The First Ascent Gravel MTB Shoes are skate shoe style off-road cycling shoes, designed for use with flat and SPD pedals explains Seamus Allardice.
I’ve destroyed mountain bike shoes hike-a-biking before. The combination of days of riding in wet weather, getting on and off the bike repeatedly, tramping through fields to open and close farm gates, then hiking down the Gantouw Pass in the pouring rain was too much for a pair of traditional MTB shoes. And I don’t hold the manufacturer’s responsible, they designed them for riding, not walking. That’s why I was excited to get my feet in a pair of the First Ascent Gravel MTB Shoes. Because they are in fact designed for both riding and walking.
The Gravel MTB Shoes look like a pair of skate shoes. Except instead of laces, they are closed by a Velcro strap and a BOA style cored system, which First Ascent call the Atop locking mechanism. They feature a nylon sole, with a rubber outsole which provides grip on flat pedals and lose surfaces alike, and a high-density PU upper. To accommodate various styles and levels of riders the Gravel MTB Shoes feature a removable section in the sole, which when screwed in place allow you to ride them with flat pedals. While when removed they feature the standard 4 bolt cleat system, which means you can attach SHIMANO SPD or any other cleats for mountain bike pedals to their sole.
I have used the Gravel MTB Shoes on two bikepacking trips, both of which included a fair amount of hike-a-biking. The first featured a scramble down and then back up a rocky hiking path, while the second required nearly 2-kilometres of walking due to a bad bicycle choice. Turns out gravel bikes and rock-strewn jeep tracks don’t play well together. Fortunately, the shoes devoured the terrain!
Initially I was concerned about the bulk of the Gravel MTB Shoes, but having worn them in their soles have become more supple and I’ve become accustomed to the bulk. They aren’t an off-road racing shoe by any means, but if you’re going to be spending a fair amount of time off the bike, walking around or hike-a-biking they’re perfect. They are well constructed, appear durable and I’m confident that they will survive the next extended mid-winter cycling misadventure.
Aside from that they’re probably ideal for the Gantouw Pass stage of FNB Wines2Whales. With more grip and more flexibility, they’re allow you to get up, or down, the pass much faster. Check them out on the First Ascent website: www.firstascent.co.za. At the time of writing (March 2021) they retailed for R1 599.