Flat Pedal Shoe Review
Ride Concepts Powerline Shoes - Reviewed
Ride Concepts has made quite a splash since their bold launch of 5 men's, 4 women's and 3 youth flat pedal shoes in addition to clipless models for men and women. Construction, for the first two models I've tried, the Livewire and Hellion, is excellent, while materials are on point, and performance has been dialled. Even the fit is great. The launch was bold for good reason; these guys know their stuff.
The most recent flat shoe to reach production is the Powerline. This is a burlier shoe than the Livewire and Hellion but its heritage is clear. The biggest difference visually is the medial ankle coverage for a little extra protection. There is apparently a D3O polymer protection insert below the outer here as well.
The last is slightly different as well and I wasn't quite sure about the fit. Length and width are identical but the height to the laces is greater. Before the shoes broke in I had to really yank the laces to get the fit as snug as I wanted but now that they have a few months of use and have softened some they cinch up easily. Monsoon season came early and a bonus of the taller fit is that I could wear my Showers Pass waterproof socks, which are thicker than regular socks, without any binding or restriction. This will be great in the winter as well.
The big difference however is the outsole. The two previous models I tried used what RC, and their rubber partner Rubber Kinetics, is calling 6.0 All Terrain / Transitional Mid-Level Grip. As with durometer, the lower the number the higher the grip. The Powerline has 4.0 Downhill Comfort / Flexible Highest Grip rubber. This wasn't necessarily good news for me because I was very pleased with the balance of grip and the ability to reposition my foot with the 6.0 soles. Still, too much grip is a bit like too many bikes, so I was game.
For the first few months I got along well with the grip of Powerlines. I certainly didn't find them too grippy, but repositioning was a little tougher than with the 6.0 soles of the other shoes. It got a little tricky in the wet, however. I found that using the lower friction of thetwo pedals I've been riding lately, the Crankbrothers Stamp 7, the traction in the wet wasn't sufficient. I wasn't sliding off the pedals entirely but I wasn't as glued to them as I like to be. It was enough to have me swap them out for the OneUp Als, which have pins that are thinner and slightly taller. That mostly cleared up the issue but the grip still didn't seem adequate to me.
One day when the Powerlines weren't quite dry from the day before, I decided to go back to the Livewires to compare. Immediately I felt that traction was better. Over the course of the ride my feet seemed to slip less and the difference was enough that I rode better than the day before. This was one of those conclusions that didn't make sense to me. How could harder rubber provide more grip? Perhaps being stiffer, the rubber on the Livewires deforms less and provides a firmer hold? While I felt very sure about the difference I was feeling between the two shoes, I'm skeptical of conclusions drawn in isolation so I decided to do another experiment.
On a day that was greasy from lots of rain in the previous week, but not actually raining, I put a Livewire on my left foot (my front foot) and a Powerline on my right. This wasn't a perfect scenario because front and trailing feet perform different jobs, but the difference was distinct enough that I am quite certain that for me, the Livewires provide more secure grip and allow me to ride better. As personal as flat pedal interfaces are, I can't be sure you'll come to the same conclusion. Which goes for all of my conclusions here.
Each of the RC shoes I've used has a stiffer sole than most flat pedal shoes I've used. I don't find them too stiff but I'm coming off five or more years riding clipless exclusively. I appreciate the pedalling support, the protection and the power I can generate from the robust soles. In my earlier incarnation as a flat pedal rider I was keen on shoes with the stickiest soles possible that would fold over the pedal platform for even more grip. This leads me to believe that some riders will find these shoes too stiff.
The Powerlines sell for 150 USD. There is one model above, the TNT, that adds a velcro strap and has a slightly different tread pattern but uses the same softer rubber which sells for 160 USD (mid cut fans may want to check out the Wildcat, which sells for 120 US). Considering the attention to detail and quality build, the Powerlines are excellent value. The real take home however is that, for only 100 USD, and most of the features of the Powerlines, the Livewires deliver incredible bang for your buck. The Powerline is a solid shoe but for me the grip just wasn't quite there, so the Livewires will be first off the shelf for my flat pedal rides for the foreseeable future.
The size 11 Powerlines I've been riding weigh 459g. I would say they are true to size or very slightly on the small side. In some shoes I can wear a 10.5 but the 11s are perfect for me wearing Ride Concepts.
For more info hit up rideconcepts.com