Sidi Cape Review
Cons: Expensive, thin footbeds, noisy uppers, poor walking performance
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Cape is a purpose-built XC race shoe with the performance and features that we have come to expect from Sidi. We found the Cape to be best suited for its intended purpose of XC style riding and could easily double as a gravel grinding or road biking shoe. The Cape works fine with all clipless mountain bike pedals but performs best with small platform pedals such as the Shimano XTR M9120 Trail, or those with no platform such as the Crankbrothers Eggbeater 3. We put the performance of these shoes to the test on a variety of rides from post-race recovery gravel grinds to adventurous XC trail rides of various lengths.
Overall comfort is one of the main areas where we thought the Cape was lacking, especially when compared to the other shoes in the test. Our first impression started the moment we pulled the shiny black, almost patent leather looking, shoes from the box and we noticed the classic XC race shoe styling that Sidi is known for. That visual impression carries over to the fit and feel of the shoes which, despite the fancy looking cable and ratchet strap closures, and the flashy shine of the uppers, is very bare bones and no-nonsense. The stiff nylon "Competition Sole" offers very little flex in the toe and virtually none underfoot and accepts toe spikes that are sold separately. This stiff sole is covered with a traditional footboard and a wafer-thin footbed that provides very little in the way of arch support or cushioning. If these shoes were ours, one of the first things we would do is replace the footbeds. Comparable shoes in this price range and our test selection, such as the Giro Empire VR90 and the Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO, provide far superior customizable footbeds with their shoes.
There is minimal padding throughout the majority of the shoe, with a little bit added under the tongue and around the upper part of the ankle cuff and heel pocket. A molded plastic heel cup provides shape and serious protection for that part of the foot. The Cape offers little protection for strikes to the foot on the inside or the outside near the pinky toe. We found the synthetic leather material of the uppers to feel very supple in the hands yet somehow it seemed oddly non-conforming on the feet. We also found the upper material to make a squeaking noise if any parts of it moved on itself. The shoes have very little ventilation, just a few small holes, and that was noticeable while riding for hours in black shoes in the hot California sun.
The closures consist of a single Sidi Tecno 3 Boa style cable closure that crisscrosses over the lower part of the foot and a wide ratcheting strap that they refer to as the "soft instep closure system" that is adjustable from both sides at the upper part of the tongue. The closures are robust and work flawlessly. However, one of our testers experienced consistent uncomfortable pressure on his tendons at the top of the tongue caused by the wide ratcheting strap, regardless of the tightness. The cleat mount area provides a good range of adjustability for most riders, although people who slam their cleats as far back as possible may be left wanting for more adjustment.
At this price, it is fair to expect a shoe to be competitively lightweight. While it is lighter than the enduro oriented shoes in our test, it still weighs in at 410g per shoe for our size 44 test pair. This weight is reasonable, although we expected them to be lighter given the price and their XC race inspired look and feel.
The Cape uses a fully rigid nylon "Competition Sole" to efficiently transfer power to your pedals. The sole flexes very minimally through the toe, just enough to aid slightly in walking, but remains very stiff underfoot. The Cape's stiff sole ranked it near the top of our test for power transfer, but the ultralight and super stiff carbon soles of the Giro Empire VR90 and Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO offer even more rigidity and direct transfer of power to the pedals. That said, the Cape is plenty stiff for almost everyone but the most hardcore of XC racers.
The Cape does not excel when the terrain inevitably forces you off the bike and onto your feet, especially when compared to the new breed of incredibly versatile shoes on the market today. The hard rubber lugs, the hardest outsole material in our test selection, are a dramatic improvement over the hard plastic sole lugs that Sidi has used in the past, but they offer only limited traction when walking on rocks, logs or roots. Couple that with the little flex of the sole in the toe and the Cape is one of the worst performing shoes in our traction and walkability tests. The wide spacing of the sole lugs makes for easy clearing of mud, snow, or other debris. Shoes such as the Giro Terraduro, the Pearl Izumi X-Project, or the Specialized 2FO Cliplite demonstrate a better balance between on and off the bike performance.
Sidi has long been known for making quality, durable shoes, and the Cape proved to be quite durable during our test period. One notable weakness of the shoes would be the lack of any rubber or plastic protection on the uppers, except the heel cup. Minor scratches to the synthetic leather are quite apparent on our test pair. People who hike a bike or bushwhack often may wear the uppers out quickly, but those who spend little to no time off their bikes will likely get years of use out of these shoes. The outsole's rubber lugs are not replaceable, and although ours have minimal wear, we could see them wearing out, especially the small ones in the toe, if you walk on rocks with any regularity. The somewhat high profile ratchet is located vulnerably on the lateral side of the shoe near the ankle bone and is somewhat prone to rock strikes. That said, ours have seen no damage thus far, and the ratchet and Boa are both fully replaceable just in case. The shiny synthetic leather uppers are also quite water resistant, and splashes of water go nearly unnoticed; this material also cleans up very easily.
The Cape is undoubtedly an XC shoe with some crossover potential into trail riding but is among the least versatile shoes we tested. We consider this to be an entry-level version of the much more expensive Sidi XC racing shoes, and good for people seeking a minimalist type of shoe with some brand recognition bling factor. This shoe is most at home on the bike smashing miles on the pedals as its poor traction walkability performance suggests.
The Cape retails for $300, a drop in the bucket when compared to the top models in their shoe line-up. We feel, however, that this shoe doesn't provide the best value considering the comfort, weight, and lack of versatility it has to offer. For the money, the Giro Empire VR90 and the Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO both offer superior fit, performance, and versatility. Other less expensive shoes in our test selection, such as the Giro Terraduro, the Specialized 2FO Cliplite, and the Shimano ME7, are other great and more affordable options.
The Sidi Cape is an expensive entry level XC race shoe from one of the most popular brands in cycling shoes. The shoe's quality construction and on the bike performance are its best attributes, although comparably priced and less expensive shoes bested their comfort, weight, versatility, and walkability in our test selection. Those with the money to spend will be better off looking at the Giro Empire VR90 or Pearl Izumi X-Project PRO or pricing down into a less expensive shoe with greater comfort and versatility.
The Cape is also available in significantly more ventilated "Air" version for $300
— Jeremy Benson
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