Needing a Little More
My beloved and highly ventilated Mavic Alpine shoes just weren’t cutting it while cycling in eastern China’s cold wet winter weather. The ventilated mesh shoes are great for riding in the warmer climes and veterans of many cycle trekking miles but do little to keep the cold and the water out went the mercury drops and gray skies open up for days on end. I needed something a little more substantial.
Earlier this year, I had a chance to nab a pair of Shimano’s new XM7 Cross Mountain Adventure Shoes before heading to Taiwan for a little winter wet weather island cycling adventure, followed by subzero foray across South Korean peninsula, and finishing up with a brief soiree through the humid tropics of China’s Hainan island, where the shoes were exposed numerous wet and cold conditions. After about 5000 km on the bike and afield, here’s how they did…
At First Glance
The XM7’s are clearly built for rugged terrain. The Shimano XM7’s look like a low-cut hiking shoe more than a cycling shoe. The muted light gray uppers, flat black welting and toe box, and Vibram soles are unassuming and not overdone, which helps them blend in and not shout, “Hey, look at me, I’m a cyclist!”
The XM7’s don’t present an “out of place” appearance when away from the bike kicking around town and taking in the local sights, sipping an espresso, or having a frosty pint at a local watering hole.
One Burly Adventure Shoe
Shimano lists the XM7 as an all mountain adventure shoe intended for cross mountain (X-Alps) and cycle trekking, with the outsole stiffness tilted toward comfort and stability rather than competition.
Gore-Tex liners and natural leather uppers are designed to keep the wet stuff out while remaining breathable. Reinforced rubber toe boxes provide protection and durability. Securely anchored reflective finger loops facilitate easy foot entry and add visibility at night.
The XM7’s are outfitted with deep lugged semi-flexible half-shank Vibram soles for added traction. Recessed mounting points accept SPD two-hole style cleats. Hard plastic blanks are included with the shoes so the shoes can be used without cleats on flat pedals as well.
Shimano rates the XM7’s as a 3 out of 12 on their Comfort – Performance scale (1 = max comfort, 12 = max performance), leaning toward added protection, comfort, and walking stability. A size 40 weighs it at 870g. Sizes run from 36-48.
They’re not cheap, a shiny new pair of XM7 cross mountain shoes will set you back $199.00, and come with a one year warranty. If you are looking for added stability and ankle protection, Shimano offers the XM9, a high-top version of the Cross Mountain Adventure Shoe listing at $250.00.
The XM7’s I received run true to size. My puppies donned with a pair of thin synthetic wicking liners and wools socks usually take a size 46, and they dropped right into the Shimano’s with no scrunching or sloppiness. I’ve got average to slightly narrow feet, and the XM7’s weren’t too wide.
Small diameter laces threaded through nylon loops provide a precise, custom fit and will accommodate two pairs of socks. Lined innards offer support without being too stiff. The instep straps lock my heels firmly into the heel cups and prevent any slipping around.
The shoes are solid but not overly rigid. The half-length shank plate promotes walkability while off the bike, unlike stiff full-on traditional mountain biking shoes. The shoes are supportive without feeling clunky. The toe boxes provide plenty of wiggle room without being sloppy.
The XM7’s broke in quickly without any blisters, pinch points or hot spots. The more I wore them, the more flexible they become.
Committed to Clipless Pedals
I’ve been riding clipless pedals since 1986 and toe clips before that. For me, clipping in is a more efficient way of pedaling, especially when climbing. I like the ability to engage my hamstrings by drawing the pedal upward during the pedal stroke when clipped to the pedals.
I’ve tried to embrace flat pedals a couple of time, but long days climbing big mountains bring me back to clipless pedals every time. So, clipless it is for me.
On my feet, the XM7’s aren’t heavy or clunky like other crossover shoes. They’re surprisingly light and nimble feeling for a leather Gore-Tex lined mountain shoe. As stated, the look and feel of the XM7’s is similar to a pair of leather light-weight hiking boots.
Overall the XM7’s are comfortable on and off the bike. I’ve worn them none stop on and off the bike for weeks at a time without issue. They were efficient to pedal with and comfortable to kick around in, and can walk in them all day without my dogs commencing to howl with discontent.
Via SPD cleats the XM7’s form a solid, firm connection between me and the bike. The instep strap provides a secure fit and keeps my feet locked into the shoe, even when pulling hard on the inclines.
Off the bike, the recessed cleat mounting points keep the SPD cleats out of the way so there is little to no clicking or scraping when walking around. Grippy Vibram soles provide sure footing and plenty of traction while off the bike day hiking and sightseeing.
The shoes are warm in cold weather and waterproof in the rain. Wearing a wool sock over a synthetic liner, the XM7’s kept my feet warm while riding when the mercury dropped down to -8 C. The breathable waterproof Gore-Tex liner kept the water out all day long when the wet stuff was flying
Maintainance is pretty straight forward. Just a quick knock to get the big chunks of dirt off and a wipe with a damp cloth to finish up is about all that’s needed. As time goes, I’ll give them an occasional applications of waterproofing treatment to help preserve the leather and maintain water repellency. The XM7’s are a stout pair of shoes and should provide several years of trouble free service.
As stated, the muted colors pleasantly blend in and don’t scream “cycling shoe,” but rather present the appearance of low-cut lightweight hiking boots that will fit into many social genres. They dirty up nicely and don’t look too high-tech either. With a decent looking shirt and pair of pants or shorts, they won’t look out of place at the airport, museums or nicer eating establishments one may patronize traveling on the road.
The XM7’s are serious adventure shoes that’ve have become my goto shoe for bike travel. They’re a great “all-a-rounders” and excellent for long distance bike travel for those wanting a more robust, substantial shoe. The XM7’s will “best” suit most riding and traveling conditions.
Not only should they survive but thrive the rigors of long distance bike travel buy yield many comfortable days spinning the pedals. The XM7 is a legit long distance cycling shoe.
Recommended use: bikepacking, long distance cycle trekking, etc.
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Happy travels, Johnny