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Great thoughts on the XC9. I'm a diehard XC7 wearer for just about every use case short of full blown hike-a-bike missions. Yes, they look a little goofy paired with kneepads riding up the chair at the bike park, but the fit is so dialed that I think the goofy-ness is worth the trade-off for the performance advantage. Wearing a snug-fitting, stiff soled shoe increases how hard I can push through the pedals cornering and how much weight I can "drop" through the heels in a g-out. I think you're over-selling the stock insole in the XC-series shoes, though -- even the XC9 insole (which has denser foam than the XC7 insole does) is only worth a few week's riding before it starts to pack out in the toe box. Better to start with the lower price point on the XC7 and budget for some good aftermarket footbeds (Superfeet).
On an unrelated note, could this be the first time in NSMB history when not one but TWO contributors are running Level brakes?!
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