Here’s a word to stuff in your jersey pocket: Graphene. Pull it out on rides, use it with your friends, you’ll sound like a rocket scientist. Or like a know-it-all. It doesn’t matter. Besides, you don’t want Graphene in your jersey pocket, you want it in your helmet, shoes, tires, and maybe, someday, your frame. But that’s getting ahead of things.
Graphene does look to be the next, hot bike material. Why? Graphene makes stuff lighter, stiffer and stronger—the three keys to a cyclist’s heart and mind. It comes from graphite. In its basic form, it is a one-atom-thick, two-dimensional crystal. It is said to be 200 times stronger than steel and one million times thinner than a human hair. Scientist always knew about graphene but it took two researchers at the University of Manchester to figure out how to extract the stuff. Their isolation technique led to the 2010 Nobel Prize in Physics.
So far, there’s nothing made out of graphene. That would be crazy expensive. Instead, graphene is added to materials used to make products. There’s a tennis racket with graphene in its body. A packaging company has taken advantage of graphene’s conductive properties to replace security tags. Stronger touch screens are being developed with the micro-material. Oh yeah, and bike companies have started to put graphene in some useful places, like the soles of the Catlike Whispers.
We talked about Catlike’s use of graphene in our review of the Mixino helmet. The company claimed injecting the stuff into the shell of the helmet made it stronger AND lighter. We took a pass on testing the strength claim but it was, and is, a damn light helmet.
The Whispers are light, too. Our test pair, in size 46, weighed just under 600 grams. Anecdotally, they felt lighter, especially in motion, than my go-to: Sidi Ergos. My feet seemed to more freely turn circles, for what it’s worth.
On the stiffness scale, I would also rate these kicks up there with anything I have worn. As stiff or stiffer than Sidi or Specialized or DMT. I don’t have data to back up that claim. Again, it’s a feel thing. The Whispers did a wonderful job of transferring energy from leg to pedal. Nothing seemed lost as I mashed up a climb or accelerated with the pack.
But anyone can make a light, stiff shoe. Make one that’s firm, feathery and feels like a bedroom slipper? Now we’re talking. The Whispers are comfy. The use of Clarino microfiber is why. Out of the box, the material was soft and supple. And, as the late Stuart Scott of ESPN would say, Clarino is “as cool as the other side of the pillow.” The stuff traps very little heat. Comfy, cool feet. That’s nice.
The Clarino is pretty delicate stuff so Catlike added a little protection in the toe area. There’s a clear, rubber strip on the toe for added protection. It’s not the prettiest but neither is a shoe toe that has been bashed or scuffed.
Slipping in and out of the Whispers is pretty neat. There’s no tongue. The upper essentially wraps the foot with the left and right side panels overlapping. Cat got your tongue? I guess the answer would be yes, and I’m glad it did. No tongue means a bigger opening and less material digging into the top of the ankle.
One more cat reference, this one in the heel. The Whispers are lined in the heel cup with a textured material that does feel like a cat’s tongue. It has a definite grain. They have no name for this stuff but whatever it’s called, it works. No heel slippage on the upstroke.
Catlike, like a lot companies, has gone with BOA. The nobs are big compared to the dials on other brands. They stick out more. Again, looks a little odd but the function is there. On the bike/on the fly adjustments require less, one handed riding. The pronounced nob is easy to find and turn even at speed or across rough stuff.
In addition to the two BOA knobs per shoe, there is one Velcro strap over the toe box. Catlike is not the only company to include them, but when you’ve got micro-adjust BOA knobs on a shoe, I wonder why the Velcro is even there. It’s a good place to put a logo but pretty useless otherwise.
Fit is a bit on the wide side for my narrow, size 12 dogs. I have, what I like to call, a Sidi foot. The Catlike had a little more room than I am used to, especially in the toe box. Catlike says, for now, they only offer one width. I wore a 46 in the Whispers, just like I do in Sidi. Length was spot on. They come in whole sizes only in 39-47.
Standard Look pattern for the cleat. The Carbon-Graphene sole is textured around the cleat mounting area to prevent unwanted movement. My cleats never shifted.
The shoes come with better-than-most insoles. I say that because the foot bed has a metatarsal button. Other than that, they are pretty basic. No reason to set aside your orthotics.
Four color combos and that distinctive, Catlike, honeycomb pattern. MSRP: $300.
Is it worth saying anything about walking in the Whispers? I think not. Just about any, current road shoe gives us all a penguin strut. These are no different. March of the Penguins II, coming to a coffee shop near you.
Final thought: Go for the stiffness, stay for the comfort.