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Tech first look - December 15, 2004
Diadora Proracer Carbon shoes
Bright and clever - Diadora's top new shoe has brains to match the bling
The in-house 'Imelda' of cycling shoes at Cyclingnews, Rufus Staffordshire, sniffs out the latest from Diadora.
If my bro' Snoop Dogg raced a bike, he'd be certain to find the 2005 ProRacer Carbon shoe from Diadora to his taste. Such is the styling of the 2005-model, top-of-the-line shoe from the Italian manufacturer, he could find them in the dark and be tempted to wear them out to clubs.
It's the appearance of these shoes that strikes first - owing more to contemporary football shoe/sneaker design rather than road-racing tradition. But this is before you look closer at the impressive technology and pragmatic approach to pedal compatibility and you can see that Diadora has kept an eye on the market for the latest features - and backwards compatibility. Note: SPD-R faithful - you are not forgotten.
But first, the bling: the ProRacer has a white micro-fibre upper, finished with a pearl coating that reflects the light to almost make the shoe shimmer. This upper is punctuated with flashes of stitched silver micro-fibre, while a dramatic use of dayglo-red in the shape of the Diadora logo provides the now-obligatory night-reflective material. Holding your foot in place are buffed alloy snap closures, even on the Velcro straps. The black offset to this bright cacophony is a matching black Diadora logo stitched into the upper and a very strong, two-piece molded black plastic heel-cup. This ergo-heel should prove highly resistant to scuffing because after all, it will be protecting what could be the most bling-bling shoe on the market.
Taking a look at the technology of Diadora's latest, and here it can support its gangsta appearance. Let's start at the sole, which is made from carbon-reinforced nylon, but with what Diadora calls the "Multiped" system, but what we all call "cleat inserts" that are screwed into the sole of the shoe.
Given that nearly all shoe manufacturers have adopted the 3-hole pattern introduced by Look (even Carnac has abandoned inserts in 2005 range and opted for a complete sole), Diadora remains one company that can still offer a wide range of pedal compatibilities.
This could be good news to those owners of Shimano's popular SPD and the improved SPD-R pedals. For early-adopters of the SPD and SPD-R, it's more than likely the pedal is still quite functional but the shoes are on the way out, if not replaced already. Indeed, the SPD-R is still favoured by many track cyclists for its secure retention strength. However, the design has been discontinued by Shimano, disappointing many current owners as the petite pedals have proved extremely robust.(In fairness to Shimano, the company claims that SPD-R pedals practically stopped selling when the SPD-L became available, even though they were both available for a while.)
Adding the cleat insert facility, however, also increases the stack height, that is, the distance between the ball of your foot and the pedal axle. The widely held belief is that "closer is better", and I found that I had to increase the saddle height 3-4mm when changing over from thin, single-piece carbon fibre soled-shoes to the new Diadoras.
The profile of the sole is not as flat as other Italian brands, but not as stepped as the high-end French-made shoes; somewhere in-between, is how I'd put it. The shoes were tested with 3-hole, Look-compatible inserts, each attached by two Allen screws. The cleats are then screwed into these inserts using whatever fasteners your pedal-maker supplied. In this case, they were tested using Campagnolo pedals/cleats and the aft adjustment provided by the positioning of the female threads in the cleat insert will be more suited to those riders who've not had to jam their cleats all the way back to position their feet in the ideal ergonomic position.
So with cleats attached and flipping the shoe over, we find it has a very generous 'throat', to use shoe-making parlance, which means the opening of the shoe is wide and will suit riders who may have experienced some discomfort from shoes that pinch against their ankles and tendons. The upper is made mainly from super-tough 'fake leather' - that is, high-tech microfibre - in this case the Micra brand from Italy.
So, are they light? Yes, at 320 grams for one shoe (with insert, sans-cleat), they are definitely one of the lighter shoes around. Are they stiff? Really, we've not been able to get much flex out of any high-end road shoe for about three years, such is the construction of modern cycling shoes. Yes, they're very stiff and the challenge today is to ensure that the inner sole is of sufficient quality to support the foot, given that there's precious little give anywhere else.
The Diadora has a snug-fitting, well-ventilated inner sole, made from densely-compressed foam with a tough plastic coating facing the shoe, and a synthetic fabric covering the top side. The inner sole offers excellent support and with the closure nipped up, slippage inside the shoe was quite minimal, but this will depend on foot shape, and the Diadora's generous throat will accommodate some very strong ankles. One feature that Diadora claims also reduces foot slippage inside the shoe is the "micro-suede heel collar" which is impregnated with "No Slide" silicon heat transfer inserts.
Further, a pair of well-positioned drainage holes at the toe of the shoe should mean that wet-weather rides aren't made any harder by your shoes filling with water and being unable to drain properly.
Holding your foot in the shoe is the Micro CL closure system, which is a multiple step buckle with release button and a swing-out opening that enables easy cleaning, such as the removal of grit and dirt that can foul the mechanism. Below the main closure buckle are two Velcro straps, and these are quite unique to Diadora. Called 'Quick Adjust', the fastening straps are resin-impregnated polyester fibre, threaded through a bright, anodized aluminum snap closure. Acting as an articulated 'brake', it clasps against the strap and holds it in place, even when the Velcro end of strap has been peeled away from shoe. Very clever.
Shoes are pieces of gear where not every brand will suit every rider, and not just due to superficial factors such as appearance. But the Diadora holds out a branch to riders of many pedals and also offers some unique features in a very contemporary-looking package.
While the positioning of the holes in the Look insert could be situated further back to provide more aft adjustment, it has to be said the greatest range of fore and aft adjustment of any pedal system was provided by the SPD/R variants. So for those riders where the positioning of the foot over the pedal axle has been an issue in the past, it's probable they are already using the Shimano pedals. For them, the 2005 Diadora could be a no-brainer. For all other riders who've happily spun 3-hole pattern shoes with Look-compatible cleats over the past two decades, the Diadoras are the new shoe to gain the attention - and not just for their appearance.