Specialized S-Works 6 XC shoes: Boa dial replacement

The Specialized S-Works 6 XC shoes have been part of my cycling shoe rotation for about a couple of years, and they’re my first pair with Boa dials as a retention mechanism. Over the past couple of months, I’ve noticed the top right Boa dial move through its travel with more resistance and less of its trademark ratcheting noise. One day, after concluding a ride on RGT Cycling, this particular Boa dial just gave up the ghost, refusing to release any more cable after giving me just enough slack to get the shoe off my foot.

“She’s dead, Jim.”

Further movement of the dial yielded no movement at the cable from this point on. This Boa dial was well and truly dead.

The previous day, I read on Steve Tan’s Hands On Bike blog about his own experience with replacing the Boa dials on his own pair of Shimano RX8 gravel kicks. Talk about timeliness!

While we both had Boa dials on our shoes, they used different types. His RX8 uses the much newer IP1 type, which has micro-adjustments in both tightening and loosening, and the pull-to-release function that removes all cable tension for easy removal of the shoe. My older S-Works 6 XC shoe uses the S2-Snap design, which doesn’t have the pull-to-release function but otherwise works the same way.

I make mention of this discrepancy in Boa dial types because this will become a factor in ordering replacement units from Boa themselves. As Steve mentions in his blog post, Boa dials have a lifetime warranty. If your shoe’s Boa dials malfunction or sustain damage, you can request free replacements. And they are indeed free; all you need to pay for is the minimal shipping cost if you order direct from them.

One thing to note: while the S-Works 6 XC has four Boa dials in total, two per shoe, Boa sent me just one pair of replacements – one for each shoe. Memory fails me and this might have been an oversight on my part. You might want to double-check your warranty order before proceeding.

After arriving at my doorstep, and having read through Steve’s post, I was mentally preparing to perform the “surgery” of replacing the malfunctioning Boa dial. On the IP1 dials, the procedure involves disassembly of the actual Boa dials with a tiny T6 Torx key that ships with the replacement kit. When I opened the instruction leaflet for the S2-Snap replacement knobs, however, there was no need for any tools apart from a flat-tipped screwdriver. The dials themselves don’t require threading and knotting of the cable either, having come pre-cabled and only needing the cables to be uncoiled from around the dial body.

On the S2-Snap Boa dials, replacement is much simpler and quicker. All you need to do is unhook the cable from its loops, and push down on this tab with the flat-tipped screwdriver. Doing so releases the entire S2-Snap dial from the shoe, cable and all. It’s all self-contained. Unlike with the IP1 dials, no part of the Boa dial mechanism is left on the shoe; all that remains is a plastic tab on a special round divot where the S2-Snap dial snaps into (pun intended).

That’s definitely not the normal kind of release for a Boa dial.
The doohickey you’ve been pushing with the flat-tipped screwdriver is the retaining tab for the Boa dial. It’s the only part that remains on the shoe.

Detail-obsessed folks perhaps won’t like how different the replacement dials look.

The S-Works 6 XC’s original dials have a smoke gray clear plastic layer showing the little springs and pawls working as you tighten or loosen the dial. These replacements are opaque, hiding the mechanism completely. Given that I had just one dial for each shoe, I figured the slight asymmetry is fine. I’ll save the left Boa dial for when I actually need it.

Correct alignment of the S2-Snap dial before it gets mounted.

Replacement is just the reverse of removal. Making sure that you have the correct side dial for the shoe (in this case, an “R” dial for my right shoe), you place the new dial into the divot, locating it with two tabs. One of these tabs nestles into the deeper side of the divot, while the other clicks into place on the shallower side and becomes the point you push the screwdriver tip with. Reroute the cable through the tongue and over its loops, and you’re done.


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