Review by Paul Turner
“To clip, or not to clip, that is the question.” I’ve been running flats with grippy rubber shoes for about five years, mostly due to trying my best to be a hucker. Lately, with flying off the ground being less of a desire and flying on the ground being more of a goal, I have been lured toward the clipped in pedal. Don’t get me wrong, flats with grippy soled shoes hold like glue—the issued I was having was if I didn’t place my foot exactly where I wanted it when I started down the trail, or if my foot got rattled around while riding, I ended up having to cruise in an awkward position until I could unweight, reposition my foot, and pray I got it right. So I started thinking: if my foot is going to be glued to the pedal, why not guarantee it is in the same spot every time? Lucky for me, the boys at Freehub Magazine had a pair of Shimano SH-M162 shoes and PD-M985 pedals that they needed someone to review.
About me: I ride 2-3 times per week in the PNW on a Norco Shinobi on mostly all-mountain style trails, am good for about ten feet of air and, while I like to pedal to the top, I prefer going down the trail. So it seemed appropriate that the SH-M162 is Shimano’s “All Conditions Trail Shoe.” It has a carbon-reinforced base for stiffness and a rubber outsole for grip in varied conditions. The upper is synthetic leather with a micro adjust ratcheting strap and two offset Velcro straps and it is all wrapped around a shock-absorbing EVA insole. As for the PD-M985 pedals, I had been eyeing them up as my choice if I was going to make the leap to clipless. The oversized contact surface, which Shimano says is ten times larger than last year’s model, was drawing me like a fruit fly to a banana peel. Also, I knew that if Shimano took the time to print XTR on the side of this pedal, the build quality and adjustability would be spot on.
I was a little apprehensive on my first ride, with visions of falling over at the trailhead and riding down half a trail trying to get my foot into the pedal. Once the pedals were on the bike though, and cleats on the shoes, my feet clicked on effortlessly, as if I had been riding clipped in for the past decade. That said, I’m not the type of person that likes to fiddle with bikes too much and setting up the cleat on the shoe to get my preferred riding stance was a little irritating. There is probably some algorithm for perfect alignment, but I don’t know it, so it was trial and error. It took the better part of an evening to get the cleat feeling right, but since it has been in place, I have not had to adjust it once.
On the trail the pedals did exactly what I was hoping for: held my feet in place. I spent the first month riding familiar terrain, mostly fast, flowy trails with some chatter bumps, and noticed that in places where I would usually be mucking on flats I was able to concentrate on what was up ahead, not down below. Clipping in was never an issue when starting out, and after a couple of weeks I felt ride at home with my feet connected to my bike.
Once the break-in period was done I decided to up the ante a little and ride some techy stuff that makes be dab regularly to see if I would be able to get my feet out in time to save some skin but also back into the pedal fast enough to keep my flow. As fortune would have it, Mother Nature decided to play along and make it rain. It turned out that in a month of riding I had gotten familiar enough with the shoe/pedal combo that getting on and off the pedals didn’t feel much different from a flat. The first time my foot hit the ground after sliding out on a wet root, I was back in the pedal and riding before I even thought about whether I had clipped in or out.
I have now been riding these shoes and pedals for three months. I am comfortable enough in them that I have ridden some steep and techy trails on the North Shore and Squamish. Through it all I have not had to make any adjustments to the pedals for cleat tension and I haven’t experienced an additional play in the contact. The shoes have been awesome through the summer and still have every stitch. I do wonder how they are going to work during the rainy fall here in the PNW, since the awesome ventilation that they provide may turn into a foot bath when it rains.
When all is said and done, I am sold. There have been a few hiccups in the learning curve, but, after three months of riding, I don’t see myself going back to flats.
-Tough synthetic leather upper with built-in protection, excellent durability
-Comfortable shock absorbing EVA cushion insole
-Micro-adjust buckle and dual offset straps
-Volume + last for a more accommodating toe box
-Multi function rubber outsole with optional spike mount for excellent grip in varied conditions
-Carbon reinforced polyamid shank plate for optimum sole rigidity
-Best matched with Shimano XT PD-M785, PD-M530
-Weight: 823g (Size 40)