Hannah checks out the Etnies Jameson Mid Crank MTB shoes, developed with Brandon Semenuk.
Suede? Pale grey suede? What kind of mountain biker are these built for? The answer is one who does tricks, probably on dirt jumps (which are a dry weather activity…) and who probably isn’t going out for a long distance moorland slog.
Bearing Brandon Semenuk’s name, it’s perhaps no surprise that these shoes aren’t quite our normal flat pedal fare. Add to that Etnies’ skateboard heritage, and you know we’re going to be looking at something a little different with the Etnies Jameson Mid Crank.
These shoes have a stiff enough but flexi enough sole to provide power and protection, but also allow you to feel the bike. They’re sticky to a point – you don’t want to be too attached to your bike while doing a can-can, I guess. I wouldn’t know. If my feet are off the pedals, it’s an accident in the making. The ‘mid’ element of the design is the inner collar, which is slightly higher cut around the ankle to help protect you walloping your foot on your crank. And the suede…well, that would prove to be something of a revelation.
The Etnies Jameson Mid Crank are available in five different colours, in a range of what I might describe as ‘earth tones’ – handy if you want to match your shoes to the colour of your dirt jumps? They’re nicely understated, normal looking shoes that don’t scream ‘I’m going riding my bike, bro!’. All the soles – there are four different colours – have a ‘Geo-Hex’ tread pattern, and there’s a foam insole for cushioning.
The shoes are advertised as offering ‘mountain bike-grade stiffness with free-ride functionality and durability, providing a shoe that is as versatile as Semenuk’. Would they prove versatile enough to meet my more mortal needs?
Especially given that they’re a men’s shoe, I was pleased to find they’re a fairly narrow fit, nicely cupping my ankle but giving room for my toes. Putting them on is a bit of a faff – the tongue is built in with a gusset so that there is no gap for stones and grit to get in, but you need to fold it carefully around your foot or it forms a bit of an uncomfortable ridge. The laces are slightly annoying, being rather reluctant to stay done up, even with a double bow.
The ‘mid’ element with the asymmetric ankle protection is really subtle. Sure, a low cut skate shoe might leave the delicate flesh under your ankle bone exposed, but I’m used to mountain bike shoes that keep this covered up to the same degree that these do. The ankle bone – the bit I tend to whack uncomfortably – remains exposed, and a hi-top would give a lot more cover than these.
Appearance wise, these have a real ‘street’ look to them and I’ve worn them off the bike almost as much as on it. They’re comfortable to walk in, being much less stiff than a Five Ten Contact Pro, and more akin to my Giro Jackets.
Coated with Scotchguard the Etnies Jameson Mid Crank do a decent job of shrugging off splashes – sure, you’ll get wet feet eventually if it’s really soaking, but that’ll take a bit of doing. You can even get your feet muddy, and once the suede dries, the mud brushes off – even the pale grey shoes still look very acceptable, and they’ve certainly not been treated gently. I didn’t even clean them up especially for these photos, and they’ve previously been as muddy as any other mountain bike shoes I’ve owned. I’m actually really impressed by how these shoes have stood up to the weather, and I’ve even found myself reaching for them on wet days into town, as I know they’re so much better in the rain than my usual trainers. They’ve also got an Thinsulate layer in them, giving your tootsies a little extra warmth.
Of course, looking good on the street is all very well, but these are riding shoes – so how do they perform on the trail? Well, they’re not going to be my new favourite mountain bike shoes, but they have their place. With my DMR Vault pedals, I found myself occasionally losing grip on repeated rocky hits and drops – I think a product of quite broad and blunt pins with the large platform.
The narrow shoe means that the pins don’t have a great probability of striking pins on the wide platform, which the hex pattern seems to result in the pins sitting on the surface of the tread rather than digging in. In addition, the hex pattern is like mini inverted pyramids, so the Vault pins (and others) struggle to sit inside the tread and dig in. Mated up with pedals with skinnier pointer pins that fit into the hex tread more easily did seem better, which is great if you like pointy pins, but generally I tend to ride DMR Vaults with quite long but blunt ones – largely because I’ve found that pointier ones are inclined to do me rather a lot of damage on even the briefest shin encounters.
Where I’ve enjoyed riding with these shoes the most is on my BMX, launching myself into the foam pit, or ‘jibbing’ (as I believe the cool kids call it – I should probably just call it ‘falling’) round the skatepark. Here, the combination of flex and stiff feels like it offers me good control of the bike, and they’re sticky enough to stay put, while un-sticky enough to allow for the emergency bailout. I’m on plastic pedals on my BMX, with plastic pins (what’s left of them) that are more closely set than on my Vaults, and here the shoes stick well enough – and there’s no repeated rocks to bump me around so much. The protective outsole and foam innersole really feel like they’re helping with those hits and knocks that trying new things (and failing) inevitably produces.
These are impressively weatherproof, belying their initial appearance. If they mate well with your pedals, or you like a narrower shoe, you’ll find they give you a good feel for the bike and a degree of protection that’s a step up from some lighter flexy shoes. And you can always wear them to the shops on a wet day too.
|Product:||Jameson Mid Crank|
|Tested:||by Hannah for|
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