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.

Review: Samsonite Paradiver Light L+ laptop backpack

Riding to work, I have used my Vincita B050WP-A panniers for about four years now. Unfortunately, in that span of time, they’ve sprung leaks. The RF welding connecting the pieces of material together has failed on a number of areas, greatly increasing the risk of water ingress. While these panniers aren’t 100% watertight, and they will let in some water after a while, the introduction of holes pretty much negates their supposed waterproof-ness.

While on vacation in Paris recently, I was mulling my options. I could have these repaired by stitching or repeat RF welding, or replace them with Ortlieb’s larger, world-famous panniers (which are finally available locally, but are sadly out of my budget). Then I stumbled across a surprise of a shop and saw this, the only thing I really shopped for while there.

Yes, it’s a backpack. While loaded riding with a rack and panniers has its benefits, I’ve started to rethink what exactly I have to bring on the ride to the office, and a backpack is hard to beat for sheer get-up-and-go, especially with light loads. Panniers are awkward to handle when off the bike, and dismounting/remounting the rear rack each weekend does get old after a while.

Best of all, it made me do a double-take and ask…“It’s a Samsonite?” While renowned for attache cases and hard-shell luggage, I had one of their early backpacks; it was devoid of all style or appeal, basically a big squarish thing you strapped on your back, looking like 1/3 of a Deliveroo box. Yet more than ten years later, here is a Samsonite backpack that I actually like.

Packed as full as possible.

FEATURES

  • 24 L rated capacity
  • Weight: 800 g
  • Material: Polyurethane-coated 600 x 600 denier polyester, weather-resistant
  • Padded laptop compartment, fits a 15.6″ laptop maximum
  • Integrated tablet pocket, fits a 10.1″ tablet maximum
  • Ergonomic straps and adjustable sternum strap
  • Integrated ID tag
  • Deployable mesh bottle holder, stores in side pocket

IMPRESSIONS

Confession time: I’m a sucker for the yellow-and-black colorway. The moment I saw this hanging on the store shelf in Paris, I was instantly reminded of a similar backpack I had in college…one that I also remember got dirty way too easily.

Fortunately, the Paradiver stands up better to scuffs, easily dispatched with soap and some wiping. Its external shell is similar to the tarpaulin of my Vincita panniers, just softer and a bit more “premium” feeling. A short but torrential rain shower proved it has much better water resistance than my longtime mainstay, the venerable Deuter Giga. I’m under no illusions that it will outperform my panniers, though. As beefed-up and gasket-equipped as they may seem here, zippers are often the weak link, and they are the first points of water ingress.

The main zippers have this full-length gasket material which probably aids water resistance, if only by a little. The top zipper’s pulls have a loop for a small pad lock.

Packed as full as possible. The tapering design does mean the Paradiver Light L+ doesn’t lend itself well to overstuffing.

Compared to the boxy Giga, this largest “L-Plus” iteration of the Paradiver Light gives up 4 L of outright capacity, and the tapering shape cuts into the interior volume somewhat. Yet, despite doing away with a full hip strap, the Paradiver Light feels better to walk and ride with when laden, especially when the straps are bound together by the sternum strap. The load feels much closer to your center of gravity, improving the load distribution over shoulders and chest.

A 14″ Lenovo ThinkPad T430 laptop in the main compartment. There’s enough slack to fit laptops up to 15.6″. Note the tablet pocket and zipped mesh inner pocket in front.

Save for the corners sometimes getting in the way of the main zipper, the Paradiver Light swallows my 15.6″ laptop fine. A pocket in front of it handles tablet duty, and both are cinched down by an elastic band with Velcro at the end. The padding on the wearer’s back also serves as protection for the laptop. I like that it doesn’t scream “hello world I’m a laptop bag!” when it’s perfectly capable of carrying one.

Front compartment. Two pen loops, a loose pocket, and another pocket with a Velcro flap – big enough to squeeze in three “SwissChamp” Swiss Army knives.

The front pocket opens from one side, big enough for little knick-knacks like earphones, a comb, or even a DIY rain cover.

Clever touches litter this rucksack. The integrated ID tag hides in a rubbery pocket taking price of place front and center, secured by an elastic band that automatically pulls it in when you’re done reading it. Samsonite includes three label stickers for the ID tag, and you’ll want to use a ball-point pen here.

It may not have a full hip belt, but the bracing on the hips helps contain unwanted load shifting, and this works really well with all the straps. The hip braces are actually where the main straps are anchored into at the bottom.

There’s even a hidden zipped “safety” pocket cut into the padding around the top of the main straps – and it’s surprisingly deep. My whole karate-chop hand fits inside.

Good in theory, but execution’s not too great. You’ll feel that bottle smack your right elbow as you walk.

There are a few flaws. As nifty as it is, the mesh bottle holder has the same kind of utility as a German sports car’s cupholders: minimal. Loading with a bottle has the whole thing flopping about more than a properly sized and dedicated side pocket. A key hanger is advertised, but I can’t find it anywhere, and it could do with at least one reflective patch.

More of a cycling-specific flaw is that the top grab handle is set a little too far into the main strap area. This seems like a style thing. While a non-issue for most other uses, if you wear the Paradiver while bent over on a road bike, the textured grab handle rubs on your nape, especially when you turn your head. It’s not terrible, and I got used to it after a few weeks, but it shows that this isn’t really designed for riding. As the handle is finished in a somewhat coarse grippy material, nape abrasion may become an issue on a really long ride; it may be remedied by wrapping the handle in something smoother.

Finally, backpacks being backpacks, wearing this is inevitably going to cause some back sweat. Apart from making the back panel padding somewhat “breathable” and its covering out of mesh, there are no concessions to improving airflow in this area.

VERDICT

Overall, Samsonite’s got a good thing going with the Paradiver. At EUR98 (PhP5950), it’s on the pricey side, yet it allows a level of comfort and style in load-lugging that might just make it worth your added cash. Good if you can get it for cheap, especially if you ride a more upright bike.