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Vittoria's 1976 shoes hark back to the golden, pre-Velcro, un-carbon-soled days of yesteryear when men were Merckx and you had a steak down your shorts. Our tested pair were in shiny patent leather-look white, and never failed to draw appreciative looks and comments when out and about.
The fact that with a fully-recessed SPD cleat you could walk like a normal person instead of a hobnailed duck made the carrying off of Effortless Cool much easier. If you like the duckwalk, Vittoria now does a version that takes three-bolt Look/Shimano cleats. Just be aware of sizing.
The 1976 shoes are handmade in Biella, Italy, from Lorica, a near-miracle microfiber material (see comments later regarding durability). Being full of holes, these aren't what you'd want to wear in Flanders on a drizzly February morning, but if caught in a midsummer cloudburst while making your way between baguette/espresso stops or canal-path pubs, they will drain and dry quickly.
The rubber sole is textured and grooved, and grips café forecourt surfaces perfectly well. The feel of walking in them is – as expected – more rigid than a normal shoe, but you'd have no problem strolling around a piazza for an hour of a breezy Tuscan afternoon, or out for dinner after a day's vineyard hopping in Champagne.
The shoes can be used with a standard two-bolt Shimano SPD cleat, once a plastic plate is unscrewed. With the plate in place they can be used as a traditional cycling shoe, with or without toe-straps.
I'd known about the Eroica Britannia ride six months in advance, yet left the procurement of shoes until the week beforehand, trusting that the gods of ebay would deliver. Turns out that pre-1986 cycling shoes were only made in sizes 7-9, cyclists' feet being smaller back in the day. Thankfully Vittoria's UK distributor turned up with the goods in the nick of time, and sent over a couple of pairs to get the sizing right.
This is where, once again, I take issue with cycling sizings in general, and Italian ones in particular. Being an EU 44-45 in pretty much every pair of bike shoes I own, of course I needed a 46 in the Vittorias. And the fit was tight across the front of one foot, necessitating soaking the shoes in warm water then walking around in them for a day to get a better fit.
In the end I also had to use a shoe stretcher to get the fit across the little toe acceptable – this is for a shoe where the big toe/heel fit was perfect, it's just the width. Maybe as these are a cycling shoe designed to go into toe-straps Vittoria has gone for a much closer tolerance width-wise, so be warned and make sure if you are Hobbit-ish you either try them on first or order from someone with a good returns policy. Note: this is simply a design choice Vittoria has made, and my own personal podiatry issues are in no way a slight on the shoes themselves.
The 1976 shoes looked right at home on the 6am startline for 100 miles of Peak District and vintage shenanigans. The 1984 Raleigh Corsa was fitted with (of course) metal toe cages and grimy leather straps, and I was initially very reluctant to put the beautiful white finish into close contact with either.
Once we were off, the pace was, if not blistering, comfortably warm. After an hour it quickened and I found myself leading a small group of bronzed, sinewy Norwegians and Italians up Edale, thinking there should be a hill around here somewhere. Just as my turn at the front was at its end, the road dropped, turned left and the 10 per cent Mam Tor reared its damp head. With 42x24 being the 'easiest' option available the next 13 minutes were spent out of the saddle, flapping from side to side as the gradient ramped and ramped again to over 19 per cent.
The best thing I can say about the 1976s is that I forgot about them, being much more preoccupied with the remaining 80 miles. By mid-climb the upstroke was firmly in play, toe-straps cinched down in a mutually-assured destruction pact of man and bike should forward momentum not be maintained.
Words were had with self, passing sheep, the gradient and the weather. Summiting without a dab and the subsequent long run down into Chapel-en-le-Frith were standout moments of what turned into a gloriously sunny 100-mile day.
The shoes did the job, both technically and sartorially, garnering appreciative comments at an event where looking sharp is half the reason for being there. The frankly amazing thing is that the front of the shoes remained unmarked, despite dealing with a century's worth of strain, mud, water, Peak District strada bianca and rubbing against metal and leather. The textured soles allowed slipping in and out of the clips while staying put when needed under distressingly slow cadence efforts when pedalling form was totally absent – think pedalling dodecahedrons as opposed to squares.
The infinitely adjustable 14-point retaining mechanism – 'laces' – worked very well, allowing fine-tuning of pressure across the top of the foot as the day progressed, feet swelled, gradients changed, and so on. The heel cup held the foot securely, never feeling like it was coming adrift even under the heaviest of upstrokes.
The inevitable compromise between walkability and stiffness means this is not a shoe for a turbo session or time trial. When used as an SPD shoe under strong, repetitive pedal strokes, the axle area can be felt under the ball of the foot instead of evenly distributed as in a modern carbon-soled road shoe. But let's be clear here: just as this is not a shoe for the cold, it's not a shoe designed for extreme efforts. But on a club run or even a fairly quick individual effort they worked well - and you also get at least 3 watts for looking snazzy.
If you're after a shoe for mixing it about town/country on a vintage machine or for on-off the bike touring in warmer climes, the Vittoria 1976s should definitely be on your list to try.
Vittoria's 1976 shoes look gorgeous, work with toe-clips, flat or clipless pedals, and will keep most people happy most of the time
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Vittoria 1976 shoes
Size tested: 46
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
The 1976 is a shoe for warmer weather, touring or for anything requiring looking sharp.
"When buying a pair of 1976 Vittoria Shoes,you choose comfortable and trendy shoes developed according to the timeless design of historical models produced over 30 years ago. As in the past, you can have the same handmade shoes created following the finest tradition of italian footwear.
"Vittoria utilizes only first-rate materials, building the shoes completely by hand."
Microfiber upper material
SPD compatible PU sole with nylon insert. Suitable for riding and also for walking. ( 35-45)
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The 1976 can take a standard two-bolt Shimano cleat (as tested), and there's a version for three-bolt Look/Shimano SPD-SL cleats. Material is Lorica, a man-made microfiber, with a nylon sole.
Very well put together, as befits a handmade-in-Italy shoe at this price.
For what they are designed to do – be comfortable while looking great – they are very good.
After two months and some serious rides using toe-clips, the front of the shoes look like new. The Lorica material is, frankly, amazing.
The 1976 doesn't feel overly heavy – even with a large metal SPD cleat installed.
I'm probably being a little harsh, but with my wider feet I never got truly 'fits like a glove' comfy.
At £130 these shoes are not cheap, but they offer the combination of fabulous looks with SPD compatibility and walkability. The value judgement will depend very much on your use case.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The looks. It's all about the look.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The fit, but again, that's a personal issue more than a product fault.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes. But possibly not at RRP.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes, but with the caveats on fit across the front of the foot.
Use this box to explain your score
Tricky. I wanted to give them an 8 bordering 9, and probably would have if I hadn't had the fit issues. They are comfy to walk in, look great and are practical for warmer weather touring, café hopping or vintage days out.
About the tester
Age: 42 Height: 183cm Weight: 72KG
I usually ride: Charge Juicer My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: club rides, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mountain biking, and Dutch bike pootling
Living in the Highlands, Mike is constantly finding innovative and usually cold/wet ways to accelerate the degradation of cycling kit. At his happiest in a warm workshop holding an anodised tool of high repute, Mike's been taking bikes apart and (mostly) putting them back together for forty years. With a day job in global IT (he's not completely sure what that means either) and having run a boutique cycle service business on the side for a decade, bikes are his escape into the practical and life-changing for his customers.