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A unique take on cycling-friendly footwear, the Quoc Chelsea boot is comfortable, practical and stylish. If you want cycling shoes that look good down the pub or at work, and function well for strolling round town or dashing through traffic, these are for you.
For a multi-purpose shoe like this, you want the answers to several questions, including what are they like for walking around; what are they like for riding flat pedals; and what are they like for riding clipped in. Let's take those situations one at a time.
I initially wore the Quoc Chelsea boots round the house to break them in and after a few hours they'd softened up enough to be comfortable in medium-thickness socks.
A long stroll round the village wearing thin polyester cycling socks left me with blisters, though, so be aware you're going to need to gradually break these in (or get your feet used to them, whichever way you want to look at it).
Once that's done they're great. There's enough give and flex in the sole that they're comfortable, and, as mentioned below, an SPD cleat sits deep enough in the sole that it doesn't clack and clatter with every step.
The Quoc Chelseas are pretty good for flat pedal use. They're not as grippy as, say, Five Tens with their super-tacky Stealth rubber soles, but you wouldn't expect them to be since the sole here needs to be durable enough for walking.
With pedals that just have aluminium nubs the Chelseas held on well in the dry, even when I did some easy mountain biking. They're even better with steel-studded pedals, as you'd expect.
To fit two-bolt cleats you undo the screws to remove the cover plates in the soles. Mount your cleats (don't forget to Copaslip the threads) and you're away.
The cleat recesses in the soles of the Quoc Chelseas are deep. In fact they're probably as deep as you can get away with and still be able to clip in. That's good because it means you can walk around in them comfortably without much noise from the cleat hitting the ground, which also suggests walking won't wear the cleats out too quickly.
Nevertheless, clipping into SPD pedals was a doddle, and riding in them perfectly comfortable. I even did a three-hour gravel ride in the Chelseas. The sole is plenty stiff enough for casual and touring-style riding and for commuting, and they're among the best SPD-compatible shoes I've ever used for walking around off the bike.
The only significant problem I had was that tiny pebbles can get in fairly easily down the cuff because it's not as snug as the tops of most boots and shoes. It's not exactly inconvenient to pull them off to shake the grit out, though.
What I've come to really like about the Quoc Chelsea boots is their sheer convenience. I can pull them on to pop out to the shops or into town and grab whichever bike I like (well, other than my Assioma-pedal-equipped road bike but then there's no way I'm ever leaving that in town). Town bike, mountain bike, cargo bike, all are happily propelled by the Quoc boots' cork-infused rubber soles.
I found the Quoc Chelseas to be slightly on the small side. The last pair of Quoc shoes I tested, I started with 44s, which needed thickish socks to work well, and I eventually swapped them for 43s. This time I've gone the other way. Even with the thinnest socks I own, a 43 Chelsea boot is too tight fore and aft and across the ball of the foot and toes. The 44s are much better, to the point where I was able to comfortably wear them all day.
I suspect I'm in between Quoc sizes and which of 43 or 44 fits me best depends on exactly where and how the fit can be adjusted. The dials of the Mono shoes afford plenty of tweakage, but aside from the give in the elastic sides there's no scope to tune the Chelseas aside from waiting for the leather to stretch a little as it wears in.
Unusually for modern cycling shoes the Quoc Chelseas are made from real suede. Two panels are made from soft, raw-finish material while the large panel around the front is waxed for water resistance. That came in handy on the descent of Rivey Hill, a track that can't decide if it's a bridleway or a stream. The outers got damp, but my feet were dry and cosy.
Being made from actual hide means the Chelseas will eventually conform to the shape of your feet, but as mentioned above there's definitely a breaking-in period if you're going to walk a lot in them.
There's no way you'll forget who made these shoes. I counted nine Quoc logos on each shoe: four on the pull-tabs, one on the outboard upper, one on the sole, one on the tongue, another on the Natural Fit insole and a final one moulded into the sole unit inside the shoe. Yeah all right, you need a torch to find that one. Oh, and when I took off the cleat-hole covers I found a capital Q, styled like a signature, moulded onto the plastic midsole. Cute!
You pull the Chelseas on with a pair of tabs at the front and back of the foot opening. Many civilian Chelsea boots just have a tab at the back, but being able to pull the Quocs on with both hands has to make them easier to get into. On these brown boots, the tabs are a cheeky bright pink with black logos; the black version has black tabs with pink lettering for a more subdued look.
The rear panel also has a large rectangle of reflective dots for visibility after dark.
As far as I can tell there are exactly no other SPD-compatible Chelsea boots on the market, so it's rather hard to talk about the immediate competition for these shoes and how they compare on price.
Broaden the scope to include cycling shoes that don't look too much like cycling shoes and we liked the £89.99 Giro Gauge shoes (read the review here) and the £99.99 Giro Rumble VRs (review here), but neither of them have the quality GQ calls a 'spirit wholly undeterred by the shifting preferences of fickle footwear connoisseurs'.
None of them really have the Quoc Chelsea's sheer style, though.
If you want cycling footwear that looks good with your best jeans or even tailored trousers, and that keeps its cycling identity well concealed, these are for you. That goes double if you want clipless compatibility combined with decent walking functionality that still works well if you hop onto a flat-pedal bike too.
Unique SPD boots that look good and work well on or off the bike – the ultimate commuting footwear
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Quoc Chelsea
Size tested: 43
Tell us what the product is for
Footwear for general ambling about that you can also ride bikes in.
"Chelsea combines the durable, hard-wearing qualities of a classic work boot with the pedal-efficient performance of a cycling shoe. Whether clipping-in or riding flat-pedal, the boot possesses enough stiffness in the sole for solid power transfer, while maintaining the flexibility, spring, and comfort needed for a full day on your feet.
Ankle-high with a foot-enveloping fit and front and back tabs that facilitate an effortless, pull-on motion, the boot is designed for the get-up-and-go cyclist. Crafted in a high-quality, two-tone suede, it features a low-maintenance, easy-to-clean, waxed front to keep the foot dry through drizzly commutes and puddle-ridden country rides.
The outsole is made from recycled cork-infused rubber, an innovative and sustainable alternative to widely-used EVA. Featuring a gravel tire-inspired lug pattern on the tread, the boot provides excellent traction and grip across mixed-surfaces, from tarmac pavements to off-road scenarios."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Fuss free pull-on design
Eco-friendly, cork-infused EVA/rubber sole
Crafted in a high-quality, two-tone suede, with weather-resistant, waxed front
Anti-bacterial, anti-odour leather suede
Signature 3M™ reflective dotted heel
Fully recessed MTB/SPD cleat compatibility
Everything's tidily stitched and joined.
'Performance' is the wrong word for shoes like this, but they're really comfortable and practical for both riding and walking.
Early days, but looking good so far.
I'm usually a 43 in Quoc and most other shoes; I'm a 44 in these.
Once broken in they're very comfortable.
Civilian Chelsea boots can cost a few dozen quid or hundreds for super-posh ones. A pair of classic Blundstones is £160 so if you like Blunnies, an extra £20 to be able to comfortably ride bike in them seems reasonable.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Really well. These are very, very good all-round shoes for everything except out-and-out go-faster riding.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Versatility, looks, comfort.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
As far as I can tell the Quoc Chelsea boots are unique.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
The usual Quoc quality in a unique style that works really well on or off almost any style of bike. Aside from the breaking-in period there's very little to complain about here.
About the tester
I usually ride: Scapin Style My best bike is:
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: Most days I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: commuting, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, mtb,
John has been writing about bikes and cycling for over 30 years since discovering that people were mug enough to pay him for it rather than expecting him to do an honest day's work.
He was heavily involved in the mountain bike boom of the late 1980s as a racer, team manager and race promoter, and that led to writing for Mountain Biking UK magazine shortly after its inception. He got the gig by phoning up the editor and telling him the magazine was rubbish and he could do better. Rather than telling him to get lost, MBUK editor Tym Manley called John’s bluff and the rest is history.
Since then he has worked on MTB Pro magazine and was editor of Maximum Mountain Bike and Australian Mountain Bike magazines, before switching to the web in 2000 to work for CyclingNews.com. Along with road.cc founder Tony Farrelly, John was on the launch team for BikeRadar.com and subsequently became editor in chief of Future Publishing’s group of cycling magazines and websites, including Cycling Plus, MBUK, What Mountain Bike and Procycling.
John has also written for Cyclist magazine, edited the BikeMagic website and was founding editor of TotalWomensCycling.com before handing over to someone far more representative of the site's main audience.
He joined road.cc in 2013. He lives in Cambridge where the lack of hills is more than made up for by the headwinds.