It doesn’t seem fitting or nice to call a shoe the mullet of footwear. Even if meant as a compliment, it would be so left-handed that a gun enthusiast friend of mine would wink and say, “You’ll get hot brass down your shirt holding it that way.”
Nevertheless, the Specialized Recon may be the mullet of cycling footwear. And I say that meaning no disrespect. Here’s the thing: I’ve been wearing this shoe for months now and what I like best about it is that it attracts attention the way a ninja does—not at all. It’s as simple a black shoe as my dress cap toes. Nothing fancy or ornate. No racy stripes, no sci-fi buckles, no architectural flourishes.
It is—literally—the most understated cycling shoe I’ve encountered since my first cleated Sidis I bought back in 1988.
Meanwhile, the shoe has an underside that’s all about going places. This isn’t just a walkable shoe. No, this is a shoe that allows for toe spikes. These things are the love child of a pair of dress shoes and football cleats. So while, yes, you could capably complete a cyclocross race in these, what I see in them is a terrific gravel shoe for when you don’t want/need to show off. That the sole is done in tan, as it plays off the black upper, it evokes an old school gumwall tire, something that has recently begun to come back in style. All that said, there’s also an orange/yellow fade that’s quite attractive and to which none of this applies.
Looks-wise, think piano black Mercedes AMG rather than canary yellow Lamborghini. All the horsepower and none of the ridiculous.
The carbon fiber sole is among the stiffest I’ve ridden. Were I racing cyclocross in this shoe, I think I might want a bit more flex, or maybe some moleskin for my heel. For mixed surface riding where the walking/hiking is more limited, it’s not as much of a concern. Indeed, when I’m doing mixed surface riding, I want a shoe that fits and feels like a traditional road shoe, but with the ability to stomp my way across a stream bed if necessary.
Plenty of people will look at this shoe and decide that it’s Specialized’s response to the Empire. I even asked them as much. Their response was more subtle, less aggressive and in it I see a certain wisdom. What I was told is that their product development guys are always on the lookout for good ideas and willing to try anything that seems like a worthwhile technology.
The Recon has a lace retention strap, reinforced eyelets and polyester laces that won’t snap the moment you pull on them, all features found in the Giro Empire that anyone undertaking a laced shoe would have been stupid not to emulate.
Like other shoes in the Specialized line, the Recon is a firm D width, but with a slightly roomier toe box than I find in some of their road shoes. It was a relief to discover this as when I first spied the shoes the toe looked narrow. Looks, as we’ve been told, deceive. Thank heaven.
The Recon is a $225 shoe, but I’d put it on a par with shoes costing $300 or more. In that, I find it to be a respectable value. Anyone looking for a do-it-all SPD shoe, a shoe good for mixed-surface rides, cross-country mountain biking, commuting and even intense road riding will find much to love in this shoe. More than six months in, these shoes are holding up nicely, which is never how things go with the more budget-oriented shoes I’ve tried.
Final thought: Something so understated never goes out of style.
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