Sidi sets the standard for comfort and efficiency with its road racing and cross-country shoes, but the legendary Italian cobblers have yet to capture the imaginations of all-mountain and enduro riders. The new mid-height Defender is intended to do just that. Admittedly, Sidi's expertise does not extend into the realm of flat pedals, so the Defender is targeted at technically adept riders who clip in. It's constructed in earnest to merge Sidi's technical know-how with the realities of gavity-focused trail riding.
Beginning with that, the molded rubber outsole is generously lugged to provide off-the-bike traction, and the toe-box area is curved to facilitate walking.
• Purpose: All-mountain/trail riding
• Construction: Synthetic Politex leather upper. Lugged rubber outsole
• Set-back cleat placement
• Molded external heel cup
• Techno 3 ratchet lacing system
• Sizes: whole numbers, 41 through 48
• Colors: Black/yellow, Black/Orange
• Weight: 820 grams, (verified, size 42)
• MSRP: $219.99 USD
• Contact: Sidi global
or Sidi USA
The cleat slots are set well back to take the stress off of the calf muscles while descending. Sidi ensures pedaling efficiency with a molded external heel cup and a moderately profiled "S" shape to the sole of the shoe. The Defender sole has an internal stiffener, but unlike its carbon-reinforced XC racing siblings, it is designed to flex just enough to mute the pounding that high-speed gravity trails exert on the rider's feet. To that end, Sidi also includes a padded insert that is molded for each size shoe. Defenders are available in black with either orange or yellow accents with an MSRP of $219.99 USD. Features and Performance
Having spent many years clipped into both profiled (with an S-shaped sole) and flat cycling shoes, I can say without question that profiled shoes are the most efficient of the two. Flat soles work best with flat pedals. I don't profess, however, that anyone should ride a shoe that they don't like and there are plenty of clipped-in flat-shoe shredders out there to prove the point. If you do presently ride a profiled shoe, or you are thinking of switching over, there are a few design aspects that are critical to trail riders, most of which, Sidi has handily addressed with the Defender.
Stiffness and a snug fit are important, because you can relax your foot while you are laying down big power and use only major muscle groups instead of every muscle in your legs to turn the cranks. Trouble is, walking and scaling boulders is part of trail riding, so an off-road shoe like the Sidi Defender has to flex, and it also needs to be shaped more like a walking shoe and less like a road racing design.
Sidi accomplishes both with a curved "rocker" and extra flex in the toe section, and a molded heel cup. The rocker and molded cup prevent the heel from lifting out of the shoe and smooth out each step, while a more flexible stiffener in the sole maintains a moderate S-profile while absorbing some of the punishment delivered through the pedals.
High speed runs over rugged terrain, g-outs and jumps put an extraordinary amount of stress on the calf muscles and hamstrings. Offsetting the cleats closer to the mid-point of the foot relieves much of that stress, and the Defender's cleat pad has been moved back from the more traditional cross-country placement. I found I could easily match the cleat location of my Specialized 2FO flat shoes with the Sidis.
Finally, while road and cross-country riders prefer a shoe that is snug everywhere around the foot, and all-mountain shoe needs a little more room, especially in the toe box to let the foot spread out in response to large amplitude impacts. Sidi pairs a form-fitting heel cup with a molded insert to stabilize the shoe around the foot and added some room in the toe box. The effect is that my feet felt planted on the pedals without the sense that there were constricted. Some of that comfort was a product of Sidi's "Techno 3" monofilament ratchet lacing, which collects the foot against the heel cup, midsole insert, and the padded uppers without creating pressure points.
I have mixed feelings about the heavily lugged outsoles that dominate the profiled off-road shoe genre. As long as you are on the bike, the only thing that is important about the soles is whether they grip the pedals and how well the design facilitates clipping in and out. In almost every case, a flatter sole is more consistent clipping in or out. Off the bike, however, flat soles pretty much slip and slide on every natural surface except dry rock and hero dirt. When I am sessioning steeps or boulder drops, I hate having to mind my steps in my flat shoes. During this Sidi test period, I've been reminded of how simple that activity could be wearing soles with proper tread. I never have issues clipping in or out of the Defenders, so they are a win/win for me. Flat or lugged? It's an individual call. Pinkbike's Take: