take on a versatile, high-performance cycling shoe for the all-mountain/enduro crowd has a sole designed in collaboration with Michelin tire. The colorful tread pattern of Northwave's Spider Plus 2 features the "X-Crossbow" reinforcement that is said to provide just enough rigidity to enhance pedaling, and ample flexibility for off-bike excursions and to keep the feet securely on the pedals when the rider is not clipped in. The uppers are "thermo-welded" using a sandwich process that binds breathable mesh with a tough, pre-cut, synthetic material into one outer layer, molded to the shoe's final shape. The process requires very little stitching and results in a good looking product.
Northwave adds a little space in the Spider Plus 2's toe box for more comfort when bashing over bigger hits, and protects against rock strikes with a reinforced forward section. Molded heel cups keep the foot stabilized in the shoe and inside, you’ll find an anti-microbial insert. Retention is via a single, hook-and-loop "Powerstrap" over the instep and Northwave's low-profile and user-friendly S.L.W.2 (Speed Lace Winch 2) cable lacing system. Similar to the BOA, the lace is tensioned by turning the S.L.W.2's ratcheting dial. The user can then reduce tension in single increments by depressing its release wedge, or completely disengage the laces by lifting up on the wedge lever.
A screw-down plate covers the shoe's SPD-style cleat interface for those who choose not to clip in, and Northwave's designers set the interface back a generous distance from the classic road and XC racing position to emulate the pedal placement of gravity riders, if that is how you roll. Sizing ranges from 34 to 50, with half sizes from 39 to 45. As mentioned, the toe box is wider than a classic cycling shoe, while the rear of the shoe is a comfortable, snug fit. Weight for our size 42 was 820 grams and the top-line Spider Plus 2 is only available in the flashy, anthracite, yellow and orange colorway. MSRP is €130, $219 CAD (USD TBD).
Northwave launched its first shoes back in 1993 in two colors, one shoe orange and the other yellow, so it comes as no surprise that the Spider Plus 2 is one of the flashier designs in the AM/enduro category. Its sleek, thermo-welded upper and wide toe box give it the look of an off-road running shoe, which was a bit of a put-off for me initially, perhaps because the Spider Plus 2 didn't have the "serious" looking profile and conspicuously over-the-top reinforcement strategy that is typical of the enduro genre. Wearing them, however, quelled all doubts, as Northwave's amply padded and wonderfully profiled uppers resulted in the most comfortable fitting shoe I can remember wearing since I reluctantly retired my 1990-circa leather Sidi's (Sidi is the brand by which most shoe makers secretly judge their fit). The feel is snug, with a little wiggle room up front. The Powerstrap closure is a tiny bit clumsy to operate, but the Speed Lace Winch system has a positive action and is intuitive to operate. Use the lacing system to achieve a snug overall fit and then carefully tension the hook and loop strap to set the heel of the foot into the back of the shoe.
I slammed the Mavic cleat to the rear-most position, assuming that because Northwave's designers came from a road and XC background, they would have overlooked the importance of proper cleat set-back. Evidently, a guy named Cedric Gracia assisted the design team and, for the first time, I had to move my cleat position forward in the slots of a cross-over type all-mountain shoe. Good work, Northwave.
Ventilation is wonderful. With relatively few intake ports, the Spider Plus 2 feels very cool at moderate trail riding speeds and it dries quickly after being submerged. Northwave pegs the weight of a size 42 at 414 grams, which turned out to be quite accurate and results in a very light feel on the bike. There were no hot spots and the shoe required no break in period to achieve its best-in-class fit. Under power, the X-Crossbow sole delivers on its promise of just-right firmness with enough stiffness to assure riders used to stiff, old-school XC racing shoes that their leg power is being directed efficiently through the pedals, while offering enough flexibility for riders who have come off of flat-soled shoes to feel unconfined while maneuvering the bike in dicey situations. Walking traction is better than good, with plenty of grip for slippery hike-a-bike sessions, but not so much that the sole is too sticky to drag a foot to arrest a big drift. The sole is shaped to make walking a non-issue, and there was no perceptible heel lifting.
Issues: I did not test the Michelin sole on flat pedals. That said, I question the X-Crossbow sole's shiny plastic center section as a potential negative. Why incorporate a slippery patch in a place where it could cause trouble for a rider who, in the heat of competition, is trying to recover from an error and get back on the pedals? Another potential negative is mud packing into the hollow sections molded in the heels of the soles. A high pressure hose cleaned them up well enough, but considering that this shoe is intended to be worn in adverse conditions, one has to wonder why the holes exist at all?