XC R4 Shoes From Ekoi
The EKOI XC R4 Mtb shoe sits second in Ekoi’s off-road shoe line-up. Here’s my take on them.
In my search for a gravel race shoe, a brand I missed out on was Ekoi. Which was a slip on my part, as I’ve used their R2 road shoes for many years. Ekoi started off as a shop in Roubaix back in 2001, before moving on-line in 2008. Once they were online they grew rapidly with many of their products appearing in the pro-peloton. So I tried out a pair of their XC R4 shoes.
So what was I looking for in the XC R4 shoe? Well it’s a combination of road-shoe stiffness and style, combined with off-road toughness and walkability. I want an off-road shoe that doesn’t look all super-macho, with giant lugs on the sole and multiple straps. It just needs some clean lines, a stiff sole and minimal tread, as I’m not going to be walking far; I hope!
I had hoped to put in some long, dry and dusty rides with these shoes, but instead they got short, muddy and cold! Such are the vagaries of the British weather. Nonetheless I took them out as often as I could, as various winter storms rolled through the UK, turning some trails into rivers.
What’s the fit like?
The fit for me was good, I expected this as I’ve never had problems with their road shoes. I chose a size 42, based on their online size calculator. When it comes to shoe size, I vary between a 42 and 43, depending on brand. With a Sidi or Gaerne I take 43, if that helps give you an idea of fit.
Closure is via two ATOP dials that are easy to adjust on or off the bike. Twist them anti-clockwise to tighten, one click at a time. Turn them clockwise and it releases all the tension at once. Makes getting out easy, but if you’re adjusting, you then have to retighten them. I didn’t have a problem with that, but some might prefer both directions to work on a ratchet, rather than just when tightening.
The ATOP dials allowed me to get a good fit. I tend to start off with them slightly loose, then tighten them up as I ride. The wires pull on cloth loops sewn into the shoe’s upper. The top one pulls just one loop, while the bottom passes through three. The bottom one pulls the instep and front of the shoe tight, while the top one works on the instep. Once fully tightened, the fit was good without any slop.
While some of Ekoi’s shoes feature a heel-cup with grip to keep your heel from lifting as you pedal the XC R4 doesn’t have this feature. I didn’t feel any looseness in the heel and this is probably down to the shape of my foot working with Ekoi’s design.
Sole and tread
The sole is nylon and while some may turn their nose up at anything that isn’t carbon, I was satisfied. While I could get the sole to flex by bending it with both hands over my knee, I couldn’t feel any flex when riding. In fact the combination of a good fit and solid sole made for a lively feeling shoe. I’m 65 kilos at race-weight – bit more during Christmas! Perhaps if you’re heavier you may feel some flex, but for us lighter riders, it’s fine.
For one of my rides I took in a cyclo-cross training session, with some muddy off-camber sections. For this session I added some rugby spikes, which fitted without any issues. Clambering up slopes was good and even better the heel tread was aggressive enough to cope when going down. Some shoes suffer with not having a tread you can trust on a down-slope, but this wasn’t the case with the XC R4.
Keeping to the sole, I used SPD and Eggbeater cleats and both fitted fine. I didn’t need to shim or trim the tread to get them to work. I’ve had this with other shoes where there wasn’t enough room to allow engagement. The tread is made from TPU and extends over the sole, protecting it when walking or when you miss the cleat, but still have your foot on the pedal.
When walking on pavement or tiles these shoes make a very loud “clip-clop” sound, you won’t be able to creep up on anyone! However they are comfortable for short walk. I didn’t use them for any extended walks, but that’s not what I’m looking for. If I’m walking a long way in cycling shoes, something has gone wrong!
Are they waterproof?
As I said, most of my riding was done in wet, muddy conditions and involved little walking. I used GripGrab’s Explorer overshoes, so the shoes had plenty of protection from the elements. They’re not meant to be a winter shoe, so I wasn’t expecting any water resistance from them. From from the rides I did without overshoes, I got as wet as you would expect to from a normal shoe, but they do dry fairly quick; so that’s good!
The synthetic upper is made from two panels that are neatly joined, so the shoe’s upper is neat. There’s a TPU bumper that runs around the toe, the heel and most of the lower part of the upper. This is meant to give some protection from scuffs when riding. I’ve had mine for three months and they still look good, but they were buried under an overshoe a lot of the time. When they did get muddy, cleaning was easy. With no mesh or panel joins for mud to collect, they only needed a wipe down to get them looking good again.
So to sum then XC R4 shoes up , I’d say they’re a good pair of off-road shoes. Stiff and comfortable with good grip and easy to look after. Are they gravel specific? No, but then what shoe is? With Ekoi’s frequent discounts you can pick them up for around £140. I’d recommend them. Take a look at the Ekoi XC R4 shoe here.