Practical Reviews focuses on how well the product works and my personal experiences with the product. Practical Reviews tries to rise above the poetic nature of many bike review sites and instead give real-person thoughts.
From an economic perspective, S-Works equipment doesn’t make a lot of sense. Riders can gain more utility per dollar with other upgrades (or losing weight or riding more, etc). In fact, the Specialized engineers recognize this and loudly proclaim that S-Works is 100% about racing, no cost spared. The equipment does get expensive, in general sitting at the most expensive price point in the category (i.e. $400 shoes, $10,000 bikes, $250 helmets). That said, all of it is damn good.
The two products I’m reviewing today are the S-Works Road Shoes (matte black, size 42 – what, you don’t know your euro shoe size?) with limited edition blue BOA dials and blue (++_) footbeds and the S-Works Turbo clinchers. Let’s start with the footwear.
First things first: sex appeal. Very high. The matte black shoes are slick, with a very low, narrow, and sleek profile that screams speed (to me). The all-carbon sole has a marble finish and a stark white S-Works logo stamped onto the middle of the thin sole (the sole doesn’t match the shape of the foot to save weight and only provide support where it’s needed). The shoe itself has no seams. Apparently, thread is too heavy, so the S-Works guys decided to thermobond everything, which means they use black magic to hold the shoe together. Or something.
I don’t know if I’m the biggest fan of this process. The thermobonds end up being a little sloppy, or at least not exact. By no means are they a mess, but the intersection of the upper and the sole is not uniform and that bugs me a little, especially given how sleek the entire shoe is. When one small detail is off, it throws off the whole shoe. But then again, I ride so fast that no one could ever notice.
The shoe has (and has used) two Boa S2 dials, S2 meaning 2nd generation. The older S-Works used Boa dials that were a pain in the butt to service (I know because I’ve done it for other people, all while gagging over their footsweat invading my nose, sorry for that image). These are pretty simple: Pop the entire dial out and replace it with a new one. No messing with knots, or threading, or anything like that. Simple and pretty quick. When I switched the stock Boas to the blue ones on my shoes, it took me only about 10 minutes. Although I’m not a Grand Tour contender who races down mountains at 70k+ and then goes on to win the Vuelta, I’ve never had any problems with the Boas getting stuck. I think the ubiquity of the Boa dial across multiple brands speaks to how much the industry trusts them. Overall, the retention system is fine, although the Velcro strap leaves some to be desired. My toe never feels tight, which might be a fit issue, but could be a design flaw, given how well the rest of the shoe tightens down. Each click of the Boa dial is 1mm, which really allows you to dial it in (and quickly, versus something like a ratcheting clip).
One complaint I do have about the shoes is that the carbon sole scratches very easily. I’m not the most gentle with my shoes (heck, I walked through a field with them on the very first time out), but I wasn’t impressed with how much they scratched in the first week (when these pictures were taken).
The greatest thing about these shoes is the stiffness of the sole. I didn’t know if I would notice the stiffness (which is supposed to save you 6 watts…), but I truly did, right out the door. It’s hard to describe how it feels, but it gives you that wonderful feeling that everything you’re putting into the bike is making it go forward. I’ve felt that when riding ultra-stiff bikes like the S-Works Roubaix and I feel it every time with these shoes.
Of course, these shoes are light. I think each shoe is 200g and when you pick them up, you can tell right away. I won’t woo you with stories of how you need to save 100g per shoe, but it brings a smile to everyone’s face the first time they feel them. I don’t care about whether I need it – I like having it!
As for the S-Works clinchers… I can’t tell you rolling resistance numbers (which are reported very high), I can’t tell you that I feel the 220 tpi over my $12/ea Nashbar training tires, but I can tell you that I feel confident on them, that the tread is pretty sleek, and that I really do believe that there have been times when my bike was leaned over a bit too much (looking at you, turn two of Willow Springs RR) but I didn’t hit the deck. Knock on wood, I haven’t crashed yet nor had a flat with these tires. They just came out with the S-Works Cotton tires, which are 320 tpi! Yummmmmm.
Overall, very happy with the S-Works road shoes and tires. The shoes might not be economically “worth” it, but they’re sooooo nice and are a fantastic upgrade, especially after I got fitted for the correct Specialized footbeds. Verdict: 5 stars.
TL;DR: Expensive, but rightfully so. 100% performance shoes that are optimized for speed.