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Ultra-light shoes that are compatible with both 3-bolt cleats and Speedplay

Northwave’s new ultralight Extreme Tech SPS shoes can be used with any three-bolt cleats as well as with Speedplay because of an innovative cleat adaptor system. The new adaptor saves weight and reduces the stack height compared to a normal Speedplay adaptor.

We’ve mentioned the shoes before and now we have a pair in for review. They're amazingly light, our pair of size 42s hitting the scales at just 508g. Priced at £274.99, they’re far from cheap, but that’s what you have to pay for the lightweight carbon soles and the one-piece uppers.

The Extremes (£249.99), with three Velcro straps rather than a ratchet upper strap and a dial-operated Speed Lace Winch System, are even lighter. Northwave are claiming a 400g for a pair of those in size 42.

Anyway, we’ve shown you these before, but what we didn’t mention is the new adaptor system co-developed by Northwave and Speedplay…

You know all about Speedplay pedals, right? In brief, the difference from most clipless systems is that the moving parts of the cleat/pedal coupling are on your shoe rather than on the pedal. The cleat has moving parts.

That cleat is attached to your shoe via four bolts rather than the usual road standard of three, meaning that you have to use either a Speedplay-specific shoe or attach an adaptor to the bottom of standard-soled road shoes.

Now, the Extreme Tech shoes come with a new sole. If you want to use Speedplay pedals, you take out the insole and remove the three-bolt attachment skeleton and put in the Speedplay-specific one.

Then, you screw this adapter onto the outsole. It’s nylon with a stainless steel outsole protection plate that stops you damaging the carbon. Then you bolt the Speedplay cleat on to the adaptor.

It sound complicated but it takes about two minutes to fit.

There are the advantages over the existing adaptor that you get with Speedplay pedals, as given by the manufacturer…

1 Just 0.3mm stack height instead of 3mm with normal Speedplay adaptor.

2 Saves 7.5 grams.

3 Still allows natural curved outsole shape and reduces unnecessary weight that some four-hole flat soled Speedplay specific shoes have.

4 The natural outsole shape means the fore or aft cleat positions do not push the pedal further from the foot compared to completely flat 4 hole systems.

What difference does a lower stack height make? Well, that’s a good question. The argument usually put forward is that it’s more efficient although, we’ve got to say, we’re not convinced it makes a whole heap of difference.

On point 3, Speedplay-specific shoes need a large flat area for the cleat to attach, which means more material. This adaptor does away with this requirement.

Anyway, there you go… We reckon it looks a whole lot less cumbersome than before.

For details on both the Speedplay and the Northwave ranges, go to www.i-ride.co.uk.

Mat has worked for loads of bike magazines over the past 20 years, and been editor of 220 Triathlon and Cycling Plus. He's been road.cc technical editor for seven years, testing bikes, fettling the latest kit, and trying out the most up-to-the-minute clothing. We send him off around the world to get all the news from launches and shows too. He has won his category in Ironman UK 70.3 and finished on the podium in both marathons he has run. Mat is a youthful 45-year-old Cambridge graduate who did a post-grad in magazine journalism, and he is a past winner of the Cycling Media Award for Specialist Online Writer.

7 comments

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JonMack [167 posts] 4 years ago
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Can we get some close ups of the adaptor please? I'm looking for some new shoes (which I'd like to be speedplay specific) and so far have Bont, Lake and Sidi, I read about this yesterday but can't find any decent shots of it yet.

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dave atkinson [6210 posts] 4 years ago
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They're very thin...

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Mat Brett [616 posts] 4 years ago
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They're fixed in place by that crosshead bolt at the front then, when you fit the cleat on top, the two rearward bolts hold both the cleat and the adaptor in place.

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leggz [8 posts] 4 years ago
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 16 Wow - great colour design - as expected from Northwave. Well, no problem with colour coordination with these !!!

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celeb [40 posts] 4 years ago
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 37 A little to subtle in the looks department for my liking.

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Mat Brett [616 posts] 4 years ago
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They're available in other colours too. There's a white/black model and a white/red/black version that, who knows, you might just see on the feet of a certain ProTour team next year. Maybe.

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notfastenough [3673 posts] 4 years ago
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Speedplay rock, but I imagine the most noticeable difference of a reduced stack height will be when walking in them. They're relatively awkward with adapters as it stands.