& Mitch Rosset
Price: $399.99 MSRP
High Performance at a Price
A few months ago, Northwave (NW) contacted RBR to see if we’d be interested in testing their new high-end road shoe, the Extreme RR. We had seen the Italian maker’s shoe at last year’s Interbike show and were intrigued by some of the high-end and proprietary features. My previous experience with NW has only been with their winter riding boots, which I own in both road and MTB versions.
The Extreme RR is only available in a men’s version and sizes, but are definitely fashionable enough to pass as unisex. (As I am over six feet tall, the sizing issue is not a concern for me.) I ordered a 45, since that’s what my NW winter boots are.
When I first tried on the Extreme RR’s with the Pro Regular fit insert, they were a little wide. Then I swapped out the footbed for the Pro Slim Fit, which provides an extra 2mm toe insert for narrow feet. (The shoes come with both footbeds to help dial in the fit.) Since men’s shoes run wider, and I have a narrow foot, the Slim footbed made for a more comfortable fit.
I went on to try the shoes during several indoor CompuTrainer classes before the weather allowed much outdoor riding during springtime in Chicago, but the synthetic upper material was just too warm for me. I also tried the shoes on a couple of road rides when possible but, again, my feet were too warm.
My boyfriend, Mitch, had been looking for a new pair of road shoes and decided to try on the Extreme RR’s. He really liked them and soon he was RBR’s newest product tester. Below are his thoughts on the shoes after putting in many hours of riding, including an 80-miler in Virginia as part of Storming Thunder Ridge (major climbing) and a Midwest century ride in late June.
Numerous Comfort & Fit Features
The Extreme RR offers a number of features for rider comfort and fit. Among them (in addition to the two different footbeds) are a somewhat larger than typical toe box, ultralight Carbon 15 sole (stiffness index of 15.0) and SLW2 dial for step-by-step micro adjustments – either looser or tighter.
The larger toe box provides added room, but not so much that my foot shifted around. The stiff carbon sole and synthetic upper provides great power transfer. And NW’s proprietary Boa-type SLW2 single-dial closure provides a single ratcheting system that enables me to precisely set the tension.
I can’t say that overall it’s either better or worse than the Boa system that is ubiquitous these days; it just operates a little differently to achieve much the same result. The only negative we found is the quick-release system of the SLW2. It basically requires both hands to operate: you pull and hold up the silver lever (see photo) while pulling out the cable “laces” to loosen them throughout the shoe. Sheri and I both struggled with this at first until we got the hang of it.
The shoe is designed without a traditional tongue and has an overlap section along the top, so that the closure system operates more toward the outside of each shoe. NW’s Xframe® design, combined with the tension cable system and fabric anchor points along the side of the foot, provide a superbly snug fit without pressure points.
Venting and Breathability
The uppers of these shoes are composed of a perforated synthetic leather material that doesn’t breathe that well. However, the bottom of the shoe has large vents. NW’s marketing materials rate breathability as a 4 out of 5. I’d say it is more like a 3. So in warmer weather my feet did run hotter, but nothing too uncomfortable.
We tested the black version of the shoes, which have high-vis details on the side (logo) and a reflective strip on the heal. The inside uses an integrated heel system with a one-way directional fiber (“cat’s tongue”), which prevents slipping. So it is easy to slip on the shoe, but the fabric prevents your heal from slipping out during your pedal stroke.
The sole accepts standard three-bolt cleats, as well as NW’s Speedplay four-bolt adapter for the lowest stack height between foot and pedal.
Northwave’s new top-of-the-line Extreme RR road shoe hits a home run in my book, being very light, stiff, and comfortable, with a single-dial adjustment system to literally dial in the fit.
This lightweight shoe is good for racing, but also is comfortable to wear on an all-day road ride. The low-cut, minimalistic style fits the bill for me, too.
The price tag is, admittedly, a lot to pay for a pair of shoes. But these shoes deliver the level of comfort, fit, style and performance features that you would expect from an high-end Italian maker.
Sheri Rosenbaum regularly contributes articles and reviews products for RBR. She’s an avid recreational roadie who lives in the Chicago area and a major advocate for women's cycling, serving on the board of directors and volunteering with the Dare2tri Paratriathlon Club. Click to read Sheri's full bio.