KILDARE CYCLING COLUMN; I need six pairs of shoes — don’t judge

Conor McHugh enlightens us about why he was accused of being the Imelda Marcos of cyclists

Conor McHugh


Conor McHugh


KILDARE CYCLING COLUMN; I need six pairs of shoes — don’t judge

A fetching pair

I was accused the other day of being the Imelda Marcos of cyclists, such is my collection of shoes.

(Suggestion to millennials, google her).

I was offended, shocked, distraught, traduced and a little bit sheepish.

To the outside, untrained eye, it’s an accusation I cannot, in all conscience deny.

But I’ll give it a go anyway.

The occasion of the terrible, terrible allegation came during a visit by some friends who were admiring a newly-aquired piece of furniture, namely a shoe rack which houses shoes belonging to both myself and herself.

“Oooooh,” said one of the visitors, “the pair of you have an awful lot of cycling shoes.”

“Actually, they’re just Conor’s,” herself said.

I said nothing, because, notwithstanding the fact that there were five pairs sitting there, looking back at me like evidence of a terrible crime, I knew that there one other pair that wasn’t even on the rack.

If I feel the need to explain myself, that should come as a surprise to none.

So, it’s like this. Big picture first. Experience has taught me much.

Which is to say, my mistakes and my suffering have taught me much. Let me be more precise...

When you’re on the weekend-long Galway Cycle and you’re heading over the Athlone bypass and it’s been raining steadily since before you even got out of your home county, the last thing you want is wet feet.

And if there’s another 100km ahead of you, and another 100km worth of Connacht rain, then, you know, it can start to get into your head a little bit — the misery, that is.

All of which to say, when you’re doing the Galway Cycle, you’ll think that the few bob you spend on a second pair of shoes is a small price to pay for dry and warm feet.

Another lesson from experience: if you buy expensive shoes, which of course you do because you know the difference in performance between an expensive pair and a cheap pair, they don’t tend to last terribly long.

I mean, if you were to somehow manage to wear them while they were in the pedals only, then they would, in theory, last forever, but walking around in them tends to kill them.

Cheaper pairs tend to last longer, but then who wants to ride a bike without a rock hard sole, a beautiful white leather upper and Boa tighteners?

I for one, do not. Judge me if you like.

All of which is to say that I always try to have two pairs on the go at one time, and to rotate them so that I’m not changing my shoes every year or so.

Experience has also taught me that one should never ignore a good deal — so it is true to say that several of my shoes were bought because they were on special offer and/or were bought with a voucher I’d been given for Christmas or some such.

So how does that leave me with six pairs of shoes?

Well, one pair are mountain biking shoes, and I absolutely adore them. They’re possibly my most comfortable, and toughest and as time will likely tell, long lasting.

They’re by Specialized and they cost something in the region of €150 (if memory serves) but I truly believe that in 20 years time I’ll still have them, such is their toughness.

Another is a cheap pair of Shimano RP3s that accept both road and mountainbiking cleats.

I bought them when I was initially getting into mountain biking because I didn’t want to spend huge money, in case I didn’t like it; and also, I could use them for road biking if necessary.

They were cheap as chips, €45, and it shows — they’re grand for the rollers or on a really crappy day if I’m just going for a quick spin, but the sole is about as stiff as a wet hanky.

The one pair I regret was a pair of bad weather Shimanos that are basically like boots. The idea was to save you from rain, but of course I learned quickly that once the rain gets in over the top, it can’t get out, making you even more miserable. I won’t tell you how much they cost.

Then there’s a pair of Bont Riots, the cheapest Bonts you can buy. I was interested in the way you can heat them up and mold them to your feet.

Also, I needed to replace a pair of aging, but great Specialized Experts. The Bonts were great, and I’ve now had them for years. I suspect this might be their last summer, because the sole seems to be losing its rigidity.

Then there’s a pair of Giro Savix, which I bought on a voucher in January and are great... for the winter. They’re too damn warm for a hot summer’s day.

Finally there’s a pair of Shimano RC-7s which are the superstars. They were also reduced by about €100 when I bought them.

Despite being on the better looking and whiter end of the market, they are quite tough and likely to last me many years.

That’s something I’ve noticed over the years with the Shimano shoes I’ve owned — and the reviews I read of these indicated something similar.

So, while it seems like a lot of shoes, at least one of them (the Bonts) are approaching their eternal reward, and another (the wet weather Shimanos) just need to go on DoneDeal, although I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

The rest have their place. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. I don’t care what you say.