Northwave Clan Review
Cons: Heavier weight, limited breathability, a little expensive
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|Pros||Plenty of protection, solid grip, nice power transfer||Excellent pedal grip, comfortable, true all-mountain performance||Grippy, comfortable, lightweight||Grippy soles, casual looks, reasonable price, versatility, lightweight||Impressive grip, protective, reasonable price|
|Cons||Heavier weight, limited breathability, a little expensive||On the expensive side of the spectrum, Stealth rubber wears more quickly||More expensive than some, slim fitting||Somewhat loose fit in the forefoot||Heavier weight, limited breathability|
|Bottom Line||A stiff, grippy, and ripping shoe designed for enduro and downhill riders||The benchmark for flat pedal shoes, a true all-arounder that looks as good as it performs||A light and comfortable shoe with excellent grip that can pedal for long days on the roughest trails||A versatile new flat pedal shoe with great grip and a casual style||A reasonably priced, versatile flat pedal shoe that offers strong performance and even stronger value|
|Rating Categories||Northwave Clan||Five Ten Freerider Pro||Giro Latch||Specialized 2FO Roo...||Ride Concepts Livewire|
|Fit and Comfort (25%)|
|Rigidity and Power Transfer (20%)|
|Specs||Northwave Clan||Five Ten Freerider Pro||Giro Latch||Specialized 2FO Roo...||Ride Concepts Livewire|
|Rubber Type||Michelin-NW||Stealth S1||Tack Rubber||SlipNot ST||Kinetics DST6.0 High Grip|
|Tread Pattern||Full Triangle Dot||Full Dot||Gamma tread design||Full Hexagon Dot||Full Hexagon Dot|
|Weight per Shoe (ounces)||17.18 (size 44)||14.11 (size 11)||12.5 (size 10)||12.96 (size 43.5)||16.15 (size 11)|
|Weight per Shoe (grams)||487 (size 44)||399 (size 11)||358 (size 10)||367 (size 43.5)||458 (size 11)|
|Upper Materials||Welded synthetic with mesh inserts||Synthetic Leather||Microfiber with Rockprint reinforced toe||Leather/textile||Synthetic/mesh|
|Midsole||EVA||EVA||Mute Foam 3D and HD polyethylene power plate||Cushioned EVA|
|Insole||AM/MT insole||3D molded||Body Geometry|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Northwave may not be the first brand that comes to mind when thinking of mountain bike shoes, but they have been in the market for a long time. The Clan is their top-of-the-line flat pedal shoe, and we were generally quite impressed with its performance. Grip and power transfer stood out as particularly impressive, while weight and breathability were low points. We feel that Northwave delivered a rock-solid option here and it should be a consideration for riders seeking a flat shoe for aggressive gravity riding.
Northwave partnered with Michelin to develop a rubber compound for their sole which is called Michelin-NW. When paired with the Clan's unique tread design, this rubber provides some of the best pedal grip of all the models we tested, on par with the best in business.
The Michelin NW rubber has a relatively soft and tacky feel, similar to that of Five Ten's famed Stealth rubber soles. The sole's tread is quite unique among the models we tested and is most similar to the Five Ten Freerider Contact shoe. Underfoot where the pedal makes contact with the shoe, the sole is quite smooth with thin triangular grooves, or sipes etched into the surface. At the toe and heel, these triangles are actual tread knobs that stand up from the sole a couple of millimeters. When weighted on the pedal, the rubber compound is soft enough that the pins sink into it and really engage the narrow channels. When standing on the pedals, there is a very positive, connected feel that inspires the confidence to charge hard. Given the otherwise relatively smooth design of the sole's pedal interface, it is quite easy to reposition your foot on the pedals. Unlike some shoes that feel stuck to the pedals, it only takes a very slight unweighting to adjust your foot position. We did notice, however, that when climbing we could occasionally pull our feet off the pedals accidentally.
Off the bike, the Clan deliver a pretty good grip although they have one of the least flexible soles of all the models we tested. It is relatively easy to scale a gnarly section of a rocky trail or scoot up a root-infested climb. The smooth tread pattern in the mid-section of the sole does reduce traction a bit in loose soils and requires some extra attention when things get wet. The more aggressive tread at the toe and heel helps provide a little extra traction when walking, though careful foot placement is still recommended.
The Clan delivers average levels of comfort. This shoe is pleasant on the foot but seems to have a few quirks that could prove problematic for some riders. Given the intended aggressive application of this shoe, it delivers a very protective and sturdy feel with bo slop or unwanted foot movement.
The Northwave website states that "Northwave shoes are sized to provide a classic tight cycling fit." We'd agree that this is relatively accurate, and upon slipping our feet into them, there is an interesting balance of a slightly narrow midfoot section paired with a fairly spacious toe box. The shoe feels a little snug near the arch of your foot. It was comfortable for testers and made the shoes feel like an extension of the body, but we feel this could be an area of concern for riders with wider feet. The toe box offers a sufficient amount of space for the toes while retaining a relatively snug, performance fit around the forefoot. The non-stretch laces draw even tension over the top of the foot and stay tight for the duration of your ride.
Inside the shoe, a cushioned insole feels good on the bottom of the foot, although it doesn't provide much arch support. The EVA midsole helps absorb some trail feedback and the deep heel cup does a good job of locking your foot in place. The generously padded tongue puts a good amount of pressure on the top of the foot which creates a nice, secure feel. Speaking of the tongue, it is definitely one of the thicker and more padded in our review, which adds some protection for the top of the foot and helps keep lace tension feeling even and snug. Additional welded TPU reinforcements on the toe and heel add peace of mind and round out the protective features of the Clan.
Rigidity and Power Transfer
The Clan shoes are quite stiff and provide excellent power transfer to the pedals. As a matter of fact, these are among the stiffest shoes in our review. Upon unboxing these shoes, we gave them the old hand flex. It was immediately apparent how stiff these shoes were.
On the trail, these shoes felt great. If your idea of fun is sending gaps and rowdy rock gardens, the Clan shoe will deliver plenty of support. Having a nice, substantial, shank between you, your pedals, and gnarly trail can be confidence-inspiring. On larger impacts, we didn't feel this shoe flexing over the pedals or folding at all. We even dropped a foot in some janky rocks a few times and this shoe offered more than enough protection.
When it is time to hammer on the pedals, the Clan maximizes the rider's energy and there is no power lost to sole flex when seated or standing. Given the weight and heft of this shoe, however, it isn't going to be the best choice for an all-day epic ride. That said, if you are putting the power down in an enduro or downhill race run, these shoes have your back.
Given the thicker, armored, design and the portly weight, it shouldn't come as a surprise that the breathability of the Clan wasn't particularly impressive.
The upper has a synthetic construction that is infused with some mesh inserts. The tightly-knit mesh covers the top of the toe box, much of the side of the shoe, and some of the instep. The main reason this shoe feels particularly warm is the general thickness of materials. It feels burly, though, and thick. None of these attributes lend themselves to great airflow. They aren't eggregiously hot, mind you, but if you're a heat-of-the-day rider or you live in a hot climate, they may feel a bit warm.
Throughout testing, we didn't observe any signs of premature wear or damage. The soles are well bonded to the uppers and all of the stitching remains in perfect shape. The softer rubber used in the sole does show some early signs of wear from the pedal pins, but it doesn't seem worse than other shoes with similar levels of grip.
Northwave appears to have made some thoughtful design decisions regarding the construction of the Clan. The welded, reinforced areas have a very substantial feel and look like they are built to last. Stitching is not found in the highest-wear areas that contact the cranks, pedals, and trailside obstacles most frequently. All of the shoelace eyelets are also reinforced to prevent stretching or blowouts from repeated use. This feels like a tough shoe that should have at least and average lifespan.
Our size 11, Euro size 44, test pair hit the scales at an average weight of 487-grams, or 17.2-ounces, per shoe. That makes it the heaviest model we tested. Given its gravity fed intentions, we don't believe the weight should be a serious deterrent.
If your idea of fun is a 4-hour trail ride, however, this probably isn't the best shoe for you. There are lighter and more sleek options available. If you fancy some shuttle runs, hit up the bike park here and there, and like to air it out, the Clan could be your shoe.
The Clan delivers a strong value for the right buyer. If you're looking for a shoe that specializes in gravity-fed riding and delivers excellent grip, power transfer, and foot protection, this could be the shoe for you. It carries an average price tag but is built to last and should be able to sustain multiple seasons of abuse.
The Northwave Clan is an excellent shoe for gravity-oriented riding. This is not the shoe for the average trail rider who prioritizes light weight and breathability. That said, if riding downhill, rough trails, and sketchy jumps are your idea of fun, this could be the shoe for you. A very substantial and protective feel is paired with excellent grip and power transfer making these shoes ready to charge as hard as you are.
— Jeremy Benson
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