Even though Shimano is calling their new TORBAL line enduro specific, the shoe’s designer is emphatic – it’s a mountain biking shoe. That is to say that the shoe is designed for the way many of us ride on a regular basis, not just when racing Enduro. Key to the new range is what Shimano is calling their TORBAL technology, or Torsional balance. Rather than design the shoe for walking as seems to be popular with many trail and AM shoes, the TORBAL line is designed to allow torsional flex yet staying stiff to the pedals.
TORBAL combined with varying levels of impact protection is what gets you to the point of an Enduro shoe. After 25 years of making mountain bike shoes, the SH-M200 name makes a return along with a bunch of interesting tech. The result is a shoe we can’t wait to get on the trail (or already did).
Check out the new TORBAL line in detail, plus what makes the Unzen 4 Enduro race pack unique, next….
At the heart of all the TORBAL models is the specially designed, carbon infused sole plate. Carrying a Shimano Stiffness Rating of 8 (from 4-11), the inner ribs allow for the shoe to flex torsionally without effecting the ankle or the hip yet remain pedal efficient. This TORBAL plate is found on all of the new Enduro shoes.
Starting with the new SH-M200 at the high end on the left, Shimano is also introducing the SH-M163, and SH-m089 as well. While the SH-M200 heavily armored and is the only shoe to get the speed lace system, the other two models still receive the low profile buckle and Cross-X straps. All three shoes use Shimano’s Volume + last for increased toe box room.
Another big difference between the models is in how the rubber meets the trail. The SH-M200 (far right) is gifted a 3 density outsole where the black perimeter lugs are the standard high density rubber, the white and red are higher durometer for increased durability, and the two vertical struts on either side of the cleat are even harder to provide enhanced stability when clipped in. The SH-M163 makes do with a dual-density outsole with the reinforced pedal supports, and the SH-M089 uses a standard single density outsole.
New to all of the shoes is an improved cleat mounting system that allows for greater adjustment front to back. Shimano noticed that many enduro racers (and guys with big feet) were riding their cleats as far back as possible and would probably push them back further if they could. To address that the new shoes have an extended channel that will allow much more rearward position than previous. Each shoe includes a red spacer to place in front, or behind the cleat nut holes to take up the extra space.
Since the shoes are designed for pedaling first and walking second, Shimano wanted to provide the necessary cushion without impacting the pedal efficiency. Rather than build EVA foam into the shoe itself, Shimano built it into the insole of the SH-M200 for excellent shock absorption and comfort without changing the pedaling dynamics. The 163 and 089 get similar shaped insoles, but without the EVA foam.
At the top of the heap, the SH-M200 is sleek and designed for pedaling, but still includes an impressive amount of impact protection for when things get sideways. The asymmetrical ankle collar manages to add substantial protection with out affecting your pedaling, while the rest of the shoe includes low profile armor and a reinforced toe. Because of the armor, venting is minimal except for the toe with a large two layer mesh. The SH-M200 will retail for an impressive $180 with availability soon.
Comparatively, the SH-163 and SH-m089 are lacking in the armor department which may make them the perfect shoe depending on your needs. More than one person out at Interbike referred to the SH-M163 as the sleeper trail shoe, and we would probably agree. The shoe boast more armoring than your typical XC shoe with an outsole designed more for riding than racing with a comfortable fit and a retail of only $150. The Sh-M089 will also be an excellent trail shoe for those looking to spend a bit less with retail set at $120.
On the scale the two higher end shoes come in a bit above the Sh-M089 which isn’t really surprising given the additional armor and higher density outsole inserts.
Now you’re set on shoes, but what about your pack? Shimano thinks their new U4E or Unzen 4 Enduro is the answer. As many riders trend towards smaller packs with better fit, the U4E steps in to offer everything you may want in an enduro back without the excess. Made to be hydration bladder compatible up to 2 liters, the pack also includes an external water bottle sleeve that is easily accessible and keeps the weight centrally locate. At the bottom you’ll find the typical lashing straps for armor, while up top a two buckle flap makes stowing a helmet a snap. Behind the flap is a stash area where you can store a jacket or extra jersey. There are also dedicated goggle clips on the side of the bag if you don’t want to leave them on your helmet.
Inside you’ll find Shimano’s excellent X-Harness adjustable fit system which is now accessible through a full length zipper to make getting in and out quite a bit easier. If you’re using a hydration bladder, the bag will slip under the mesh inside the bag which can be cinched down through the external pull cord as your water is depleted. In front of the water storage area sits 4 liters of internal storage with dividers for tools, a pump, and just enough supplies for a race. There is also a fleece lined pocket up top so you can stash your phone while you Strava.
Out front the straps include a stash pocket for gels or food, a sunglass loop, and a nice anodized blue hook with three positions for the X-harness. The bag also includes a minimal waist strap that is removable if you choose. Honestly, this is one of the best designed packs we’ve seen coming out of Shimano’s Accu3D range and checks all of the boxes for a minimal bag that provides all the necessities. We’ll report back with the long term review next season.
Unzen 4 Enduro packs will be available in just 200 of the limited edition yellow colorway above, and then will be available in January in blue for the standard color way. The pack retails for $90, with the Shimano/Hydrapak 2 liter bladder an additional $32.99.