Northwave Striker S.B.S. and Rebel S.B.S. MTB Shoes- by Grannygear

Reaching into my gear bag, I grab the Northwave Striker shoes and shake them out before slipping my foot in.  Red dust settles down to the ground in a fine powder…Moab dust.  Finely ground sandstone in a brick red color still nests in the crevices and nooks of my riding shoes, attesting to a long day pedaling and pushing across the Utah countryside.  The thought of cleaning my shoes crosses my mind then I smile and just put them on, deciding on letting the red dirt last as long as it likes.  Memories reside in those grains of sand.

I typically get a couple of seasons out of a pair of MTB shoes before they get disgusting and worn enough to look for another set.  My favs have been the Specialized shoes I bought at the LBS 4 years ago but they are pretty much done for.  I had some Bontrager RXLs come across for review and those were quite good as well and, except for the wimpy Velcro middle strap, are still going strong.

Northwave has been offering performance cycling shoes for quite some time and I was able to get two pairs of them to dance around in for a while, a set of the Northwave Striker S.B.S and a set of the Rebel S.B.S MTB shoes.  The Strikers are the more costly shoe of the two, retailing at $200.00 or so and have the stiffer sole in the Speedlight 3D and the more aggressive Omega heel cup system.  The Rebels are less pricy at around $160.00 and have the Jaws carbon reinforced sole and the Ultra Y heel cup.  The lugs on the soles are slightly different and the straps are pretty comparable, both having nice adjustability to the ankle rachet strap positions so as to not run out of ‘clicks’ before you get the shoe fastened snugly.  Good feature.  Both shoes have the SBS strap system, a ratcheting mechanism that allows you to also release the strap one click at a time while riding to fine tune the fit.  It works well, that one click release feature, but the buckle as a whole is less than satisfactory…more on that later.

Construction seems well done and the shoes have held up well as far as taking trail scuffs and hike a bikes in stride.  Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and the Northwave shoes are not that subtle, especially the White/Cappuccino colored Rebels.  I call them my golf shoes.  Look out Arnold…on your left.

Actually swapping between the two does not really show me much difference between the two.  If the Strikers are indeed stiffer at the footbed, then apparently the Rebels are stiff enough as to be beyond my seat of the pants stiff-o-meter.  The same for the heel cup, etc.  To me, they feel very similar.

So what I like and do not like after many hours of riding both:

  • As I mentioned, they seem to wear well and they are not so unyielding as to be difficult to hike-a-bike in.  Traction off the bike seems good although I am not sure I noticed the claim that the sole was more grippy/compliant than typical shoes.  You still need to be careful on rock crossings, etc.  I think if I were to give the nod to one over the other as to a better off the bike shoe, it would go to the Rebel S.B.S.
  • They ventilate really, really well.  Both of them.  On hot days you can feel the air moving through the toes into the shoe across sweaty feet.  Very nice.
  • I had no issues getting the SPD cleat right where I wanted it on the sz 45s I had.
  • The ankle strap’s adjustability (its fixed ‘beginning position) is very nice.  That can accommodate large variances in foot height, etc or sock thickness without running out of ‘clicky’ positions on the strap, something that was an issue on the older Bontrager shoes.  The one click release button works just like they say.  You can reach down and relax the ankle strap fit juuust a little at a time as feet swell or you just want to ease up a bit after that long climb.
  • They look like a nice, high end shoe.  Stand out style.
However…
  • They ventilate really, really well, so on cold days, that is not so good.  That cost me some cool piggys on winter days, so neither of these were my go to shoe for cooler temps.
  • The insole is lacking.  The shoe wears like a flat box due to this as I like more aggressive support for arch, etc.  Both the BG footbed on the Specialized shoes and the Bontrager inForm custom moldable footbed are way ahead in performance and comfort.  For this price, it should be better.
  • I had numbness issues, more so with these than any other shoe I have.  It did not seem to be due to overly tight shoes, but rather poor support under the foot…I think.  Kinda hard to say.  Now I tend to run toward this issue with ANY shoe…just me, I guess…but these were more likely to trigger that response than I was used to.  YMMV.
  • They have stand out style…if you like a muted, hiking/walking shoe type look, then these will not catch your eye.
  • The S.B.S. buckle was problematic.  I had it mousetrap me into the shoe once or twice when, instead of inserting the strap and clicking it tight one notch at a time, I pushed the strap in quickly like ‘bzzzzzpp’.  It did not like that and refused to either tighten or release.  Finally I persuaded it to let go and did not insert it that way again.  As well, the ratchet is difficult to get the strap moving well, often requiring that I both nudge the strap forward with one hand and ratchet with the other hand.
Northwave MTB shoes can be found easily enough on the web for your purchasing pleasure and I have seen them offered at discounts as well, so shop around, especially if you are looking for a well made, stylish shoe that is good in warmer weather.  With an aftermarket insole upgrade, they are worth considering for your riding adventures.

Note: The Northwave shoes were sent over for test/review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches. We are not being bribed or paid for this review. We will strive to give our honest thoughts and opinions throughout.