While better known for its range of riding apparel and body armour, ION Products recently turned its attention towards the mountain bike footwear market as well. First announced in prototype form at Eurobike last year, the new Rascal SPD shoes and Raid flat-pedal shoes went through some further refinement before they were shown off at the London Bike Show, and finally became available in the UK as of Spring this year.
Having collaborated with Suplest – a Swiss footwear brand that specialises in road, XC and trail shoes for clip-in riders – ION was confident it could combine its iconic surfwear style into a high performance pair of shoes designed for mountain biking. The result is the Raid flat pedal shoe, and these kicks here; the Rascal SPD shoes.
Both the Raid and Rascal share a similar construction, with sizing and the last form being the same between the two. The Rascal differs in that it features a hard EVA plastic midsole for power transfer, and the necessary bolt holes on the underside of the shoe for fitting on a standard pair of mountain bike pedal cleats. It also uses an additional velcro strap over the top of the shoe for additional retention. The Rascal shoes are available in both Black (tested) or Stream Blue, and you can have them in a decent range of sizes from EU 37 through to 47.
As will be immediately apparent upon first glance, the ION Rascal shoes are no XC race shoe. With their understated style, thick rubber outsoles and reinforced toe boxes, the Rascal SPD shoes are built for the harder side of trail riding. The weight shows it too, with each shoe coming in a hair underneath 500g. However, they’re significantly better at blending in at the cafe or pub during post-ride recovery efforts compared to dainty XC race kicks.
Typically being a size 45 in most other brands, I was surprised to find that the 45 Rascals were way too big – both in terms of length and volume. I swapped those for a pair of 44s, which fit better lengthwise, but still presented a rather cavernous fit for my hooves. This isn’t an uncommon experience for me, given that I’ve been graced with the delicate footsies of a ballerina. However, the ION shoes are do doubt on the wider side of the shoe size spectrum, coming in broader than both the Shimano ME7 and Specialized 2FO ClipLite Lace shoes.
Still, with the lace-up design, there’s enough adjustment to reef up on the laces to get the shoes to wrap over the top. It works better than a ratchet or BOA-style system, but I have been left with a visible ‘dome’ at the front of the shoe, where the synthetic leather upper has bunched up.
One are that does need improvement is the velcro retention strap, or ‘Serpen Tie’ as ION calls it. There isn’t quite enough velcro lining the strap, which means you’re left with a rather unsightly length of strap flapping in the breeze off the side of the shoe. This was exacerbated by my narrow feet, which require a more hefty tighten of the strap in the first place. It was less of an issue for other testers with wider and thicker feet, but the strap flap remained.
Comfy & Chunky
As for comfort, the ION Rascals offer a lovely cushioned fit, with a good deal of padding throughout the inside of the shoe. The upper extends up on the inside of the ankle to provide additional protection against crank arms and frame-whacks, and the injected ‘Toetal’ toe cap creates a stiff toe box that is a great barrier to rock strikes and such. The 2K insoles are cushy and provide good support underneath the heel pad, though while ION claims they also increase arch support, I found the inside of the shoe to be relatively flat and unobtrusive throughout – in a good way.
One thing that is quite noticeable when first slipping the Rascal shoes on is the thickness of the outsole, and particularly at the heel. With a semi-wedge effect, the Rascals put your feet a little further off the ground/pedal compare to some other SPD shoes I’ve been using, and I actually had to adjust my saddle height to accommodate the extra stack height of the Rascal shoes. While I do appreciate that they make me appear taller than I really am, I’d prefer to see a thinner sole used, and particularly around the heel area.
In use, the ION Rascal does everything that a cycling shoe should do. They stay attached to your feet, allow you to clip into pedals, and offer a comfortable and neutral fit that I had zero issues with. I tested the Rascals with a variety of different clipless pedals, and they had no troubles clipping in and out of either Shimano XT Trail pedals, or the Nukeproof Horizon CLs that are pictured here.
Fit with larger profile Funn Mamba pedals and Crank Brothers Mallet DH pedals was a different story however. For those pedals that have a slightly shallower stack height for the clip mechanism, there was significant interference between the pedal body and the tread on the shoe, that clipping in was a problem. This issue can be remedied with the use of cleat shims, or some modification of the tread, and to be fair, a lot of this has to do with the pedal itself.
However, because I like to run my cleats as far back as possible, I would like to see a slightly longer cleat channel like that found on Shimano’s latest AM9 shoes. With the cleats set in this position on the Rascal shoes, there is more chance for interference with the clip mechanism around the rear portion of the cleat channel. Again, this can be remedied by shimming out the cleats, but a little more sculpting of the rubber tread could solve the issue in the first place.
In terms of stiffness, the Rascals are very firm, and are quite effective at spreading your body weight across a broader surface area. For longer pedally rides, there’s less chance of hotspots developing, and I found them certainly comfortable enough in these situations. It does mean they’re quite cloppy to walk around in, which combined with the thick soles, gives them a slightly awkward and clunky feel off the bike. Compare that to something like the Giro Chamber shoe, which has significantly more flex through its soft rubber outsole.
The tread itself is good though, with more aggressive rectangular blocks used at the heel and toe – the parts of the shoe that require the most traction when trudging up a steep bank. Like many other trail shoes designed for dusty summery conditions, they’re still not great in mud, but they are much better than the Specialized 2FO ClipLite Lace shoes that might as well me made of teflon when it comes to wet weather grip. Speaking of wet weather, it isn’t the Rascal’s forte, as there’s enough mesh and ventilation used on the upper that splashy puddles will see water ingress quite quickly. On the flip side, the Rascals breath pretty well.
For ION’s first attempt at a clip-in trail shoe, the Rascals are a good, comfy option. Their fit is on the wider and higher volume side, and they’re generously padded with plenty of protection too. However, there are few areas that could do with refining, including the velcro retention strap, and the thick outsole that adds a little too much stack height to the heel area for my liking.
|Product:||Rascal SPD Shoes|
|Tested:||by Wil Barrett for 4 months|