With a more casual appearance and forgiving soles that don't force you to walk like you need to find the nearest washroom ASAP, Northwave's four-model Outcross series is the SUV range of the Italian brand's catalog, insofar as they're designed for all-around riding. The $159.99 USD Outcross Plus model reviewed here features the company's 'Explorer' sole, which Northwave describes as ''a calibrated stiffness midsole combines optimal power transfer in the pedal area with an ideally flexible medial zone so it also feels great when walking.'' Two hook-and-loop straps and a single SLW2 dial per shoe are used to adjust the fit. You can have the Outcross Plus in red, black, or the forest color pictured here.
Outcross Plus Details
• Intended use: all-around riding
• Walking-friendly design
• Michelin rubber tread outsole
• Single SLW2 dial per shoe
• Two hook-and-loop straps
• Weight: 413 grams per shoe
• MSRP: $159.99 USD
When I think of Northwave, images of brightly colored, very Italian racing shoes pop into my head, but their catalog is home to more than just carbon-soled, ultra-stiff shoes that cost a lot. Sure, they have plenty of that type of thing, but they also have loads of things like the Outcross Plus; walkable, wearable shoes that look like, well, a somewhat normal pair of shoes. That's a good thing, by the way.
The Outcross Plus shoe is subdued enough to go unnoticed, but that doesn't mean that Northwave hasn't squeezed some functional features into it.
The Outcross Plus' subdued appearance doesn't mean they're not home to some tech worth mentioning, however, so let's start at the bottom and work our way up. Michelin, those French tire folks, have their name on the outsole, although it's definitely not the same black stuff that they use for their tires. Whatever it is, Northwave says that it's ''28% more abrasion resistant than TPU,'' so their angle is to up the longevity factor - more on that below.
Unlike racing shoes that have soles stiffer than me on the dance floor to transfer as much power into those tiny pedals as possible, the Outcross Plus is meant to be comfortable on and off the bike. But it's not just a matter of giving the shoe a flexy sole, it seems, with Northwave using a "calibrated stiffness midsole'' combined with a ''flexible medial zone.'' Medial means 'in the middle,' and that's exactly where the shoe is designed to flex a bit, aft of the cleat so that you can plant the front of the foot, lift your heel, and have the shoe come with it.
The bottom of the Outcross Plus is home to rubber with Michelin's name on it, and it's supposed to be long-lasting and sticky.
The top of the shoe is made of a mesh material designed to let your foot stank out and the fresh air in, but it has also received both a water-resistant coating and a bit of extra padding up front where they'll eventually smash into things sooner or later because that's what happens.
The lower-priced Outcross Knit has these things called laces that cycling shoes used to use back in the day, and the standard Outcross sees three hook-and-loop straps across the top of the shoe, but the Plus model, shown here, employs Northwave's SLW2 dial and two of those same straps. The SLW2 system is neat because it does both micro-adjusting and full-release, whereas some other dial systems are only one or the other. Performance
The Outcross Plus saw plenty of duty during the summer, a season that closely resembled how it'd feel if the earth was about three hundred feet away from the sun. Good thing these shoes are well-vented. I'd stop short of calling them airy, but they definitely breathe very well and it doesn't feel like your feet are in cement toasters during a long, hot ride. Some casual cycling shoes, which is how'd I'd classify the Outcross range, are guilty of exactly that, but these Northwave shoes are certainly not. They can feel a bit chilly now that it's cooled off considerably, however, so the Outcross' are probably not the best when the temps are low enough to see your breath.
They're also not as stiff as a sportier shoe, which may or may not be a good thing depending on how, er, sporty you happen to be. It's not that they're heavy or hot, but rather it's their flexible sole that really sets them apart from a pair of performance kicks. Off the bike, they're quite comfortable and feel very much like a normal shoe that has a stiff sole, a fact that makes them great for hike-a-bike adventures.
Northwave's Outcross Plus is a walkable shoe that is best suited to non-racer types.
Coming off a set of fairly sporty cross-country shoes, the Outcross Plus' were initially far too compliant, enough so that foot cramps weren't uncommon near the bottom of a long descent. That was when they were paired with a set of tiny cross-country pedals, mind you, pedals that offer deadbeat dad levels of support. When used with a set of trail pedals with large platforms, like the recently reviewed Nukeproof Horizon CLs
, this wasn't ever an issue thanks to the larger pedals providing much more support underfoot.
When not on descents pushing fifteen-minutes in length, the bottoms of the Outcross' felt adequately rigid, more than enough for the causal, non-racer type. In fact, after going back to a set of performance shoes and then switching to the Outcross' again for a hot ride, it was apparent how much cooler and more comfortable the Northwave kicks are. The mesh upper is extremely forgiving, and the fit, while on the skinny side, is comfortable enough to be out of mind at all times. Who thinks about their shoes during a ride? People who have poor-fitting shoes is who.
While they breathe well during warm weather, the Outcross Plus shoe is a bit chilly when it's cold out. Depending on where you live, they might be two or three season shoes.
The two-strap, one-dial system works just as well as having two dials or three straps or any combination of those; there were no hot spots, and nothing came lose until it was supposed to.
That Michelin sole proved to actually be pretty impressive, too. It's soft enough that you don't feel like you're going to end up on your ass when walking on the rock limestone rock we have here, but it also doesn't get torn up by pedal pins. Maybe Michelin should use it to make mountain bike tires? The cleat is also recessed just enough so you're not clickity-clacking around when you're not on the bike, but one of them simply refused to stay tight. I know better than to use a thread locking compound on cleat bolts (only grease, please), but it nearly came to that. Instead, spinning the threaded insert around to use the other set of holes solved the problem, so it was likely a thread tolerance thing. Pinkbike's Take: