Don’t you hate it when a key piece of your cycling gear fails on you and you find yourself at the mercy of whatever your local bike shop has in stock if you don’t want to be off the bike for days?
That happened to me recently when the buckle snapped off on my Specialized mountain bike shoes. Having just gotten my annual rebate and a 20-percent-off coupon from REI, I headed over there to see what I could find.
I buy the Shimano ME3
All that they had in my size in anything like a “serious” MTB shoe was the Shimano ME3. I had some misgivings from the start about the design, but after applying the rebate and coupon, I walked out of the store with a $120 pair of shoes for $40, and I was pretty satisfied with myself.
I’m sorry to report that’s been the extent of my satisfaction with the purchase.
Why I don’t like the ME3
I have two issues with the shoe design. The first (which I noticed in the store but thought I’d get used to) is the inverted design of the top buckle.
Most shoes have the buckle with the ratchet mechanism attached to the side of the shoe and there’s a plastic tab attached to the upper that goes across the top of your foot that fits into the buckle. It’s essentially a “Tab A goes into Slot B” design as seen here on my Specialized road shoes.
With the ME3, Shimano flips that upside down. The buckle is attached to the upper and the tab to the side of the shoe. With the old design, I can close the shoe one handed without much thought or concentration. With Shimano’s design, the buckle flops around, is difficult to line up with the tab, and takes about as much concentration as you would devote to threading a needle. Essentially, you’re bringing “Slot B” to “Tab A”. It seems unwarranted.
So, that’s just a bit fiddly, but not a reason to put the shoe on any “don’t buy” lists. However, my second issue with the shoe is – in my opinion.
In addition to the buckle, the shoe has two Velcro straps, which is a very common cycling shoe design. What’s different about the ME3, is the middle strap closes inward, not outward like most shoes. If you cinch the strap tight (which is my preference for cycling shoes) then the end of the strap bumps into your crank arm with every peddle stroke. That’s highly annoying. Keep in mind, this is not after months of use and the normal stretch of such straps. The problem was apparent on my first ride. I think I’m actually going to take a pair of scissors to the strap and cut the end off.
Having to make major modifications to a new bit of kit just to make it work is unacceptable to me. If I hadn’t gotten the shoes filthy on the first ride, I’d have returned them.
Both issues – to me – seem to stem from a desire to design something differently just for the sake of being different without any consideration of how well the changes actually work.
I have always been a fan of Shimano cycling equipment – even way back in my teens when “real” cyclists wouldn’t dream of soiling themselves with any component that didn’t have Tullio Campagnolo’s name engraved on it. With a few rare exceptions over the decades, Shimano’s components just work better.
I think the Shimano ME3 Cycling Shoe is one of those rare exceptions.
For me, I think if I had it to do over again, I’d go for the cheaper Shimano ME1 shoe. It just has a couple of velcro straps and no buckle, but they both close outwards, and with no buckle, the cheaper shoe doesn’t have any of the issues of the ME3.
If you’re looking for something other than Shimano, the PEARL iZUMi X-Alp Divide is about the same price as the ME3 and has an interesting three-strap design which uses only two straps.