When our test samples didn’t quite fit the intended reviewer, we handed our sample DZRs off to Rich, Kansas’ original mountain biker (and the only one in our circle with the style to do them justice). Here is his review:
I have always considered myself a bit of a retro-grouch. If you’ve been around cycling long enough, surely you’ve met a couple of us. What you should understand is that there are different levels of buy-in to the ethos. At one end you have the Grant Peterson/Unibomber types, eschewing indexed shifting and threadless headsets, to those more moderate types that might distrust carbon fiber seatposts but love their tubeless mountain bike tires. Consider me closer to the latter. One area where the cycling population has always needed the help of the retro grouches is in the realm of fashion. Simply look at any cycling publication from the late 80’s and early 90’s. First remove the neon colors and splatter paint and insert the current crop of be-skulled/Primal/urban graffiti wear and you’ve got your own Hot Tub Time Machine. Most the stuff we’re served these days looks a little “extreme” if you know what I mean. So imagine my excitement upon seeing the DZR line of cycling shoes. The line looks nice. Yeah, nice. Not awesome, or rad, just nice. Style-wise they take cues from the venerable Chuck Taylor as well as old school Vans, but add in a stiffer sole and SPD compatibility. I could be seen in these and not feel like a geared out bike geek CRUSHING all competitors on my Tour de Get-to-Work. These things were begging to be my next commuter shoe… Hit the jump to see how things went.
Last fall, I managed to get a hold of a pair of DZR’s Strasse model ($110). Out of the box these things look great. They feel solid with out being heavy. The fabric has a subtle herringbone pattern in green and black. The black rubber looks utilitarian AND sexy. As far as sizing goes, I wear a size 44 in a DZR, while for comparisons-sake, I wear a 45 in a Sidi road shoe, 44 in a Northwave, and a 10.5 anything off the bike. The fit is snug without strangling the dedos del pie. The shoes have a nice reflective patch at the back as well as a elastic band integrated into the shoe’s tongue to keep the ample laces from getting snagged in your chain. They even looked classy enough to get the much coveted Wife Seal of Approval. A very rare honor when it comes to cycling gear.
The honeymoon was fantastic! I left the shoe “intact” by not cutting out the SPD portion of the sole since my commuter has toe straps. I experienced a little rubbing on my big toe bone from the seam of the shoe but I could equally attribute this to my insistence on running vintage Joe Murray toe clips. So I switched them out for some equally sweet/retro-grouchy SunTour bear traps and all was well. The shoes seem to have some extra padding under the balls of the feet that spread the pressure around. The actual tread is grippy on the pedals. I work on my feet, standing all day on a concrete floor and these things are comfy. Phase one a success!
Phase 2: I was getting excited. If I cut out the SPD hole, mounted up some cleats, DZR will have made the coolest cycling shoes ever. I could mountain bike on ‘em, do a few road miles maybe. So I installed some cleats and headed out on a mountain bike ride. By comparison this ride was not one of our epic all day jaunts, but any ride here in the Southwest is bound to be a little gnarly. The shoes did fine, they don’t offer the full support that a more race/performance oriented shoe would, but they didn’t leave my arches aching or shins burning.
The problem surfaced when I got home. As I walked across the floor I heard one of the cleats scraping on the tile. Upon inspection I could see that one of the soles was thicker than the other. Not good. I managed to “fix” the issue by cutting shims from a plastic lid and Shoe-Gooing them in between the sole and tread. Even with the fix, both soles could be a little thicker to avoid any cleat to floor grinding. I got on the digital horn and e-mailed DZR, they hadn’t heard of anyone else having this problem and were going to let their quality control people know.
After I rigged the sole, I spent several weeks commuting to work with the shoes and SPD pedals. On the job I found them to be very comfortable despite concrete floors and the general lack of sitting my job affords. I even found myself reaching for them when I had off the bike errands. If you like old Vans or Chuck Taylors, these are in the same vein though a little more comfortable.
I eventually removed the SPD cleats and returned the more period correct platforms for my commuter. The shoes come with a rubber plug that bolts back into the shoe in case you decide to go back to flats. No problems here, just remember to put a little Lock-tite on the bolts. After a couple of weeks I noticed the interior heel area of one of the shoes was stating to wear a little more than the other. Odd. I hadn’t noticed any heel slipping. It’s not too bad but should be noted.
What’s keeping this shoe from a glowing recommendation is the sole. If DZR can bump up the thickness of the soles to prevent the cleats hitting the floor they’d really have a winner. The style is top notch and the construction is almost there. After about 3 months of commuting these shoes are holding up well and still look good. I’d even guess that in 10 years you won’t look back at photos and cringe, at the shoes at least.