possibly just a little like the proverbial london bus, you wait ages and then two of them turn up at once. in this case, substitute the word bus for cycle shoes. in the very same week, not only did i receive a pair of the first wave of mavic's new shoe range, flagged in this instance by the top of the range zxellium, but martin at dromarti sent a pair of probably the most gorgeous looking cycle shoes in the entire world. this is not to disparage the mavics, but more to differentiate; while the zxelliums are constructed using the most modern of materials and certainly amongst the most technical, the italian marresi shoes are in handmade leather - deliciously retro and the sort of items that would not look out of place sitting on thewashingmachinepost mantelpiece. the only restraint to the latter is mrs washingmachinepost's insistence that it be reserved for candles and a clock.
this review is not by way of comparison because these are such different delights that such would be rather pointless. what they both had in common was their being clipped into mavic's top of the range titanium pedals. these weigh next to nothing, attach to the cranks via an 8mm allen wrench (no pedal spanners here), and provide seven degrees of float with the supplied cleats. should you be imbued with hardman abilities and scoff at the very concept of pedal float, mavic offer zero degree cleats as an optional extra. the release tension is adjusted via a small allen bolt on the top of the pedal (being the wimp of the cleat, i left it at the lowest setting).
each pair of pedals is accompanied by a set of long and short bolts to affix cleats to shoes, and tightened with a 4mm allen key - a welcome change from those tiny allen headed bolts supplied with other pedals. these are easy to tighten when fitting, and undoubtedly will give more purchase when you have to remove them when the shoes wear out. the pedal body looks as if it has been chromed, but since it is made from aluminium alloy, it is more likely that this is just a high degree of polishing. the baseplate and rear plate are both carbon reinforced and the titanium axle rides smoothly on cartridge and needle bearings. as is often the case with new stuff, disengaging cleats when stopping wasn't quite as easy as i'd hoped, though i have to say it has eased over the course of the test. the cleats are plastic with appropriate feet to make walking a touch easier.
the mavic zxellium shoes, although also available in white, arrived in a yellow and black box and positively scream mavic in their yellowness, which makes perfect sense to me because you're not going to miss these in the photographs. if i ever have to ditch in the sea, the helicopters will have no problem finding me. the sole is full carbon fibre while the yellow bits are composed of a variety of hi-tech plastics. they are fabulously comfy to wear, even when pedalling hard, all the while holding your feet in almost immoveable suspension. opening and closing is by way of the well-tried ratchet system, accompanied by two velcro straps - very easy, very practical and to be honest, rather stylish. as it is still a long way from warm on the isle, it's difficult to tell just how cool hot tootsies will be in summer, but on visual inspection, it shouldn't be much of a problem. the zxelliums have already been tried and tested by far better than i in last year's tour de france and the olympics: if you want the very finest footwear for that competitive urge, you shouldn't have to look too much further than your nearest mavic dealer.
the marresi leather shoes are a whole different ball game. i think it unlikely that we'll see thor hushovd or mark cavendish wearing a pair of these anytime soon, but to think otherwise would be to completely miss the point. were it not for the inevitable chunky cleats on the carbon resin soles, wear a pair of these into the office and nobody would bat an eyelid. succinctly put, these are style personified. however, all the style in the world amounts to a great deal of nothing whatsoever, if the shoes don't work in the manner that one would desire. of course, you already knew the answer to this: they perform as well as they look, and in the manner of the finest brooks leather saddles, they are likely to continue to do so well into the future. unlike state of the art fabrics and materials, which hardly vary from one year to the next, a quality pair of leather shoes will live and breathe as the days pedal by, so there is every reason to believe that these will improve with age, just like their present owner.
before velcro, ratchets and dial systems, all shoes closed over the foot with good old laces, and that's exactly how the marresi's operate. this may not offer the opportunity for tightening before the last 500m sprint, but i'm confident enough that i have appreciated the intended market that dromarti are likely to carve out with these, that such considerations will be surplus to requirements. there is no danger of the laces invading the space between the chain and chainring, and wandering nonchalantly into debbie's wearing such fine footwear gives the wearer airs and graces that are thoroughly deserved. these really are as good as they look, but if your riding requires not the three-point cleat fitting that this race version offers, the sportivo accepts two bolt spd cleats while the storica is for use with toeclips and allows the wearer to walk normally. road shoes for the rest of us.
fausto coppi would have bought a pair of these.
mavic race titanium pedals retail at around £140; mavic zxellium race shoes have an rrp of £199 while dromarti sell the marresi shoes at the following prices: race (as tested) £139; sportivo £149; storica £169
posted on saturday 21 february 2009..........................................................................................................................................................................................................