Shimano’s SPD system (SPD stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics) has been around for as long as I can remember. This year is the system’s 25th Anniversary and it dates all the way back to 1990, where mountain biking was all about rigid bikes and cantilever brakes. Having that many years of design and R&D experience under their belt, Shimano remains as the most trusted brand for clipless pedals and clipless shoes today. The sheer variety of shoes that are available to meet the needs of mountain bikers (and its popularity) across multiple genres is testament to it’s proven pedal/shoe system.
For 2015, Shimano has unveiled the SH-M200 shoe and we’ve recently got hold of a pair just for our own happy feet 😀 With the ever-growing popularity of Enduro mountain biking, the SH-M200 is right at the top of Shimano’s new line of trail/enduro shoes. Available in 2 colorways, we were lucky to get hold of the Army Green version instead of the regular 50 shades of
grey black. And it looks awesome right out of the box. We couldn’t wait to try it out and instead of shooting photos of brand new shoes for show, we decided to release it into it’s element and see if it still looks good after a hard ride. And after 35kms of really wet riding, here’s our first take on the M200.
Price: SGD$180 – $210 (depending on where you buy it)
Weight: 762g for Size 40
Intended Use: Trail & Enduro Riding
Colors: 2 colors available, Black & Army Green
First up is the shape of the shoe. Looking from the side, the design is clearly an aggresive no-nonsense approach to clipless shoes. It retained the similar asymmetrical ankle collar which can also be found on the discontinued MP66 shoes and the most recent AM45, which is a great feature that provides ankle protection against crank strikes. The M200 also features a new TORBAL technology. It’s short for “Torsional” and “Balance”. According to Shimano, Torsional midsole allows natural rider “flow” motion during downhill, and Balanced carbon reinforced midsole for optimal pedaling rigidity.
The carbon infused midsole allows for stiffness from front-to-back but with torsional flex for when you’re manhandling your ride. The front of the shoe has reinforced low profile amour that protects your toes from toe-eating rocks, and it seems to have excellent durability. Only time will tell if this holds up. And like the Mp66 and AM45, the M200 also has a front flap, which covers…
…the laces. Slipping in the shoes for the first time, it was easy to get the proper fit with the quick lace system and the buckle. The pull tab of the quick lace has Velcro on it, so when you’re done pulling it snug, you can attach it on the underside of the flap. The quick lace on the lower foot allows for quick and accurate tightening, and after playing around with it (and pulling it extremely hard just to see what happens, and nothing else happened except my feet felt strangled) and getting the lace tension right, I didn’t notice any hotspots or uncomfortable areas at the top of my feet.
The low profile micro-adjust buckle tightens off at the top to keep your heel in place. You pull the gray tab to tighten and press the black tab to release. I’ve always loved having buckles cos it allows you to make quick adjustment even when you’re riding. It take a little bit of practice, but it can be done.
Up at the toe-box, the shoes features a multi-layered moisture control mesh vents which lets heat escape. Event though the vents were quite small, I did still get a fair bit amount of water during the wet ride for this review.
The inner side of the shoe is a standard affair, nothing much going on here except for much of the shoe’s outer material. We have no idea what material this is but it seems heavy-duty and does a good job at repelling much of the water and drying up rather quickly.
And this is where the magic is for me. The wide range of cleat adjustments that’s available on the M200 is impressive. One of the reasons that I’ve stopped wearing clipless pedals is mainly because of the shoes that were available during that time. Clipless shoes were limited to XC type styles or heavy & bulky skate style versions. Even though cleat positioning has always been recommended to be under the ball of your feet, I’ve constantly felt that my cleats were way to far forward. Somehow or rather, my riding style doesn’t quite favor such a position.
The game changer for me was when Shimano showed the underside of the M200 during it’s press photos last year. The shoe allows you to position your cleats further back for your own sweet spot and it’s safe to say that I’ve found mine. My cleats are positioned just slightly behind the balls of my feet. The rubber lugs were more than impressive too. Other than wet roots, the lugs seems to have decent grip for when you’re forced to walk. Wet rocks were fine (except those with moss) but I almost slipped while skipping over some wet roots. Thankfully, my cat-like instincts saved me from landing face first into more roots.
The heavy-duty outer material cleans up rather easily too. A quick dip into a stream and a few wipes with my gloved fingers made the shoe like new again. These shoes are not waterproof (we never said they were) so if you do dunk them in a stream, take them off and drain out the water.
So hmmm.. how was the fit and did the shoe perform as expected during the test ride?
Ok, so here’s the thing. The Shimano M200 is a rather narrow shoe. So for those with wide or high volume feet, you may need to get the Wide fit version. Buuuuuuuttt, the Wide fit version is close to impossible to find locally here. So what’s your next option? Go a size up. Since all of us are unique like the stars in the sky, it’s always best to try it on to see what fits you the best. But once you’ve found your perfect fit, you’ll realize instantly that these shoes are damn comfy. They’re not as stiff as carbon XC shoes and walking around is quite pleasant. The cleats are also recessed a little bit further in and I didn’t make the clikety-clack noise while pushing my bike along my HDB corridor to my lift.
And yes, I had high expectations from the shoe during the test ride today, and it did not disappoint. I paired the shoe with a pair of Shimano M9020 XTR pedals together with a set of SH56 cleats. The SH56 cleats is a multi-release cleat which allows you to unclip easily in any direction (regular cleats only unclip by moving your heel outwards) during your moments of kan-cheong-ness, which is perfect if you’re just starting out on clipless pedals on trails. The shoe does work with other brands of clipless pedals as well (except road pedals of course) so no worries there. So anyway, having laid off from clipless pedals for about 2 years now, I was kinda nervous as I got to the trail head. But I was glad that my muscles had good memory and clipping in and unclipping soon became second nature to me after about 30 mins into the ride.
After about an hour into the ride, I noticed that while the shoe did feel rigid, it wasn’t brutally stiff. Trail riding requires lots of directional changes and body movements, and the shoes felt flexible enough to me to remain clipped in and still twist my foot around to compensate for quick turns. I’ve only had one accidental unclipping throughout the ride, probably because the tension on my pedals were tweaked to be the softest. And so, the shoes performed way more than I expected. The comfort level on these pair is highly pleasing and they will be right at home for long spinning hours in the saddle. There wasn’t any need to “break-in” the shoes either. The feel right where they belong the moment you slip them on and after the first hour during our test ride, I only needed to make one quick lace adjustment and it stayed put throughout. Throughout the test ride in the rain earlier this morning, I didn’t feel any hotspots nor weird feet sensations either, which was awesome.
And after 35kms of hard charging in the wet, pushed the bike up steep slippery slopes and dunking it into a stream for some trail spa relaxation, the shoes performed way beyond my expectations. My feet remained happy throughout the day’s adventure and I didn’t feel like I was losing anything by ditching my flat pedals. One thing’s for sure, my clipless days are definitely here to stay again.