Skate-style SPD shoes have been A Thing™ for a fair few years now, ever since Airwalk and Vans Warners introduced us to the seductive idea that we could clip in on the trails and still look cool in the pub. I’ve always been drawn to them, partly out of distaste for encasing my foot in something that looks like a Banana Guard, but also because they promise increased comfort, including a near-normal walking experience.
Let’s get the obvious point out of the way first – these shoes are blue. Not just any blue, but a saturation up to 11, stab you in the retinas BLUE. I was hoping they’d dull down slightly after the first few rides but they are still very statementey. So just be aware that they are also available in sensible black, and judge them accordingly.
Colour aside, the Chamber combines tech and trad in a very appealing way. There’s a velcro collar to hold your laces in places, while front and rear feature a tough bumper of the same sharkskin-like material used on their flagship Terraduro shoes. The sole is grippy Vibram, in the same pattern used on their flat pedal shoes, while the heel is padded with a foam called Poron XRD (careful how you Google it) that works like D30, stiffening under impact to provide protection from awkward dismounts.
The fit on the shoes is very roomy. This is good news for folk who normally need to seek out Giro’s HV range. However, you will need to watch sizing – I ended up snaffling this pair of 45s from Wil “ballet school” Barrett, as his dainty hooves were literally rattling around inside them. Wil has since been riding around in a 44 (he’s normally a 45 in other brand shoes), so in our collective toe-tapping experience, we’d say that the Chamber’s size up a little long as well as wide when it comes to fit.
However, even as the possessor of relatively broad plates, I found myself cinching up the laces to compensate, deforming the toe box slightly. The extra waggle room can make clipping in and out feel a little vague, an issue that I would expect to disappear if I was a little wider of foot. As with any clothing, trying before you buy is the advisable route, or at least order them from somewhere that offers free returns.
The sole is as stiff as you’d expect for a shoe of this type – somewhere between the mozzarella of a pair of old-school Converse and the parmigiano of a set of high-end Sidis. For regular walking, they feel great, with the SPD cleat happily recessed until it’s needed. For scrabbling over rocks and mud, they feel a bit less assured than shoes of chunkier tread. There’s some noticeable heel lift when walking, although the lining is so well padded that I never found this a problem.
Like most shoes of this type, the cleat sits in a little oval cutout in the sole. This may give rise to some issues with specific pedals and cleats, although mine worked fine with Shimano SPDs of various designs. For hybrid, DH-style pedals with a flat platform and a central mechanism (such as the Funn Mamba pedals), careful placement is required, otherwise the grippy soles catch on the pins and hinder clipping in. With those types of pedals, removing the pins – if possible – is a good way of reducing interference between shoe and pedal.
More annoyingly though, the mounting plates on the sole feature a fairly short slot, which means if you like to run your cleats further back to mimic the foot position you’d use for a flat pedal, tough luck. It’s not the end of the world, but it’s a bit odd considering the audience this shoe is aimed at, and the fact that the Chambers were designed in conjunction with the chainless, tyreless wunder-wizard, Aaron Gwin.
After several months of use, the Chambers have held up well. They’re not a full-on winter shoe, nor are they the best ventilated, although to be honest my feet tend to be the last thing I’m trying to regulate the temperature of when riding. They buff up nicely after muddy rides and have drawn complimentary comments in the pub (from someone whom I can only assume was colour blind).
If you want a high performance trail shoe you can walk in, I’d pass these over in favour of the (admittedly more expensive) Terraduro that Chipps recently reviewed. The Chamber is heavier (only by 50g per shoe though), the feel is more vague and the sole isn’t as grippy for pushes and carries. I’d also like to see the cleat adjustment opened up to facilitate a more rearward setup position But if you have your heart set on a skate-style shoe, have wide feet and want more padding and protection, the Chambers are a good quality option.
|Tested:||by Antony for Three months|