The clipless diaries, part 7: Shimano MT5 mountain touring shoes

I’ve had my Shimano RT33 road touring shoes for a while now, and they’ve held up very well in all sorts of riding – from the turbo trainer, to the commute, to long rides, and even a 200-kilometer audax. They’ve seen better days, though, and walking around in them has worn down the outsole, leading to increasingly frequent cases of the cleats clicking and cracking on hard floors and tiles.

My wife and I saw the revamped Shimano road touring line when we visited Y’s Road in Shinjuku, but were put off by the price. The lace-up RT4 and Velcro-strapped RT5 shoes, as spiffy as they are, each cost more than double my RT33s, so there went my plan of trading like for like.

Shimano RT4 (SH-RT400) road touring shoe

Shimano RT5 (SH-RT500) road touring shoe

While the RT4 and RT5 don’t seem to have made it to our shores, the locally available MT5 (SH-MT500) caught my eye. I picked these up for PhP4550 at Bike Town Cyclery along Chino Roces Ave. Extension in Makati.

A surprise lurked within the box. Shimano throws in a pair of ankle-high white socks for free…and they’re really nice socks. The only complaint I have with them is the shouty Shimano embroidery on the front of the ankle cuff.

The shoes come either in this deep orange-tinted red, or in an all-black colorway with tiny blue accents. Normally I avoid the color, but that red really does it for me; it comes close to the orange Giro used on its nice but pricey Terraduro.

Too many mountain bike shoes look like they escaped from a skate park. It’s not a look I’m a fan of, which is why I gravitated towards the lithe road shoe looks of the RT33s in the first place. The MT5s look more like a normal sneaker, with just enough “chunk” – much like the Terraduro I mentioned.

The MT5’s upper smacks of intelligent design all around. Closure is by a single Velcro strap at the top, with elastic “speed laces” tightened by a drawstring closure at the middle. Putting them on and off my feet is a quick and easy affair, while retaining the fine fit adjustment available with lace-up sneakers.

The slider for tightening the laces has a hook at the end, which is intended to catch on the bottom run of laces. This secures them against getting tangled in your chain and chainrings. Neat.

That “X” on the Velcro strap and the ankle loop at the back are gray for a reason: they’re reflective. Really neat.

While the MT5 is part of a revamped Shimano shoe lineup, its knobbly lugged rubber outsole is actually carried over from older models, such as the MT34 and MT44.

Shimano SH-MT34 mountain touring shoe. The MT5 carries over its lugged outsole.

Walking around in it reveals why. Compared to the RT33 and its stiff outsoles, which you rocked back to front to walk, these MT5s are very comfortable to walk in. They move with your foot, with flexible feel and mechanical grip almost as good as a decent hiking or running shoe. Coupled with a roomy toe box, I feel I can really live in these kicks. (They’re still clumsy to drive a car with, at best.)

Shimano does rate them lower for stiffness. They come up to a 4 on their 12-point scale compared to the RT33’s rating of 5, so that may become an issue on an audax-distance ride.

RT33 vs MT5, front view

RT33 vs MT5, side view

At size 44, the MT5s are larger and bulkier overall than my same-size RT33s. Cleats fitted, I had to push them outward slightly to avoid them bashing into the crank arms while pedaling. They also have double the RT33’s stack height from the thicker outsole.

MT5s on my feet, along with the bundled ankle-high socks.

The MT5s look like a pretty normal shoe.

Despite the slightly lower stiffness, the MT5s behaved well while I was doing high-intensity intervals on the turbo trainer – quite similar to the RT33s when clipped in. The tight heel cup, in particular, is palpable; I can feel it positively surrounding my heels as I walk around or pedal.

So far, color me impressed.

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Hinging my head around bike storage

Ever since I moved out, I’ve been keeping my two-bike fleet, Hyro and Bino, inside the living room of my house. While it’s a very safe location for the fleet, it’s also eaten into some interior space, no matter how narrow they are. It’s space my wife feels could be put to better use.

The house has a pretty secure service area where I wash laundry and hang it out to air-dry. It has high walls all around, but save for a couple of alcoves, most of it has no roof. I’ve tried storing my bikes there, with rain covers in case of downpours.

This has been, quite literally, a mixed bag.

While the rain covers do protect the bikes from the rain from above, they don’t do anything for moisture coming from below that pitter-patters upward as the raindrops hit the concrete floor. On Bino, especially, this has resulted in the development of some surface rust on the chain, as the drivetrain sits much lower on a small-wheeled bike. This rust is easily removed, but my point is the rain cover route isn’t as great a storage idea as it first sounds, as the bikes are still pretty exposed to the elements this way. The rain covers have since developed rips and tears, too, rendering them useless.

After adding a few new clotheslines, the service area seemed like viable bike storage again. Initially, my wife thought of hanging the bikes on something like the Minoura Bike Tower 10 that Steve of the Hands On Bike blog uses.

Steve’s Minoura Bike Tower 10 with two of his bikes hung from its cradles. Photo from handsonbike.blogspot.com.

As nifty as this is, it’s not quite going to work for our house. As a road/cross bike, Hyro is a bit too long; when hung like this, his length will partially impede the doorway when swung open.

This display of kids’ bikes at Gran Trail Cycles in Makati has the Velo Hinge set perpendicular to the wall, like a normal wall hook.

I thought – why not hang the bikes vertically from the wall, by their wheels? That seemed to make more sense. Hyro’s length is less of a problem when applied vertically.

Then I remembered that I’ve already seen a bike hook that could help maximize wall space: Feedback Sports’ Velo Hinge.

The premise of the Velo Hinge is instead of hanging bikes vertically along a wall so that they’re permanently perpendicular, the entire hook assembly can pivot, so it’s possible to lean the hung bikes over closer to the wall and flatten their profile. Ingenious.

Surprisingly enough, it’s locally available – and it’s not too bad at PhP1,100 apiece. I got mine from Gran Trail Cycles’ new location at 830 Arnaiz Avenue in Makati.

Velo Hinge all closed up.

Velo Hinge opened; it actually takes a bit of effort to do so. You can see the wheel bumper and hook inside.

You can test the mechanism for yourself on the shop floor. Feedback Sports used very minimal packaging and left the hook and hinge mechanisms for all to see and play with. In my hands, the hook is fairly free-moving, resting on the hinged front wheel panel for stability when deployed. The hinge assembly is reassuringly solid and takes a fair bit of effort to open and close. It does feel up to the job of supporting and swinging a bike hanging from it.

Each Velo Hinge is rated to carry one bike weighing up to 22.7 kg (50 lb), and Feedback Sports says it can be reconfigured to swing in either direction. My guess is this requires changing the position of the hook itself. It’ll be interesting to see how this works out in practice, although so far it’s been well-reviewed.

As of this writing, I haven’t mounted the Velo Hinge to my wall just yet. It comes with wood screws; if you plan on mounting it on a concrete wall, you’ll need masonry screws. I’m also taking my sweet time in finalizing just where I want it affixed, and how I want its pivoting action to work for my house. Once mounted, and after a few weeks of use, I’ll revisit this.

Regaining my old form

As you may or may not know, I’ve been off the saddle for a pretty long time. A couple of unexpected hospital visits and a long-planned honeymoon trip basically ensured that my carcass avoided mounting a saddle for about two months.

In the meantime, I concentrated on recovery and getting better as quickly as I could, everything else be damned. The unfortunate consequence was that I gained more weight and lost my conditioning.

I am also aware of the fact that I’m not getting any younger and my metabolism isn’t what it used to be. The caloric intake I was used to just was not a good fit for me any more.

Fast forward to today. With the doctors clearing me for resumption of physical activity, I’ve been logging the training miles both on the street and on the turbo trainer in a pretty consistent fashion, upon returning from a memorable trip to Europe. Much more of a surprise was how well my body could function and train on reduced caloric intake…and without resorting to diets or the focusing on or removal of food groups.

A couple of weeks in, I’ve been able to lose 7 pounds (3.16 kg) out of the 15 (6.8 kg) I gained from what I call my “baseline.” Even from there, though, I want to aim for further reduction, as my baseline is still more than what my frame should be carrying. As it turns out, what I needed to do was reevaluate my relationship with food…and get used to regularly carrying a little hunger in my gut.

Onwards and upwards it is, then. Going forward, I hope to share a few more stories from the saddle.