Thursday, November 23, 2017

Lake TX312 Tri Bike Shoes

For most of us, the bike leg of our first triathlon or duathlon is raced either wearing trainers or perhaps if you’re an experienced cyclist, a pair of road cycling shoes.  And doing that we learn a valuable lesson – triathlon-specific bike shoes are a real time-saver!

If you know all about triathlon-specific bike shoes, skip ahead. If not, here’s a quick description of the key differences.  First and foremost, triathlon bike shoes generally have just one main fastening, making them quicker to get on and off, whether pre-clipped onto the bike pedals or donned when off the bike.  Second, they usually have more ventilation than most cycling shoes, as they are designed for warm weather racing where your feet are wet from the swim.

The market for triathlon specific shoes has grown rapidly in recent years, so there is no shortage of choice. Lake Cycling has had a triathlon shoe for a little while now, but for 2012 they have introduced the all-new TX312 bike shoe which is positively dripping with technology and features designed to make the shoe lighter, more comfortable and – all importantly – easier to get on and off.

I got my hands on a pair and here are my initial thoughts (I’ve yet to race them; that will come in February and I will add a second report then).

Technology
With a super-stiff carbon sole (3-hole or speedplay), and largely ‘NuFoam’ upper, the shoe is both very light and very breathable.  For added customization, the upper-range Lake shoes now come with e-Soles footbeds, which can be adjusted to the individual wearer.

But that’s not the really clever bit.  One look at the TX312 shows it’s not quite the same as other shoes.  The heel looks ‘wrong’.  In fact, it’s not wrong at all, but is in fact a potentially genius feature that makes you wonder why no-one thought of it before!

In essence, Lake has designed a Boa closure system which secures and tightens the heel cup when in normal use, but at the pull of a tab, allows the whole heel section of the shoe to collapse as you approach T2, allowing you to slip your foot straight out of the shoe without having to fiddle with the top strap or use a hand to steady the shoe as you extract each foot.

In Use
In use, the shoe is much like any other in T1, using the wide single strap to keep the shoe open ready to slip your foot in.  Once in, you simply close the main strap (much like any other tri shoe) but then you have the advantage of being able to ‘fine tune’ the fit using the Boa dial on the back of the heel cup (turn clockwise to tighten, pull out to release and collapse the heel).

On the move, the shoes are incredibly comfortable with a nice secure feel yet enough wriggle room in the toe box to avoid cramping and hot spots.  Having the ability to very quickly tune the fit is a real bonus and much easier than undoing the main strap and re-setting it.
Although I haven’t had a real play yet, the e-Soles system also seems to be a clever move from Lake, allowing you to customize the feel of the shoe without the need/cost of heat molding etc.

When it comes to trying out the collapsing heel, mimicking the end of the bike leg and preparing for T2, I defy any triathlete or duathlete not to develop a big grin as your foot effortlessly slides out of the shoe and you continue to pedal with feet on top of the shoes.  The whole process is more stable, faster and more comfortable that the ‘traditional’ way of reaching down, undoing the strap, holding the shoe while extracting each foot etc!

Looks
Okay, so the Lake TX312 doesn’t shout about itself in quite the same way as a bright yellow pair of Mavics, but it is an undeniably attractive shoe in its white/silver/red colourway.  The carbon sole is also really attractive and you get to show off a nice chunk of carbon weave with each pedal revolution!

Conclusion
Of course, the proof is in the pudding and racing the TX312 will be the real acid test.  However, from a month of testing I have to say I’m really impressed. For a sub-£200 tri specific carbon soled-shoe, I don’t think there’s much to fault at all.  I’d strongly recommend taking a look.  In the meantime, I will report back with a follow-up after my first race of the season, the Chilly Duathlon in February.