Although it’s not new to South Africa, Northwave isn’t a very common shoe brand in the country. The Italian brand, which also makes gloves, helmets, eyewear and clothing, is one of the most respected cycling shoe brands with models for every cycling discipline and probably the biggest size range in the world. Northwave is one of the few brands that also makes shoes for kids, with sizing starting from 32 (UK 1).
Northwave has a deep racing heritage with former mountain bike greats like Paola Pezzo and Cadel Evans donning the brand and current stars, including Gunn Rita Dahle Flesjaa, Marco Fontana and Jose Hermida racing the Northwave brand at the highest level.
The Nirvana construction is a blend of stitched sections with reinforced therma welded sections for high-impact areas. There’s a solidly shaped toe box section matched to the molded and reinforced integrated heel. The sole is a blend of injection molded TPU nylon with a carbon fibre insert. All this utilises the BioMap system, Northwave’s own anatomic design, claimed to maximise fit and comfort. Interestingly, Northwave uses its own closure system. Similar to the BOA closure system, the SLW2 (Speed Lace Winch) has a manual release lever instead of the traditional BOA dial. This can also be adjusted in micro-increments on the fly, while the lower portions of the shoe have two Velcro straps. Mesh on the heel and top of the toe areas keeps things cool and quick drying.
Immediately apparent is the snug fit. To be clear, it’s a good snug, not a bad snug. We did have to be careful with tensioning the toe straps and dial though. Initially it’s easy to over tighten. After a few rides we didn’t actually loosen or tighten the Velcro straps, just used the dial, even when putting shoes on a removing them. A good feature is being able to make micro-adjustments on the fly. The tighten/loosen increments are quite obvious compared to most BOA systems we’ve used. We like this. Our test rider experienced some discomfort in his right foot on one of the early, long rides, but a cleat position adjustment resolved this. So it was more a set-up issue than any reflection on the Nirvanas. Other than that incident, the Nirvanas were really comfortable and efficient. The soles were pretty stiff, not quite as stiff as some top-end race shoes, but definitely stiff enough for high performance use. And we certainly put the Nirvanas through some varied rides, from predictable forest trails to rough, loose, rocky tracks; from coffee rides to marathon races to an Enduro race.
By the end of the test period (seven weeks), the toe box was a little scuffed, but the form and structure weren’t compromised, more an aesthetic blemish, but to be expected after such an intense period of use.
If you’re after shoes that aren’t that common and are a serious mountain bike rider/racer, the Northwave Nirvanas should be on your radar.
WEIGHT: 820g pair, with cleats (size 43)
COLOURS: Black/Yellow Fluo, Black/Green Fluo, Black/White/Red (tested)
SIZES: 37-47 (+ 39.5 and 45.5)
CONTACT: www.hullabaloo.co.za ; 012 660 0016
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 35, 2015 and can be found on Zinio – All rights reserved