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Sidi has gained widespread popularity within the local cycling arena, as evidenced by the large number of cyclist wearing them. Personally, I have been through two pairs of Sidi in the last six years. My first pair was the Dominator 2, which worked well for me until the sole split off after three years of regular offroad use. I was pretty satisfied with the durability, considering it had been through much abuse during those years. I loved the striking yellow, blue and red colour scheme of my old Dominators.

The cutting of the Sidi fits me like a glove, so as soon as the first pair died on me, I went straight to look for a second pair. I got the Dominator 4 as the Action SRS was out of my budget and the sanity in me told me that the Action was too expensive for a pair of shoes not meant for parading down Orchard road in. It has been three years since and my new Dominator is still hanging on fine with signs, albeit with splitting at the sole area.

I have tried shoes by Shimano, Specialized and Nike. Most of them have stiffer soles, which aid in the power transfer, but sacrifice on the ?walk-ability? when I am off the bike. In this aspect, Sidi has a slight advantage as I find their shoes offer a good balance between stiffness and flexibility.

Some complaints I have heard from my peers regarding their Sidi shoes mostly pertain to its sole?s fast wear rate and its lack of stiffness (for those who like super stiff sole) and also the steep price tag. For those with wide feet, the Sidi?s cutting might be too narrow for your liking. Although Sidi does offer wider cut versions for certain models, such shoes might take a little more effort to locate in our garden city.

Rise of the Dragon

Just when I thought the Action SRS was expensive, imagine my expression when I first saw the Dragons. With a retail price in excess of $300, it is a lot of money to invest on a pair of shoes that gets mud and grime on them every other day.

On hindsight, the Dragon has all the works in the looks department to warrant its high price tag. With striking colours combination and graphics, they are surely a fashion statement in its own league. For 05, the Dragons are out in full force with a wider choice of colours.

The Dragon is meant as the replacement model for the older Action, and it spots many similarities with its predecessor like the Sole Replacement System (SRS), Ultra and Techno buckles. The two things new on the Dragons are the high traction SRS sole and the use of the new High-security Velcro.

The new high traction sole is a fine improvement over the current soles. Due to its stiffness, current soles tend to lose traction on hard and slippery surfaces. This presents a problem when boarding boats and walking up cemented inclines. The new sole overcomes the problem by inserting a layer of rubber at the bottom of the lugs where it contacts the ground. This helps to increase the traction by about 30%, making walking on hard ground more confidence-inspiring, without sacrificing on stiffness. After 6 months of use, the sole has begun to show some signs of wear. At this current rate, I foresee I might need to change the sole in a year or so from now. I have heard complaints about the screws used to secure the SRS lugs. It is said that they are prone to breakage. And when that happens, it will render the whole sole replacement concept useless. However, this has not happened to me yet.

It is sad to see Sidi change the lever of the Ultra buckles from a metal one to the current plastic ones. The old metal buckle gives a very positive feel and would never slip during tightening. The new plastic bucket feels more flimsy and can be a headache to loosen after going through foul weather. A few drops of lubricant on a regular basis are needed to keep it working like new. The Techno buckles also need some orientation during the initial stage. I find it hard to tighten and loosen initially, but things got better after some practice. The securing system I like best in the Dragon is the High-security Velcro – simple yet effective. The difference with normal Velcro is simply the insertion of two pieces of jagged plastic that prevents slippage when the Velcro is closed. This simple innovation effectively extends the useful usage life of the Velcro. Sidi should apply this technology across all its shoes that use a Velcro fastening system, especially on the Bullet where the whole shoe is secured via Velcro.

When it comes to comfort, the Dragons are very comfortable to be in. Mesh at strategic areas allow good ventilation on the foot. Soft synthetic leather all round ensures unrestricted movement during both cycling and walking. The leather also recovers well after a ride through foul weather. It does not crack easily and remains soft after being left to dry in the shade. It also requires very little maintenance. The only time the leather does not work in my favour is when walking on technical and rocky terrain. On such surfaces, I can feel the soft leather stretching and can feel the outside of my foot applying pressure on the terrain.

Conclusion

The Dragon is a sheer pleasure to own with its unparalleled comfort, great workmanship and good traction. It will be the ideal for people who have deep pockets and are looking for a pair of high performance shoes that are comfortable enough for daily use. The replaceable lugs while providing better traction tends to wear out faster than conventional ones, so be prepared for that. Attention should also be given to the screws that secure the lugs to ensure that they do not seize after prolonged exposure to the elements.

What it lacks is an ultra stiff sole and an affordable price tag. So if you are looking for either or both of these qualities in your next pair of shoes, you might have better luck elsewhere.

Performance: 4/5