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Hands-on Gear Review
Sidi Wire Vent Carbon Review
Cons: Heavy, rigid upper, difficult to put on and take off
Bottom line: A top-of-the-line premium shoe with high performance materials meant for serious roadies.
When it comes to premium road shoes, Sidi are THE standard. They have been the mainstay of pro teams for years, delivering consistent quality and performance. Their Wire Vent Carbons are no exception to that history, which is why we confidently awarded them our Editors' Choice Award. There was serious competition, notably by Shimano's emergent premium line, embodied by the S-Phyre RC9, which takes on a new single-piece cushioned upper with Boa dials and carbon outsole. But in the end, the Sidis came out on top, and we're confident in that arrangement. Read on to see how they do next to the rest of our lineup to see if they're right for you.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Road Bike Shoes of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
After more than a hundred miles at different intensities and all sorts of weather, we knew these would be one of the top shoes in our lineup, and it's no surprise that they picked up our Editors' Choice Award. The pros ride them for a reason, and that's because they're intense shoes for intense people. They crushed the rest of the field in most measures, with the notable exception of weight, where they were down near the bottom of our field. Though the weight weenies might not be too impressed with them, you would be hard-pressed to find a serious reason not to dig these. Take a look below to see how we break these down and how they do next to their competitors.
The Sidis consistently score at or near the top of almost every category, just barely beating out the Top Pick Shimano S-Phyre, earning them the Editors' Choice Award.
This is a pretty hit-or-miss measure for most road shoes. It is challenging to bring together attributes like rigidity, incremental adjustment, durability, and comfort while maintaining a sleek, low-profile design. Sidi did just that, putting in a thick padded heel collar (so far as cycling shoe padding goes) and a smooth, form-fitting TECHPRO MICROFIBER upper that hugs the foot and prevents slippage.
These pro racers offer enough cushion for leisurely touring, which places it alongside the nice touring-friendly Giro New Republics, with their plush padding and smooth felt-like liner. But there are two pairs that do notably better in this measure. The Fi'zi:k R5B, which won our Best Buy Award felt like a cross between a silk stocking (don't ask) and snug evening slippers, earning them a spot at the top.
Their smooth sockliner padded the forefoot while their sculpted footbed helped naturally fit the form of the foot to make a pleasant stroke. The S-Phyre also features a good deal of padding and a smooth sockliner, but their secret is the flexible, form-fitting burrito fold-over that creates a nicer close over the top of the foot and reduces rubbing and hot spots.
We think most riders will find what they need in these, but if top comfort in a premium shoe is your aim, we suggest taking a look at the competing Shimanos. If you're looking for a less premium model that still delivers, but is kinder to the wallet, take a look at the Fi'zi:k R5B Uomo Boas.
These kicks aren't super feathery like some of the others. They use a full carbon outsole, tough Microfiber Techpro for the upper, and a good deal of padding and other reinforcement to ensure longevity. That puts these near the bottom of the weight game at 22.1 ounces in men's 44.
There are much lighter shoes like the Giro Empire, at just 18.8 ounces, though they are a notably stripped down model compared to the premium shoes. Their lining is a bit less welcoming, their lacing doesn't offer anything near the others' adjustability, and their flexible upper doesn't offer the support or power transfer. Next down the line are the Shimano RC9s at 19 ounces in a men's 45. These offer comparable performance to the premium Italian mainstays but don't have quite the level of power transfer, adjustability, or durability. We think that weight alone shouldn't determine whether or not to go with the Sidis, but if you're dead-set on being a weight weenie, take a look at the Shimanos.
This measure is where the Italian shoes shine. They have unmatched sturdiness and rigidity, buoyed by their great adjustability, which allows riders to dial in and tweak different aspects of the shoe to get a fit that's more customized to your foot and riding form. The tough Techpro Microfiber upper material and external heel cup minimize wasted movement and direct force directly into your pedal. And of course, their thick carbon fiber outsole transfers downward energy directly into the cleat platform.
They dominated this measure. You won't find a better alternative or power transfer. If you are looking for a little more comfort, a little less weight, and maybe just a more straightforward, less expensive shoe that will still perform well, we suggest looking at the Shimano S-Phyre RC9s, which came in just behind. They also feature an excellent carbon sole and a snug fit that reduces energy waste, helping you transfer more of your hard work into brag-worthy propulsion.
A little farther down are the Best Buy, Fi'zi:k R5B Uomo Boas and the carbon-framed Mavic Cosmic Ultimate IIs, each earning their score for different reasons, but performing equally well. In the case of the former, it is their close, natural hug that removes excess movement from the upper, despite having a carbon-reinforced nylon composite sole that does have a bit of flex under serious efforts. In the case of the latter, their stiff carbon upper and sole transfer like heck, but their loose heel saps a little energy.
With five points of adjustment, these bad boys dominate the adjustment game. To bring uniform closure to the top of the foot and reduce heel lift they use their Soft Instep 3 strap anchored by a Tecno 3 buckle. The buckles have a lever that opens to twist and tighten and closes to keep a low profile when riding. They use a quick release to loosen or two side levers to loosen incrementally. There is a second Tecno 3 buckle and cable closure along the top of the foot with optional cable anchors across the toes. To top it off, they use a heel retention device that can be tightened or loosened to suit your form.
The usual suspects come in near the top of the measure here. The Sidis take the top and just behind are the Shimano S-Phyres and Fi'zi:k R5Bs alongside one another. What makes these unique is how responsive their uppers are to adjustment, combined with the ease of adjusting them out on the road. Both use bi-directional I1P Boa dials, which make it super easy to micro-adjust and quickly release. The difference is that the Fi'zi:ks use a separate sailcloth strap above the toe while the Shimanos use a second Boa dial that's anchored to the toe the same way that the Sidis anchor their toe to the midfoot Tecno 3 buckle. This means that there's a little less customization of the toe box alone in the two premium shoes compared to the entry shoe. The premium Italian shoes are the top shelf here, but the Fi'zi:ks are a good alternative if the configuration of the other two models isn't what you're looking for.
One of the great aspects to this model is the replaceability of parts, including the Tecno 3 buckles, Soft Instep 3 strap, and heel and toe pads, greatly increasing longevity, especially of the upper and outsole. The outsole itself is a tough synthetic microfiber, Techpro, bolstered by a reinforced toe and a hard external heel cup. The thick full carbon outsole adds more weight than other models, but it pays off in added durability.
They come out on top of this measure as well. Their nearest competitors shed light on why they're such a premium shoe. The Mavic Cosmic have a touch carbon framed upper and carbon sole but include large vents that leave the sole vulnerable to punctures by sharp stones and gravel. They also sacrificed both comfort and adjustability by using so much robust, rigid carbon fiber in their upper.
The Lakes came in alongside the Cosmic, using a thick full carbon sole and full grain leather upper, widely considered to be the most durable type of leather. However, it uses mesh vents along the toes of the upper, exposing it to the risk of tears before the fully-enclosed Sidis. Furthermore, neither of the two lesser competitors use replaceable toe pads on their outsole, while the Italian shoes do. Surprisingly, the Shimanos barely even have a toe pad, much less a replaceable one.
These are best suited for traditional road racing or anything high intensity like a crit or an A+, drop everyone group ride with intense sprints and those weird segments where you get pushed up to the front of a paceline doing 35+ on a flat for no real reason.
You would be hard-pressed to find a better pro-level shoe. At $499, these are certainly going for the pro price, but you are getting a top shelf shoe that will crush for 5 or 10 years. If you're a runner, you'll easily run through that cash in a few seasons and have a fraction of the performance and consistency across seasons.
The toughest part of wearing these racers was the idea of parting with them, but better to have loved and lost than you know the rest. It's true that they are not the cheapest shoes out there and that automatically puts them out of reach for a lot of riders and rational people, but as we mentioned in the value section, these will last a really long time if you take care of them and they will serve you as well in year 10 as they did in year 1. There are other competitors that might offer more comfort, like the Fi'zi:ks, or less weight, like the Giro Empires, which can be solved with a nice sock and one less taco or beer a week, respectively. But nothing else can touch these on power transfer and longevity, not to mention a solid showing in the rest of the categories. If your budget and skill level allow it, we recommend you give these a spin.
— Ryan Baham
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