Sidi Trace 2 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Lightweight, comfortable, great power transfer
Cons: Expensive, strap mount can snag on your crank
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Our Analysis and Test Results
For as long as we can remember, Sidi has been a leading brand in the cycling shoe market. The Italian company makes a variety of footwear for both road and mountain biking as well as moto racing, so it's safe to say they have plenty of experience making high-performance products. Their SD15 trail shoes didn't live up to our expectations, but the Trace 2 went a long way towards restoring our faith in the brand. Through weeks of testing, we didn't find much that this pair of kicks couldn't handle. We put them through the wringer on countless muddy XC rides and even threw in a couple shuttle days for good measure. Overall, our impression was very positive.
As expected in a hard-soled cross-country shoe, the Trace 2 provides great power transfer when you're laying down watts on the bike. The sole is a full foot nylon plate that doesn't noticeably flex under hard sprinting efforts or on long grinding climbs, and the interface between pedal and shoe is rock-solid. When you're cross-eyed, trying to hold a wheel towards the top of a climb, your mind will rest easy knowing that you're not bleeding power with every pedal stroke.
As good as the Trace 2's power transfer is, the nylon sole doesn't quite feel the same as the full carbon sole on a shoe like the Empire VR90. Carbon soled shoes tend to feel a little bit snappier in quick accelerations or full sprint efforts, but they also come at a premium. Unless you're wearing them back to back, it's unlikely that you'll notice the difference between the two, but we would be remiss if we didn't mention it.
Unlike most of the racy, hard-soled mountain bike shoes out there that tend to fit long and narrow, Sidi likes to leave a little bit more room in the toe box for the wide-footed among us. The Trace 2 is no different, and as soon as we put them on, we noticed the roomy fit. Our wide-footed primary tester is used to dealing with a few uncomfortable rides in new XC shoes as they break in and form to the shape of his foot, but the Trace 2's fit him like a glove from the get-go. The roomy forefoot means that narrow-footed riders might want to take a look at some of the other XC shoes we reviewed, but we had a couple people with average foot shapes try our test pair of Trace 2's on, and they liked the fit.
Beyond the fit, the Trace 2 maintains its comfortable trend. Two velcro straps and Sidi's Techno-3 boa system make adjusting tension across the top of the foot fast and easy. The Techno-3 system pulls tension evenly across the top of the instep and avoids hotspots and pressure points. On-the-fly tension adjustments are easy to make. Just turn the dial on the outside of the foot to crank everything down for a sprint or hard effort, and pinch buttons on either side of the dial to release the pressure. While wearing these shoes, we came to appreciate hassle-free adjustments before a climb or descent.
Like most XC shoes, the Sidi's insole is a little bit thin and doesn't provide a ton of cushion between your foot and the hard sole. On the bike, this isn't an issue. The lack of padding actually helps with power transfer, but when you're on foot, the lack of padding can be a little bit rough on uneven terrain.
Sidi makes the Trace 2 in a regular fit for people with narrower and average width feet as well as a Mega fit for riders with wider feet.
Traction and Walkability
Like most hard-soled XC shoes, the Trace 2 gives up a little bit of ground to the trail shoes we tested in its walkability and traction. As much as companies might try, a fully rigid shoe will never walk quite as naturally as a rubber-soled trail shoe with a rigid shank. That said, we think the Trace 2 is pretty good off the bike all things considered.
The nylon sole has polyurethane lugs inserted for traction rather than a full rubber sole. We found that the lugs are low profile enough to make walking on flat, smooth surface easy and fairly natural. When it comes to rough, uneven, or slippery terrain, they still do a good job, but don't stack up with the grippiest shoes we looked at. Two screws at the shoe's toe allow you to replace the toe lugs or install toe spikes for muddy conditions.
When we pulled out the kitchen scale to compare weights on our test shoes, we were pleasantly surprised with the Trace 2. At just 392 grams per shoe, without cleats installed, this model is one of the lightest in the test and just four grams heavier than the Editor's Choice Giro Empire VR90.
Despite the low weight, the Trace 2 doesn't feel like a flimsy ultralight shoe. The toe and heel cups are solid enough to provide decent protection from rock strikes on the trail, and the Politex upper material is rigid.
With a thick Politex upper and replaceable toe lugs, we think the Trace 2 will last you quite a while. The overall construction is careful, with clean seams and a well-bonded sole. We're a bit concerned with the Techno-3 boa closure system's construction. The small dial has a lot of moving parts that we could see failing or getting clogged with mud over time. Sidi offers an aftermarket replacement for the entire system, but we would hope not to have to replace it too often. If you tend to ride super rocky trails or you hike-a-bike often, we could see the soles and abrasion prone spots on the uppers wearing out faster than other models.
The one real durability issue we had with these shoes during testing involved the instep strap mount on in the inside of the foot. The Techno-3 strap fixes to a little collar on the inside of the foot, and a small flap of the strap inevitably sticks out of the collar. One of our slightly duck-footed testers would occasionally have the little flap catch on his crank mid pedal stroke. Throughout a couple weeks' riding, the flap eventually snapped off after being folded over the crank one too many times. The flap breaking didn't harm the performance of the shoe at all and ultimately solved the problem our tester was having, but regardless it's something to keep an eye out for with these shoes. It's possible to set the strap up to avoid having the excess flap sticking out, but we found that we couldn't tighten the strap properly over our instep if we changed it.
We think the well-rounded Trace 2 represents a solid value. It's not a cheap shoe, but it doesn't come close to the most expensive models we looked at. Wide-footed riders, especially, should give this shoe a look. There are a few models we tested that offer similar performance at a lower price point, however. Due to our issue with the strap mount snagging on the crank, we would caution duck-footed pedalers against this model.
After a disappointing performance from its trail-oriented sibling, the SD15, the Trace 2 reminded us what Sidi has to offer. We enjoyed our time testing these high-performance kicks, and we wouldn't hesitate to throw them on for a few more laps or recommend them to the rider seeking an XC style shoe.
— Zach Wick