MBA Product Test: Sidi Defender 20 Shoes

Sidi Defender 20 Shoes

Sidi was founded in 1960 by craftsman and avid rider Dino Signori. Dino’s first pairs of performance footwear were manufactured by hand in Italy, adhering to traditional methods, and finished with a stamp of his initials—”Sidi.” Today, Sidi cycling shoes are synonymous with quality construction. The Defender 20 came about last year when Sidi sought to build a shoe that would work for a very wide range of riders. We strapped a pair of these to our feet to see if Sidi could design a shoe that would work for rugged trail adventure riding, long grinding cross-country miles and all the off-the-bike steps in between.

Tech Features:

The Defender 20 is a mountain-specific shoe that is designed with both on-the-bike performance and versatility in mind. The upper is built with a synthetic material called Politex that uses several overlapping layers of PVC and fabric compressed together to offer strong resistance to laceration, stretching and fading. The Defender 20 uses Sidi’s Tecno 3 fit system that dials in fit along the entire length of the shoe, adapting the upper to the shape of the foot for a customized fit. The closures are held together by an all-new proprietary Sidi Wire material that is non-binding for on-the-fly adjustments. Like most Sidi small parts, the Tecno 3 system is serviceable and replaceable. The sole is Sidi’s Outdoor Rubber, which provides grip on variable trails and mates to a molded and reinforced heel cup to keep your heel in place. Our size-45 test shoes tipped the scales at 996 grams with Shimano SPD cleats mounted. The Defender 20 shoes sell for $225 and can be purchased at any Sidi dealer.

Field test results:

When we set out to review cycling shoes, we expect to compromise certain creature comforts in the name of performance—or vice versa. We know that super-light XC shoes that are incredibly stiff and efficient on the bike will also make you feel like a baby giraffe trying to learn to walk on a sheet of ice. And those clod-hopper flat-pedal shoes that are so comfortable off the bike will leave you pining for that extra bit of power from the upstroke if only you’d chosen to ride clips. The Defender 20 avoids both of those pitfalls, delivering a shoe that’s stiff and efficient with a firm sole that feels like it’s putting every bit of power to the pedals. The upper is form-fitting and molds to the foot nicely, a feature that’s even more noticeable with the easy-to-use, single-buckle wire closure. Just a quick spin of this “buckle” dial cinches the shoes closed with no noticeable binding in the wire or bunches in the tongue, which stays neatly in place even on long rides.

Thanks to the molded heel cup, you don’t need to run the closure system overly tight to keep the heel in place. The insole is thin and firm because Sidi relies on the excellent contours inside the shoe to cradle your foot, not just a cushy sponge underneath for comfort. The outsole is aggressive enough to provide off-the-bike traction, as well as any other shoe we’ve tried on rough terrain, even compared to flat-pedal shoes with sticky rubber. The Defender has an airy ventilation system that makes it a solid choice for summer heat but less than water-resistant water in wet weather. Overall, the construction is rugged but refined. The shoe is well-made but not overbuilt.

It’s rare that we find a product that ticks all the boxes for such a wide range of riders. It’s even more impressive when that product isn’t the most expensive one on the planet. At $225, you might not think the Defender is a bargain, but you should take into account that we’ve seen other Sidis in our collection last the better part of a decade. The Defender 20s didn’t ask us to compromise a thing, uphill or down, on the bike or in hike-a-bike situations. Sidi uses a smart blend of features and topnotch construction to deliver all the goods you need on the mountain, and we expect these shoes to be on our feet for many trail miles to come.

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