FiveTen Spitfire vs. C1rca The IV

It's the most basic tenant of using a bicycle, you make use of your legs and feet to pedal.. thus providing motion. Which places more importance than most people would credit on what goes on your feet when you pedal.

For many years in mountain biking it was perfectly acceptable to wear sneakers, as sneakers were pretty much you're only option. If you went on long rides into uncharted territories light-weight hiking boots were also acceptable. Jandals were only acceptable when riding to the shop and whilst the risk level was normally pretty high, you'd accept it as being okay.

The key when pedalling though is to keep your feet connected to the pedals as often as you can, so there's been a number of attempts through the 70's and 80's to provide a reasonable solution. The most popular was something that tied you physically to your bike… and there are lots of horror stories regarding various forms of means, devices and gadgets that people tried and most of them were pretty sub-par in many, if not all situations.

Meanwhile road-cycling was having a technology boom boosted by new events, such as triathlon and new materials, such as carbon fibre and new manufacturing processes, such as CNC and all this added up to companies being more interested in increasing their sales, so many of these new ideas became of interest to mountain bike riders and one of the first was "clip-in pedals". There were competing systems coming from road-cycling companies in Europe, but it was Shimano who really pushed it along, introducing the SPD system. It was brilliant because it was simple to use, to fit and to understand.

Initially early mountain bike shoes were just road-cycling shoes in more subdued colours, however over time they started to change in form and materials. A big change was the arrival of shoes you could walk in, because unlike most road-cycling often when you are on a trail you'll need to get off the bike and walk about.

I've ridden bikes in the pre-SDP era and also during, and whilst I was never fan I grew to enjoy the benefits of SDP systems, you got your power down efficiently, prevented fatigue on long rides and were very reliable… however if you were riding a rough trail, I found that I lost some of my confidence on the bike, that I became a bit more hesitant. I really became more obvious when I started riding a dirt-jump bike that had flat pedals.

As an experiment, I moved my flats to my trail bike, grabbed a pair of Puma skate shoes and headed out… for me it was a revelation, I felt more connected to my bike by the simple fact I was no longer connected to my bike.

Which brings me back to the topic of choosing shoes for pedalling.

Assuming you are happy with your flat pedals, then you'll need some suitable shoes. For many people, they assume flat pedals can be matched to any shoe and it'll make little difference, well they'd be wrong. A key factor in pedalling is you need to keep you feet transmitting power reliably through each pedal stroke and if you feet are flexing about the pedal, then the power will not be there, so you'll need a stiff shoe. This will rule out running shoes and sneakers, which are designed to flex.

You could look at light-weight hiking boots or shoes, which offer stiff soles, however they generally are not really that light-weight and stiff, which means the connection to the bike becomes more distant.

Times have changed in the shoe world, where technology has started to blur across categories and the greatest benefit for mountain bikers is that companies have started to meld together the shoes that glen the comfort of sneakers, with the stiffness of hard-core/competition skate shoes, the solid construction of hiking boots and the wonder sticky rubber of climbing shoes.

So how do I know if I’m being sold something that works really well, or am I being hustled?

That’s a really good question and one I decided to check out, so I’ve taken a pair of equally priced shoes to compare, laced them on and given them a thrashing.

C1rca the IV:
A pro skate shoe designed in partnership by C1rca with Peter Ramondetta. It’s constructed with a suede leather upper, rubber outsole and C1rca's micro-pill tread (which is extra grippy and tacky). The C1rca the IV shoes are much stiffer and stronger than your average skate shoe, they are also closer in retail price to mountain bike flat shoes.

These are some stiff & grippy shoes, I’m constantly surprised by how much compared to the hoard of skate shoes I have owned over the years, they are also well made and should stand up to life of abuse.

I rode this matched to a pair of Straitline AMP flat pedals, and they performed well. However I noticed immediately, my feet were noticeably cooler than normal and for a skate shoe they felt very tight across the middle of the foot at the start of the ball. As I continued to ride using these shoes I found that the stiff sole affected the feedback I was used to through the pedals, everything just felt a little remote and I was moving my feet around a lot to try and find some sense of “feel”.

FiveTen Spitfire:
A mountain biking specific shoe, though not as specific tool as other FiveTen shoes, such as the downhill focused Impact, the FiveTen Spitfire comes constructed with Stealth rubber soles and Phantom outer, with an upper constructed in a combination of natural, suede leather and made-made fabrics. Stealth and Phantom are proprietory materials from FiveTen that are both sticky and hard-wearing.

A trick with FiveTen shows to prove how well they grip… rub them together… well you can try!

Again the riding with same flat pedals I found the Spitfires to be very grippy, comfortable and my confidence building, especially with the slightly higher, mid-cut style supporting my ankles.

Pros and Cons:
C1rca the IV:
+ Grippy
+Well made
+ Light
- Not so great if the temperature drops, could be better suited for summer riding
- Tight
- Too stiff = too little feel at the pedal

FiveTen Spitfire:
+ Great design and construction
+ Stealth soles, these are still the bench-mark for grip
- Not a light pair of shoes

It’s the FiveTen Spitfires by a nose, the C1rca the IV is let down by being over-stiff and too cool for year round riding. The FiveTen Spitfires come out the winner as they offer the best combination of grip, comfort and control if you choose to move to riding with flat pedals.

Images: These Broken Paths

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