Speed and Strength’s Black Nine Moto Shoes
The Speed and Strength Black Nine Moto Shoes are a budget-friendly option for riders seeking more protection than a standard pair of shoes but less bulk than more robust riding boots.
appeal to casual-footwear-seeking riders desiring an understated yet still fashionable shoe/boot that functions well both on and off the bike. I imagine that in the cold, calculated world of marketing demographic breakdowns the Black Nines’ target audience may be the so-called urban-hip, but in truth these shoes are a great choice for anyone that prizes all-day comfortable riding gear. The Black Nine Moto Shoes are relatively easy on the wallet as well, with an MSRP just under $100.
Aesthetically, the Black Nines draw on cues from classic Chuck Taylors and any of the variety of high-top basketball shoes popular in the ‘80s. This throw-back bent may offend some looking to stay off the hipster bandwagon, but for me it translates into features I appreciate in a riding shoe. The high, reinforced ankle is well padded and comfortable when the laces are cinched tight. Minimalist styling features only a few splashes of red on logo tags breaking up the black/white contrast of the pair I sampled. The suede leather upper portion contributes to the vintage vibe, and offers superior abrasion resistance than, say, a thin selection of canvas.
Additionally, Speed and Strength has devised an Under Cover Lacing System which retains the traditional eyelets of a standard lace-up shoe, but which allows the laces to be threaded through loops attached beneath. It’s a stylistic way to help ensure the laces are protected from tearing to bits in the event of a crash. The insole is comfortable from the start but gets better with age, taking the form of my foot after a few months use. The anti-slip rubber outsole lives up to its name, providing sure grip on the pegs and every time I planted my feet on the pavement.
Protection-wise, the Black Nine shoes come with the aforementioned ankle protection, hard but pliable discs found on either side of the ankle. There are molded toe and heel reinforcements as well. The protective qualities are also where the Black Nines fall a bit short, in my estimation. It’s true that in many cases, picking a stylized riding shoe over a sturdier boot brings with it a compromise in protection in the event of a crash, and this instance is no different. The heel and toe cups are thin and flexible when compared to more robust footwear options.
Accept the increased risk and you’ll get a shoe that is great on the bike. As mentioned above, grip is excellent on the pegs and pavement, even when balancing with one foot on a freshened grease spot or tar snake. The suede leather grips the gear shift pedal well, and there’s ample toe space to make moves through the gearbox without worry. After a few months use, I’ve experience no deterioration in the toe material on the left side, despite the absence of any reinforcement on the exterior.
I generally wear a 10.5 shoe, but there are no half-sizes currently available so opted for an 11. They proved a bit large, but certainly not unmanageable, though I’d opt for the size 10 the next time around. Speed and Strength provides a sizing chart on its website with measurements in inches corresponding to each size (8-13) currently available.
As a pair of on-road, around-town riding shoes, the Black Nines are a great choice. They break in quickly and are as comfortable walking through the grocery store as they are during a triple-digit day on the bike. There’s some compromise in terms of protection, but when listed at $99.95 they’re a good bargain, especially considering a brand new pair of high-top Chucks run anywhere from $45 to $60 bucks.
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