in 1992, the manager of the local swimming pool and myself invented the islay tryathlon. the latter word was spelt in that manner becasue we rather hoped those not in the habit of preceding a bike ride with a swim and following with a run would find it in themselves to participate. though it was perfectly possible for individuals to undertake all three events, the basic premise of the islay tryathlon was that teams of three would compete against each other. and to prevent all the good guys getting together and leaving all others trailing in their wake, when the swimmer emerged from the pool, the idea was that they'd select a numbered ping-pong ball. that would equate to a similarly numbered ball held by a cyclist. the same would then happen when the cyclist returned from his/her travails.
unfortunately, that system lasted for only the first year; in year two, the good guys all got together and formed teams that did indeed leave all others trailing in their collective wake.
having participated as part of a random team in that first year (and inadvertantly winning), i thought perhaps i might demonstrate my total athletic prowess and attempt all three disciplines. my swimming bears all the marks of a mobile jacuzzi (lots of splashing but not much forward movement), the cycling was easily my best business card and i thought i could probably have a go at running.
but for those of us who have little or no experience at the running game, the possibility of hurting myself seemed at least of mild concern, so i purchased a quality pair of reebok trainers with impressively cushioned soles. heading out for a first run in my new shiny footwear along part of the intended tryathlon route, i managed a mere five or six hundred metres before experiencing an ever-increasing pain down my right shin.
convinced that this was as a result of not stretching properly prior to exertion, i hobbled home, spent half an hour performing leg stretches and headed out once more. i'm sure you can guess precisely what happened next? exactly: same distance, same pain.
since i can cycle all day with no apparent aches and pains that would put paid to endless pedalling, it seemed a prudent decision to excuse myself from any form of running for evermore and just stick to cycling. however, even with regard to the cycling milieu, it is every bit as important for cyclists to choose the correct footwear as it is for potential usain bolts and marathon runners. road cycling places demands on the prennially mentioned stiffness, hence the predilection for carbon soles. but implement a similar sole policy for offroad shoes and we might all find running up hills a tad less simple than it appears on paper.
giro have already given us lace-up empire shoes for the road, as recently reviewed in these very pixels. but since many of us maintain the same joyous affectation for cyclocross as we do for road-riding, wouldn't it just make perfect sense for giro to offer a similar style? which, of course, they have.
taking the shape of the empire vr90, these provide a full carbon sole but with a vibram moulded rubber tread to alleviate untoward vibration and help aging cyclists such as myself up impossibly steep tracks hidden by undergrowth. as with many an offroad shoe, there are two inserts just behind the toe to allow the insertion of a couple of spikes offering more purchase on rocky ground. much as i would love to regale you with tales of my gargantuan efforts in the offroad genre, in point of fact, i've never quite found the need for those spikes. maybe i'd be a lot better off if i did.
however, if you've cast even a cursory glance at the photos accompanying this review, you will note that it is not only possible to enjoy unfettered offroad joy on (in this case) a cyclocross bicycle, but to carry off a passing impersonation of buzz lightyear into the bargain. though a pair of empire v90 shoes can be had in a more sombre black with orange laces and logos, the alternative is silver uppers with lime green laces and logos. since my ibis hakkalugi is also a (slightly different) shade of lime green, what better way to disguise my 'cross ineptitude than to wear a distracting pair of shiny shoes?
such silver synthetic uppers offer the added benefit of sloughing off any mud and leaves that may have temporarily hidden their reflective glory.
of course, the outer shininess hides the fervently restless technology underneath, not least of which is an inner sole with a variable instep to suit all sorts of different feet. this particular pair of silver and lime green-ness were matched to a pair of crank brothers eggbeaters, the cleats for which are easily accommodated. it could conceivably be my astute practising in the undergrowth, but i'd offer that i found disconnecting from the left pedal when dismounting far more effective than is usually the case. i can but put that down to the efficacy of the shoes which, incidentally, bear all the hallmarks of your favourite pair of slippers.
leaping aboard is still tediously amateurish, but at least i no longer fall flat on my face near the woollen mill car park while pretending to be jeremy powers.
in case you ride a road bicycle fitted with spd or crank brothers pedals, these are every bit as effective on-road as they are off. that way you don't embarrassingly skite across the supermarket floor in cleated race shoes while trying to purchase your team sky protein shakes. and now you'll look even less of a prat when standing in the office elevator on the way to your desk (silver shininess notwithstanding).
just remember that when someone presses the button for the top floor, to put your right arm in the upright position and exclaim 'to infinity and beyond'
giro's empire vr90 offroad shoes are distributed in the uk by zyro and available in sizes from eu 40 to eu 48, many in half sizes. each pair comes in its own zippered carry-case. colours are either black/orange or silver/lime. retail price is £219.99
monday 24 august 2015..........................................................................................................................................................................................................