Shoes. Not only a platform for philosophical ponderings (“Don’t ever judge a person, until you ride a mile in their shoes”), but they can be considered protective equipment, worn as a fashion statement, and are the only separation between your feet and the floor. Your foundation. They keep you grounded.
Cycling specific clothing is often a turn off for many urban riders- myself included. Unless I’m on a lengthy ride, spending more time on my saddle than running errands, I will be wearing street clothes. Not all street clothes are as effective for riding, and some downright suck. There are a few companies out there that see the demand for cycling specific streetwear, and Chrome has now come to offer what looks to be the best shoe available for it’s intended purpose.
In 2009 Chrome brought out four models of shoes built for riding toe clips while looking good off the bike as well. I was sent a pair of 11 1/2 Arnhems to review, and I must say that I am impressed. I received them 2 months ago, and after wearing them on a regular basis, it’s time to fill you in.
They arrived unscathed, in a sturdy box with a folding lid. In an effort to keep my small closet clean and tidy, and to keep cat hair out of the insides of my shoes, I store my kicks in their respective boxes. I possess nowhere near the number of shoes that many friends of mine do, but if the box is not sturdy, it has a tendency to get crushed under the weight of only a few boxes, or one cat. I appreciate being able to use shoe boxes to not only store shoes, but they work great to pack up small items, send something in the mail, or heck- get creative- build a wall of boxes and ride your bicycle through them. Weeeee!
I opened the box, which came with a couple Chrome stickers if you are into that sort of thing, and inside sat my new shoes. I was immediately impressed by their construction. Suede uppers, with another layer of smooth leather on the inside. The size is printed clearly on the inside, and on the inside of the tongue is stitched their label. The branding is not too flashy, which I appreciate, the flashiest thing on them being a small red griffin logo on the outside of the ankle, the red line that sits on top of the black tire tread looking mid sole, and the fact that Chrome written on the mid sole. The outer (bottom) sole of the shoe is also red, with fairly deep tread which has a grippy feel to it.
When you remove the padded insole, you can see a bit more of the construction, and some of what sets it apart from other common shoes that people ride in the city: Converse Allstars, and Vans, especially. Two words: Board lasted. When looking for shoes to ride in your clips, board lasted shoes should be high on your list. They contain a board of cardboard running down the length of the shoe. This is opposed to “Slip lasted” which is merely a seam running down the length of the shoe. Board lasted shoes are not as flexible as slip lasted, but are more stable, and prevent “pedal poke” if you are still riding the pedals with the entry side of the cage higher than the toe side of the cage. (If you don’t know why some pedals are built like that, give me a shout and I will let you in on a little secret) The shank that they added is super stiff, and has a little button thing on the back that they have labeled “Crash pad.” It may be something of a misnomer, as when I crash, I rarely land on my feet. If we could install them on my shoulders and hips, that may be a better place for them.
These shoes fit well into my pedal/clip combo, which is currently bmx flat pedals with a dual arm plastic cage. For those riding with some of the now popular strap systems, pedal fit with a wide variety of shoes may be easier to achieve, but I know that not all of my shoes fit so well in cages and straps. Not a problem with the Arnhems. Even with my wide feet stuffed into a size 11 1/2, these shoes fit in the cages better than most if not all of my other kicks. The suede uppers protect the toe box from scuffing, and still look good.
There were some things that I wasn’t 100% fond of , and it would be unfair to keep these minor concerns to myself.
- The heel box of the shoe is, for me, too wide. I have this problem with shoes occasionally. The front of the foot fits snug, with the back making farting noises when I walk. Farting noises means that if walking a good distance, then blisters may come. No bueno. Granted, this is the way that they fit ME. If you have a wide ass heel, then they may fit you well. As for me, I will be looking into better insoles, or a heel cup or something. It should be noted that the farting noises aren’t enough for me to get rid of the shoes, but to find a way to make them work.
- The laces are too long. This seems to be an issue that is bothering me more and more about shoes today. The laces always seem to stretch out, and become a hazard. They may be fine when I first get them, but eventually, I have to double knot them so they don’t get sucked into the drivetrain. Then I may have to start tucking them into the sides of my shoes. No good. The metal tipped laces are nice, but a little longer than necessary.
- The tiny 3M bars on the heel, though a good idea, seem to have lost their reflectivity in a short amount of time, and now look a little sad, like some little bit of flair. A taste of disco thrown into what is otherwise a pretty solid shoe for those that like metal.
I think that the Arnhems are a great shoe, and though the $90 price tag may seem a bit high when compared to their competitors, to me, the durability is worth it. I think that leather is more durable than canvas, but the vegans out there can get in on some of the Chrome love with the Kursk model. In Seattle, you can purchase Chrome shoes at The Sneakery, or Recycled Cycles. If you don’t like people, you can also purchase them online at the Chrome Store
Chrome also offers some solid choices when it comes to knickers, wool jerseys, and bags, both one strap and two. I really like the way the Warsaw double strap back looks, and would love to check it out.