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The Sidi Jarin MTB Gravel Cycling Shoes are essentially ultra-stiff road shoes for powering through gravel terrain. With maximum power transfer, these are fantastically fun for going fast off-road, though there's no flex for walking and the tread isn't the grippiest, so these aren't as versatile as some.
The Jarin is the Italian brand's first gravel-orientated design, and is best suited for speedy blasts with a mix of off-road and tarmac sections. The Jarins blend design elements from the Sidi Wire 2 road shoes and the MTB Tiger and Drako shoes, for a powerful, stiff road shoe with SPD cleats and some more robust touches.
Handcrafted in Italy, the upper is a thin technical leather that moulds wonderfully to the shape of the foot. I opted for half a size larger than I am in Specialized and Fizik shoes, and this was just right.
Perforations target the inner side, with only a few by comparison on the outer. The leather is very supple and so it provides a comfortable fit without lots of padding. Hitting any puddles, you notice this fabric doesn't hold as much water as more padded alternatives.
Sidi's Tecno-3 Push dials are used for locking the foot down. The dual retention system uses one dial for the soft strap at the top and another dial, centrally aligned, further down the foot, for symmetrical tightening of the internal and external sides.
A handle on the dial can be flipped up by pressing the central button, making it easy to adjust on the go. But these dials can't be micro-loosened like Boa's Li2, making it a little harder to get the tension spot on.
Up top, the soft instep closure strap is quite wide and therefore spreads pressure evenly. If you have narrow feet and are having to cinch up shoes lots this could misplace the ergonomic cut of the closure strap, but not with this system. Tightened up with a dial on the outer side, on the inner side there's a tag to pull the strap back through. This system is adjustable on both sides so you can centre the pad over a high or low instep – basically, where it feels comfortable for your foot shape.
One issue, though, is that if you're pulling the tag through on the inside, the excess strap sticks out and can scrape against the crank – but this can be chopped off if it's an issue for you.
The dual retention system works very effectively at providing reassuring tension across the foot without any pressure points.
Gradients can be quite a lot harsher off-road than on road passes – along my local South Downs playground there are some harsh slopes. Powering up these steep climbs, the reinforced heel cup kept me locked in well – there's a small amount of slippage, but this only occurs in max efforts on these steeper gradients. I've tested the adjustable heel retention device on Sidi's Shot 2s which did seem to lock my heel in better – these shoes could do with this for tackling mighty off-road gradients.
Riding with the Jarins for the first time, I had issues with the tongue digging in, but it turned out this was easily solved. Sidi has built little slits in the tongue that can be cut open for a custom flush fit. After doing this I no longer experienced any pinching.
Stiffness-wise, there's absolutely plenty of that going on – perhaps too much for long off-road rides. The MTB SRS Carbon-Ground sole is fully carbon and it is aggressively stiff.
Sometimes, reaching suitable gravel tracks requires long stints on the road and this is where the Jarins excel. All your power feels as though it's being transferred through the shoe and into pure speed, very much like top-end road shoes on the tarmac. But when you get to the off-road terrain, you may find them uncomfortably stiff after hours on a non-suspension gravel bike. All the vibrations from the rough terrain head straight to your feet and this can become fatiguing.
Some flex at the toe and heel ends of the shoe would go a long way towards making these easier to walk in off-road, too, and more comfortable for longer all-day rides.
The tread blocks on the bottom are all replaceable, but these aren't the tackiest and I found there was insufficient grip on hard surfaces such as rocks. Extra toe spikes can be added for additional control, though.
The sole also features a replaceable reinforcement plate that sits between the cleat and the shoe. It's designed to prevent cracking or denting of the sole, and so far I've not experienced any issues (although I wouldn't expect to so soon!).
Extra reinforcement is included for foot protection, with a textured rubberised toe section and the heel cup.
You can choose between the subtle olive-green or a jazzy iridescent finish. There's no plain black for avoiding kit clashes, which is a shame.
For £360, the Jarins are at the pricey end. Specialized's S-Works Recon Shoes are more expensive at £370 and come with similarly high levels of stiffness, but are also comfortable enough for wearing all day with no complaints.
Fizik's Infinito X1 SPD shoes are cheaper at £324.99 and impressed with a super-stiff sole for excellent power transfer.
But if you are looking for performance shoes with more versatility, Specialized's Recon 3.0 shoes hit the spot and are considerably cheaper at £210. These really impressed with their carbon outsole and glass-fibre forefoot, which make the shoes easy to walk in while still being stiff enough for pleasing amounts of power transfer.
Overall, the Jarins impress with a dialled-in fit and excellent power transfer. For quick blasts and firing up steep climbs, on rides with an even split between tarmac time and gravel time, these were so much fun. But these aren't as suitable for all-day rides or bikepacking adventures, as they are rather difficult to walk in and the ultra-stiff sole can be fatiguing. They're not the most versatile, but probably suit a lot of gravel riding us roadies are up to.
Although these are pricey premium shoes, these will last you thanks to replaceable features throughout. If you are all about going on short and speedy road and off-road rides, you'll find these a delight, but don't expect them to be suitable for much more than this.
Super-stiff shoes for fun off-road blasts with lots of tarmac sections, but not the best for all-day adventures
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road.cc test report
Make and model: Sidi Jarin MTB Gravel Cycling Shoes
Size tested: 43.5
Tell us what the product is for
Saddleback says: "The Sidi Jarin Gravel Cycling Shoes are bred for exploration and adventure – road and MTB features coalesce in a sleek aesthetic that will take you wherever your path leads. If you value lasting comfort, clean-styling and ultra-durability this is the shoe for you.
As more riders adopt a pluralistic approach to cycling, particularly with greater availability of all-road and gravel bikes, the lines of traditional disciplines have blurred, making it difficult to find the ideal shoe for a wide range of conditions. Enter the Jarin: perfectly at home both on and off-road."
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Handmade in Italy
Techpro eco-friendly leather upper
Single Tecno-3 Push closure system for a contoured fit
Sidi SRS carbon ground sole
Soft instep closure system 4
Fully replaceable fasteners, tread blocks and reinforcement mounts
Very well made and finished, using high quality materials throughout.
Performed very well on shorter gravel rides with tarmac sections. Hard to walk in, and stiff sole means these aren't as well suited to all-day adventures.
Well made, with quality materials and components, plus lots of parts are replaceable. I expect these to last very well.
Supple leather moulds well to the shape of the foot and the dual retention locks you down securely, even with narrower feet. The tongue could dig in, but this can be solved by cutting the tongue slits as instructed.
Recommend sizing half a size up.
Perfectly comfy for shorter rides, but the stiff sole can be fatiguing on rough off-road sections as the ride goes on...
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
Wipe clean easily.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Very well on shorter gravel blasts. Excellent power transfer through the stiff sole for giving it some on off-road sections.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Lots of stiffness for powering up steep off-road climbs and for crusing fast on road sections.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
No flex for walking and the tread isn't grippy either.
How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?
Specialized's S-Works Recon shoes are a tad more expensive, but there are lots of stiff cheaper options, including Fizik's Infinito X1 SPD shoes.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your overall score
Overall, these are very good: very well made and use high quality materials throughout. These are ultra stiff, they come with a comfortable and secure closure system, and are built to last thanks to replaceable parts. If you are looking for road shoes for off-road blasts, these absolutely hit the spot. Versatility is not great, though, as there's no flex at all so walking is very difficult and the tread is not very effective either. But these points only really become apparent on all-day adventures.
About the tester
I usually ride: Road bike My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: Every day I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, commuting, touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Gravel riding, indoor turbo and rollers, track
Anna has been hooked on bikes ever since her youthful beginnings at Hillingdon Cycle Circuit. As an avid road and track racer, she reached the heady heights of a ProCyclingStats profile before leaving for university. Having now completed an MA in Multimedia Journalism, she’s hoping to add some (more successful) results. Although her greatest wish is for the broader acceptance of wearing funky cycling socks over the top of leg warmers.