You may not have heard of Suplest, the Swiss cycling shoe makers, but they’ve been around for almost a decade. They’ve only recently started reaching beyond the borders of the EU; you can get Suplest cycling shoes from two stores in Cape Town, South Africa and very shortly from retailers in Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Chile. This makes them hard to get in Australia right now… but it will only be a matter of time.
Switzerland prides itself on its shoe making craftsmanship and heritage, and Suplest embraces this tradition with their design principles of “Premium-ness, Swiss-ness and Simplicity”. At BNA, we have been in touch with Suplest since 2011 and following the release of their current range, we have organised to test their wares in our unique Australian cycling conditions.
Suplest make three types of cycling shoe: the Trail is an all-mountain/trail family of shoes for mountain bikers, the Cross Country is exactly what it sounds like, while the Street Racing line comprises eight road and two triathlon-specific models.
The cycling shoes which Suplest provided for review were the Streetracing 01.024, a mid- to high-range road shoe featuring a nylon outer sole, one-piece microfibre polyurethane upper, and closure system comprising two Velcro straps and a ratchet strap. Retailing at €198, which is around $300 AUD at the time of writing, the 01.024 certainly isn’t a budget shoe, but is reasonably priced against the competition.
So far, so familiar; other brands in this category tend to have cycling shoes featuring similar specifications. The Suplest Streetracing line however doesn’t follow the same trend; as Suplest position themselves as a premium brand, they don’t even make an ‘entry level’ shoe, and the weight, materials and technology behind the Streetracing line is beyond ‘standard’. Even with just a simple inspection, you will quickly notice that these shoes are out of the ordinary.
The white and reflective finish on the Streetracing 01.024 is certainly on-trend, many brands incorporate reflective surfaces on their road shoes. However, the shoes’ striking graphic design sets them apart from the common brands, such as Shimano, Sidi, Giro, Bont, and Specialized. The entire upper is distinctly devoid of seams and the large toe-box presents a high and flat-fronted appearance reminiscent of reinforced mountain or cyclocross shoes with rubber toe-guards.
The high toe-box is further emphasised by the shaping of the front of the shoe and different colours along the line where the ‘fender’ section would normally meet the top panel of the toe box.
I quite liked the unusual design and look of the Suplest shoes, and they drew some (mostly admiring) comments from other riders, particularly at night due to the ample servings of reflective material which covered half of the shoe.
Reflective material on or around the feet and pedals has been proven to be highly effective for grabbing the attention of other road users. While stylish, the incorporation of the reflective material into the overall design is also highly practical.
During the day the white, reflective, and black across different sections of the shoe ensure that these remain highly visible as well. This distinctive look might not be for everybody, so Suplest offer more conventional options in black, white, and red, including some without reflective material. In my opinion, the safety value of reflective shoes for commuting or riding at night can’t be ignored.
Fit is the most crucial aspect of any cycling shoe – the lightest, stiffest, most aerodynamic, and eye-grabbing shoe in the world will make every pedal stroke miserable if it doesn’t have that ‘Goldilocks’ factor – it has to be just right.
Encouragingly, Suplest take fit very seriously with their shoes being built around a custom last. A last is form which resembles a human foot, around which a shoe is constructed. A custom last is the domain of bespoke shoemakers and are used to create a shoe for a specific customer, or to create shoes with specific traits to suit customers. As part of the fit, the ERGO 360 system factors in everything from the outer sole to the uppers, inner soles, and even their own socks which are designed to optimise airflow and comfort.
Suplest also offer shoes with a female-specific fit with the only visible difference to their male counterparts being subtle, such as the colour of the internal lining. There is no overt ‘pinkification’.
I’ve mainly worn cycling shoes from Shimano, Sidi, Northwave, and Giro, and my feet tend to be too wide for most European brands. Size 45 has tended to offer the best balance and with the Sidi’s I had to upgrade 45.5 to get sufficient width, however this meant that the shoes were too long and my heels pulled out of the shoes unless they were ratcheted up uncomfortably tight. For Shimano and Giro, a 45 is a good fit width-wise though is a touch longer than required.
Based on the supplied specs for the Suplest shoes, given my issues with width, I thought size 44 Suplests’ would fit perfectly. I was surprised to find the shoes on the large side, not so much in terms of width or length but volume; the toe box is the complete opposite of the typical narrow and tight ‘Euro Chic’ cycling shoe. This will be a relief to many Australian cyclists who struggle to shoehorn their flat plates into narrow cycling slippers, but I would recommend stepping down one size as the sole size is also quite large. I found that I wasn’t completely comfortable transferring power to the pedal throughout the entire pedal stroke, which is what a good cyclist should be doing, and I would have needed a size 43 to get a better fit for me for this brand.
The soul of a cycling shoe is its sole, and the emphasis tends to be placed on two things: weight and stiffness. The 01.024 model keeps the price down with its nylon sole while the pricier Suplest road shoes do move over to the carbon fibre / nylon composite sole.
Comparing the Suplests to my Giro mountain bike shoes (using Giro’s own Easton carbon soles), the soles do flex noticeably, but much less so than the entry level Shimano MO-75s that were my first clipless cycling shoes. For a pure nylon sole, the stiffness and weight of the Suplest shoes are impressive; that said I personally prefer a very stiff sole as any flex tends to leave me with sore feet on longer rides.
Stiffness isn’t the sole objective for a cycling shoe sole as it isn’t a simple equation of more=better; in fact some riders prefer some flex in their cycling shoes which makes them more comfortable. A small amount of flex can be beneficial for some riders seeking to avoid soreness or accommodate an injury. Just like a bicycle saddle, it can come down to personal preference and getting the right equipment to suit your riding.
Weight wise, Suplest claim a weight of just over 300g for size 32 shoes; on my kitchen scales the size 44s weighed in at a touch under 340g per shoe.
Suplests’ Streetracing shoes feature some other interesting tech; the uppers are a one-piece microfibre, with a manufacturing a process to create variable fabric thickness. This is a design which Suplest refer to as “Organic Grid”. The end result is a shoe that feels like a single, integrated unit as opposed to a set of panels stitched and glued together. The uppers however aren’t entirely seamless; one seam runs diagonally from the top to the bottom of the upper on each side of the shoe, while a small seam gathers material where it is shaped at the heel.
The diagonal seem from the molded one-piece microfibre
The properties of the upper emphasise the importance of a well-fitting shoe; when a shoe has fewer seams for the material to crease along as the foot moves, lines will start to form in the material. The poorer the fit, the more lines.
For fastening, the 01.024 model features the familiar two-hook-and-loop velcro straps and a single ratcheting buckle; the buckle is Suplests’ own design, mostly a metal construction with one plastic component, and it works well. Often, top-of-the-line shoes use a boa rotating dial system which tighten laces and this may also be combined with a velcro strap or ratchet. Suplest use dial / laces in their new S8+ series which are positioned at the top end of the range. Although I’ve long since converted to laced shoes for road, I found the fitting system on these shoes easy to use and they secured the shoes well.
A reliable and well integrated ratchet, coupled with two velcro straps on each shoe
Simple one hand operation to tighten and loosen the ratchet
The soles feature replaceable heel grips and are quite well ventilated with two mesh air inlets at the front and midsection lining up with ventilated sections on the inner sole. There are also several sets of small holes punched in the uppers to help let moisture escape. The tongue also has large holes punched through the core material with a mesh panel allowing some additional airflow and moisture release.
The heel grips are replaceable
The tongue has holes punches for airflow
The microfibre feels quite water resistant, but the shoes’ ventilation holes will not help to keep your feet dry on wet rides; I recommend a set of effective shoe covers for cold, wet rides.
I reviewed these cycling shoes in the cool temperatures of the Australian winter and continued through to spring. Based on this experience, I would have no hesitation reaching for them in summer.
While comfortable, these cycling shoes are essentially unpadded. There is a small amount of padding around the top of the shoe opening, and the tongue is constructed largely of a rubbery open-cell foam, but the uppers are otherwise only lined with a thin layer of fabric.
Let’s finish with my favourite feature of the 01.024’s which is shared throughout the entire Suplest range. This is the ‘fish grill’ textured fabric in the heel which has rubber ‘gripper’ dots to prevent your feet from slipping on the upstroke. Slipping really shouldn’t be an issue with well fitted cycling shoes, though with my shoes being slightly on the loose side I was impressed by how well these dots worked, keeping my heels firmly planted inside the shoe.
The fish grid with gripper dots prevent the heel from slipping
The Bottom Line
I tested the Streetracing shoes on short rides as well as endurance rides, mostly on-road but with some gravel and even singletrack thrown in for good measure. On longer rides I experienced some ‘hotspots’, but this is no surprise given I usually ride with carbon soles, and the shoes were a size larger than I would need for this brand.
My gravel grinding escapades meant that there was mud and noticeable scuffing on the shoe uppers; it is fair to say that these shoes are not intended for mixed-terrain riding. The reflective surface in particular was quite susceptible to scuffing, however the effect of my over-the-top testing was only superficial; the underlying microfibre material was undamaged which bodes well for the Suplest mountain and cyclocross range.
After a few months wear and tear the scuffing is just superficial
Overall, the Suplest Streetracing 01.024 road shoes provided good looks and more importantly good performance at a reasonable price, living up to Suplests’ tagline for their ERGO 360 system: “more than the sum of their parts”.
Equally well-suited for racing or commuting due to their eye-grabbing reflective finish, the Suplest Streetracing will be the new kid on the block in Australia and is well worth considering for cyclists with high-volume feet and those seeking to stand out from the crowd.
Getting your hands on these…
Suplest have not yet appointed an Australian distributer, but their quality and reputation suggest that it will only be a matter of time until they make it down under. The Suplest online store is limited to EU customers, so you will have to be creative and head over to one of the Suplest dealers who have an online store to get a pair if you want to be the leader of the pack. Find out more and see their dealers here: suplest.ch/home-en