellion in my experience, riding on pedals from OneUp and Crankbrothers - the stickier shoe didn’t stick as well. It sounded crazy to me too so I did back-to-back testing and even spent time wearing one of each model at the same time, and it was conclusive. Ride Concepts sent me another pair since my experience didn’t match the feedback they had received. Unfortunately my experience with the second pair was identical and I didn’t have more to say.
Recently I’ve been riding pedals from Canfield with pins that are about the same height but are larger in diameter than the OneUps I was riding in earlier. The platform shape of the Canfield is also more dramatically convex than the OneUps. These differences were enough that I decided to give the Powerlines another try. On these pedals, and a pair of WahWah 2s from Kona more recently, I’ve been quite pleased with the grip and I’ve happily laced them up for every ride, when I haven’t been testing other shoes. Is the difference the pedals? I’m not sure yet, but I have a theory.
It feels like the Powerlines sink further into the pedal pins on the narrower pins on the OneUp pedals, to the point that the sole makes contact with the platform. This pressure reduces the weight on each pin, meaning I don’t feel as stuck. The Canfields, because of the larger surface area of the pins and the pedal shape, keep the sole of the Powerlines off the platform, increasing grip. Otherwise it makes no sense that stickier shoes would be less sticky.
Another possible factor in this grip conundrum is the coaching I received from Joel at Blueprint Athlete Development. My shape on the bike has changed significantly and I’m weighting my hands more in most situations, and pushing my heels down to be deliberate about extending my legs. Whether it’s the coaching or the new pedals, or a combination of both, I’ve been really happy with the grip of the Powerlines. Like the Livewires, they have also been very durable, with very little wear to show from a busy fall riding schedule.
For me the Powerline’s grip still isn’t quite as good as that of the Hellion or Livewires, but for the most part my feet stay put, which seems to be a good indicator.
Ride Concepts Vice
The fourth pair I’ve ridden in is Ride Concepts newest model, the Vice. These have a more traditional waffle sole like Vans and they are less technical than the others. I rode in these earlier with OneUp pedals but I didn’t like the fact that the pins could move about in the waffle gaps and it seemed I was mostly standing on the platform rather than the pins. When the weather is good* I’ll try these with my new skills and my new pedals, because they felt really good in my workshop.
*I really like these shoes and I want to preserve the suede so I can wear them as street shoes. They look great and they are the most comfortable shoes I own.
It sounds like I may need to do another update after this. I’m keen to test a pair of TNTs now so that would be a good time to let you know if I’ve solved the grip mystery of the Powerlines and how I like riding in the Vice with new pedals and new skills.