For the second article in the “Do It All Bike Project” series, I’m again talking about something that might not typically be considered part of a bike project at all. Last time I talked about the pedals, and this time I’m looking at a pair of shoes to go with those pedals, specifically the Specialized Expert Road shoes.
These are some of the first things that you’ll likely need to upgrade if you are adding some racing into the list of things you do with your road bike. Shoes might not technically be considered part of the bike, but they are absolutely crucial to your enjoyment and performance while riding.
As with the pedals, I looked for something that could do it all and not cost a fortune. I need my equipment to handle racing, training in every kind of weather, commuting through the city, and even time out with the family pulling a trailer. The Expert Road shoes aren’t the top of the model range from Specialized, but they are affordable and really good at filling a variety of roles. They are also some of the least expensive road bike shoes, from any brand, with a full carbon sole and a Boa enclosure system.
If you haven’t ever experienced the Boa enclosure on a pair of shoes, I encourage you to go right now and try it out. It’s absolutely fantastic; a killer feature. Without a doubt, it’s worth narrowing your choice of shoes to those that have it. With my previous set of Giro shoes, great shoes in many ways, every time I put them on I would spend a fair bit of time messing around with the straps and getting the pressure just right. With the Specialized shoes, it’s just a matter of pushing the Boa enclosure in and twisting it forward till you get your desired tightness.
If you change your mind once the ride starts, it’s about as easy as I could imagine to just reach down and make a small adjustment either tighter or looser. At the end of the ride, just pop the Boa enclosure out and your whole foot is released.
The time between getting them on and off has to be just as good, though. The Boa system doesn’t disappoint there either. There are no distinct pressure points. The system increases the pressure on your foot in a smooth, linear way that feels like it comes from the sides of the shoes and reaches from the bottom to the very top.
Aside from the Boa system, the other killer feature on these shoes is a full carbon sole. It’s not billed as the stiffest that Specialized makes, but I’ve never found it lacking no matter the use. Crazy steep hills? No problem. Time trial racing? Still not an issue. I don’t doubt that there is a benefit to a stiffer sole, but these are absolutely stiff enough for the power I’m currently putting down. I can tell the difference between how stiff these are and my previously mentioned Giro shoes, but I think it’ll take quite a bit more training before I’d need to step up to something stiffer than these. The sole is also well ventilated and has a great heel pad setup.
If you ride in traffic, or with a trailer, you’ll want the ability to put your foot down and feel secure. It’s got to be stable when standing at a light with 50lbs attached to the back of the bike. And while being able to walk isn’t absolutely necessary, I think everyone appreciates when it’s easier. If that sounds like a list of things you’d like in your shoes, as they are in mine, then these are a great option. Stability and walkability are enhanced by having a split, and larger, heel pad. The Specialized shoes check both of those boxes. No matter the situation, I’ve never felt unstable when balancing on the heel pad, and as an added bonus, it’s replaceable should you ever wear it out.
On paper, these are great looking shoes. They’ve got the Boa system, a stiff carbon sole, good ventilation, stable heel cup arrangement, and they are light at 275 grams per shoe for a size 44. What’s it like to actually ride with them though?
The first time I took them out it was pouring rain, and I got completely lost and ended up stopping at a ton of lights. Despite the good ventilation, when paired with toe covers, I did fine when wet enough to wring out my socks in about 50 degree F weather. They also recovered just fine from being literally dripping wet, and the patent leather can be cleaned easily when full of road grime.
Those might not be the kind of things you think about when you are considering a new pair of shoes, especially road shoes, but I can tell you that they are the kind of details that you appreciate over the life of a pair of shoes.
Since it was raining so hard, I didn’t get my phone out to check where I was, and I wasn’t wearing headphones to hear any directions I might have been able to pull up. That meant lots of lights as I made my way through the city in a less than optimal way. As I mentioned above, stopping at lights with, or without, a trailer is no problem, and while I don’t walk in them a ton, when they are paired with the Time Xpresso cleats, they are fine to walk in.
The really standout feature of actually riding with these shoes though is the fantastic sole. Typically, I’m not much of a standup climber. I do a whole lot of climbing, but in most cases I’d just as soon stay in my saddle, put my head down, and get to work getting up the hills. Since I’ve started riding with these shoes, though, I pretty much want to get out of the saddle at every opportunity. They provide such a great platform that standing feels explosive and fun. I don’t know that it actually makes me any faster, but I can tell you it’s a blast!
With these shoes, Specialized has a really strong set of features- great looks, tons of flexibility for whatever you might be doing with them, and perhaps best of all, it comes with a fantastic price tag.
I definitely recommend them, and I look forward to using them for a long time to come. If you do end up grabbing a pair, though, I’d make sure you get the 2015 version. It’s a subtle difference, but the 2014 version was different at the top of the tongue, and it really bugged me. The 2015 version has been redesigned right there and, at least for me, it’s worlds better.
Specialized Expert Road
Josh Ross Creative
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