Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals: 800 Miles in Baja

Bikepacking in sandals? And non-clipless ones, at that? Cass Gilbert rides 800 Baja Californian miles in a pair of Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals to see what all the Instagram fuss is about… and reports back on how they felt for long distance bikepacking and whether he stubbed his toes…

Share Facebook 0 Twitter Pinterest Google+

If you’re an Instagrammer, you may well have noticed the popularity of Bedrock sandals within some realms of the bikepacking community, a little like the way sandals have taken a foothold (sorry, I couldn’t resist) amongst thru-hikers and even ultra runners.

Bikepacking in sandals, you might ask? No, they don’t have a cleat. No, they’re not especially stiff. No, they’re not cycling specific, except for the fact that they’re comfy, tough, and have withstood the many miles I’ve thrown at them in Baja.

Bedrock offers a range of options; I tried the Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals, one of four in the Cairn range (the original Classics are lighter, cheaper, and more minimal). Navigating the various differences/pros/cons of each model can be little confusing. All Cairns share the same webbing and hardware, with a choice of different outsoles and insoles. The standard Cairn Adventure Sandals, which I tested, have a tough Regolith Vibram outsole, while the Adventure Pros have Vibram’s MegaGrip sole, which is extra tacky and grippy but less long-lasting. I imagine the latter would be a good option for those running flat pedals with short pins. There’s also a new ‘3D’ version, available with both kinds of Vibram soles, which is thicker, stiffer, a little heavier, and includes a sculpted footbed that’s contoured with arch support and a moulded toe triangle. Which is best for you is largely down to personal preference, but given that I ride in especially spiky flat pedals – in this case, the Kona Wah Wah 2’s reviewed here – the standard, lighter, and hard-wearing model seemed like a good choice for me.

  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

Vibram is well known for the quality of its footwear. In the case of the Regolith, I liked how rigid the lugs felt on its tread, connecting well with my pedals without wiggling around. Those same lugs do a good job digging into the earth when pushing the bike, too, which I did plenty of in Baja. As for rough and tumble descents – also a Baja staple – the Cairns stayed nicely glued to the pedals. Somewhat to my surprise given their flexible sole, they felt remarkably comfortable over the relatively long days I was sometimes riding; 65 miles (100km) represents a full and challenging day on the Baja Divide. Perhaps the broad platform of my Kona pedals had something to do with that.

  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

Sandals do, of course, leave your feet exposed to the elements (don’t forget that suncream!). One of my main concerns before committing to sandals on the Baja Divide was the risk of stubbing a toe or skewering myself with a cacti spine. Thankfully, this proved to be an unfounded concern. Sure, I had to take care of errant chollas when straying off the route to find a camp spot – in the same way I do for my tires. But, despite various scrambles up loose rock faces and several desert hikes, I remained spike free. I admit that I did stub my toe twice, one time drawing blood, but that was off the bike rather than on it. And I lived to tell the tale.

And how about for ‘proper’ mountain biking? The Baja Divide includes the possibility of leaving gear to one side and hitting local trails, which include relatively technical singletrack in places. After riding a number of them, I don’t think sandals are the optimal mountain bike footwear for this kind of terrain, particularly given the chicanes of cacti typical to Baja. A lack of closed-toed shoes definitely made me a more apprehensive rider. But, in terms of how they ride for relatively mellow trail biking, there was no issue at all once I’d cinched them in snug and tight.

Indeed, adjustability is the name of the game with the Cairns. Given the high temperatures, I actually found myself loosening the main buckle throughout the day as my foot expanded, which allowed me to feel infinitely more comfortable than I would have in a conventional shoe. The recommended technique is to adjust the velcro heel strap when first setting the Cairns up, and then only use the ladder lock buckle to loosen or tighten the sandals, whether putting them on, pulling them off, or just making minor adjustments. Fit can also be tailored to your foot by changing the position of an aluminium side hook, but I never needed to adjust it. Initially, I was skeptical about the ‘thong’ or Y-yoke; I imagined it rubbing, chafing, and generally feeling awkward in the way it divides the big toe from the rest of the pack. In practice it wasn’t an issue at all. The Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals felt comfortable from day one, though I’ve heard others have taken longer or had the odd blister. Sizing wise, Bedrocks are said to run a little small. Apparently men might want to size up, while women will almost certainly need to. In hindsight, I probably should have done so, too.

  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

As for bikepacking in a warm climate, sandals are absolute bliss and I’m a complete convert. My toes were able to stretch out, feel the cool breeze, and remain – for the most part – sweat and smell free. The ability to stride nonchalantly through water crossings proved welcome. Camping on the beach no longer required the tedious ritual emptying sand from shoes, though occasionally a stone would find itself trapped under my arch and need to be extracted with my fingers. Take note, though: when touring in sandals, your feet will quickly become dirty and crusty like those of vagabonds, so make sure you wash them regularly if want to look respectable (which is easy enough to do, as there are no socks to remove!).

Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

In terms of pricing, $110 is certainly more than your average pair of flip-flops. Dig a little deeper into the Bedrock ethos and you’ll see that it’s likely money well spent, especially if you believe in the value of investing in gear that’s designed to be repaired rather than replaced. The sandals can be resoled for $60 ($70 if you want to upgrade to 3D) and you can also experiment with a different outsole and insole when you want to. Straps can be repaired if need be, though I can’t see them succumbing to much damage, being as burly as they are. The company also donates 1% of their sales to environmental non-profits and sews and assembles their sandals in their small shop in Northern California.

Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

Bedrock’s resoling program is especially good news, as one gripe I have with modern, spiky pedals is how hard they are on the soles of shoes. Yes, the Vibram soles took a beating and a couple of the lugs are damaged, as can be seen in the images. But, all told, I’d expect to get many more miles out of these sandals before they need to be sent back to Bedrock for some TLC.

Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

After a solid month and a half of daily use, I can’t claim to be the committed year-round sandal wearer that some have become, donning them with modified socks for cold conditions. In my mind, at least, they’re definitely more suited to touring in warmer climates, though I can see myself wearing them more often for daily riding, especially now that I’ve overcome my fear of putting in big miles in a non-SPD sandal. They even feel good on short trail runs, which is about the extent of my repertoire of non-biking activities. And I may be imagining it, but I have the impression my feet have become stronger, too. Maybe I’m just using my toes more, now that they have room to stretch out and join in the fun.

Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review
  • Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals Review

Pros

  • Tough build with a durable Vibram sole
  • Lots of adjustability for a snug fit
  • Resoling program makes the Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals a solid investment and gentler on landfills
  • Airy! Begone, smelly feet
  • Save weight on socks!

Cons

  • Significant cost upfront
  • Potential to stub toes when trail riding
  • Model tested: Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals
  • Sizes available: Men’s 5-14, Womens 6-15
  • Average weight: 241 grams (8.5oz) per size 9 sandal
  • Strap colors: Seven to choose from
  • Price: $105
  • Resole: $60
  • Place of Manufacture: California, USA
  • Manufacturer’s Details: BedrockSandals.com

Buy at REI

Wrap Up

Now that my riding in Mexico is complete, it’s time to hang up the Bedrock Cairn Adventure Sandals while I head for colder climes. Which is not to say I won’t miss them, because they’ve been surprisingly enjoyable and capable to tour in during my time in Baja California. Tough. Grippy. Airy. Easily adjusted. And comfortable! Finally, my poor, light-deprived toes can stretch out and enjoy the scenery as much as I do. Several years ago, if you’d have suggested that I embark on a long tour wearing non-bike-specific sandals, riding up to 65 miles in a day across rocky jeep tracks and trails, I’d likely have declared, “I don’t think so! Sandals are too bendy for real cycling, my toes will get beaten and bruised, and they’re just not efficient!” Who’d have thought it. Turns out my former self would have been dead wrong.

  • Graham Merrill

    I received a pair of Shimano Sandals a few years ago as a gift. I use them for Bike packing at the end of the day when I want to let my feet breathe and/or I want to roll into a nearby town for a bite to eat. I use Egg Beater pedals, so since these have a spot for a cleat to attach to them, they work out pretty well. I never thought about using them during the ride, but after reading this, maybe I’ll give them a shot.

  • Old Billy

    Amen. Shed those foot prisons.

  • johnelwood

    I love this idea, but if you’re riding in the North East, you might want to rock the Euro look and don some socks treated with permethrin under your flippy flippies. Tick season is upon us.

  • adventureroadbiker

    I really like the idea of letting my feet breath but after losing a couple of toe nails, while wearing sandals, when I was a kid, I just can’t handle having my toes exposed anymore, on or off the bike. I wish someone did some nice sandals with just a bit of toe protection. All the ones I’ve seen so far look like what my wife calls “die a virgin shoes”.

  • Paul

    Nice! Thanks for writing this!

  • I have toured on and offroad, including steep climbs/descents on unpaved roads, with thongs, sandals and even Crocs and the feeling was great, especially under heavy rain and riding through water paddles or creeks. The only problem I had a very few times were my toes going through small branches. In some conditions, it would be a good thing.

  • Mark Troup

    I really recommend the Keen Newport H2, if you’re not ready to go full-on open toe. Very comfortable and airy, pretty good stiffness, and a very protective toe cap. Pretty much all I wear, even in winter (with some Darn Toughs of course).

  • John Short

    Just another reason flat pedals are killing cycling at all levels, sandals!! It’s bad enough to see actual clipped sandals in use but now this, not sure I am up for it. Walking into a public place in dirty shoes is one thing, but looking at someone’s dirty feet in dirty sandals is something else, not to mention, we don’t all have model feet and those of us who don’t still flash these atrocities around like people really want to see them. Keep sandals for the beach, this is bike riding darn it!

  • Tom

    I’ve used Keen SPD sandals in all their permutations in all weathers apart from the coldest (and only then because I’d hauled a pair of Shimano MT91s along and felt I had to use them) and get along very well with them.

    I’ve lost the habit of non-SPD riding (last done in 2006), but if I was to get back into it, I’d probably use my Chacos (just replaced a pair that lasted 13 years) – again not cheap, but they last well!

  • Mike

    Keens?

  • Cecihayduke

    The one thing I don’t like about the Bedrocks is this webbing style is brutal with socks unless you get some with the little separations for sandals. I’ve brought them bikepacking as camp shoes and when you have to wear your warm socks they’re a fail.

  • johnelwood

    Wow good point. Good for East coasters to take all that into account before buying these with the intention of a carefree naked-footed summer. Until I move somewhere like Arizona I’ll probably keep using something like Keen sandals (w/ toe boxes) that I can pair comfortably with permethrin treated socks.

  • Matt M.

    Cactus spines are easier to deal with when in sandals for me. Reach down, pull it out. In closed-toe shoes spines are more painful and frustrating. The shoe often moves the spine around (painful) bends and breaks it, which results in a full stop. Don’t fear spines in sandals.

    As for stubbed toes, I found Chaco sandals, which I used on the A.T. provided enough protection to avoid them. I know bedrocks are trendier though.

  • Vagabond Bacon

    I bikepack and tour with their competitor, Luna Sandals. They have a model called the Origen, the sole is made of Michelin tire so its extremely wear resistant. It’s a great running/hiking sandal too!

  • 1+ I cycled Baja California in these. Better sun protection too.

  • John

    Not sure what to think about this piece. Hardly seems revelatory to mention cycling in sandals, it has been a thing for a long time. But I guess the need to write about riding in sandals stems more from the state of bike culture (definitely rule bound and rigid in terms of right and wrong ways to ride) and the intended audience for this site (those firmly within bike culture) than anything else.

  • spencer harding
  • Well, this is a review of a pair of sandals. As with the dozens of other various footwear/apparel reviews on this site, I don’t think the goal is ever to be “revelatory,” but rather to provide thoughtful feedback and honest opinions that were formulated while actually putting the gear to use on the trail.

  • Joseph Thill

    I’m curious how these would compare to Chacos or Tevas.

  • It’s certainly not for everyone. You’ll likely not catch me riding in sandals. I don’t much like the idea of exposing my feet to dangers on the trail. I’ve had too many sticks try and skewer me… I like my toenails intact :) That said, I’ve been known to strap a pair of sandals to my seat pack for camp footwear…

  • Smaller and lighter, I suppose…

  • Idle Prentice

    Just picked mine up from REI. They’re probably overpriced, but I love them, and will wear them every day possible. They’re board flat and you get that great barefoot feel. The straps are comfortable and minimalist in a way that TEVA straps never were. You can easily and quickly clean things with a swish in the creek – very little complex strapping to hold mud and sand. There isn’t acres of useless velcro – just a cool set-once hook and a little slide buckle. They’ll stay cleaner and smoother year after year. They ought to cost about half what they do, but I’ve paid more for less comfort and convenience (Keens, for instance).

  • Nathan Fenchak

    She’s already married you, so who cares what your wife thinks about footwear?

  • Cass Gilbert

    John, I think we’ve established that flat pedals have no place in your biking repertoire… so I wasn’t expecting you to warm to the idea of bikepacking in sandals (-;

    My feet may have got dirty but at least they didn’t get smelly, which is far, far worse, in my books…

  • Cass Gilbert

    Re spines… I guess I’m comparing open sandals like the Bedrocks to fairly tough close toe shoes like 5.10s, which have proved impregnable to cacti thus far…

    Hailing from the UK, I’ve not used Chacos… but when I’ve picked them up, they always struck me as kind of heavy and clunky, though I know they’re a right of passage for many and highly regarded. The Bedrocks strike me as a nice balance in weight and durability. They feel good to run in too. Their recycling program earns them a big thumbs up; looks like Chacos have a similar ethos too.

  • Cass Gilbert

    I’ve tried Keens briefly in the past and while the toe bumper was appreciated, I think I’m more in the ‘open toe’ camp, for summer/desert riding at least. The Bedrocks feel less like a shoe to me, and allow my toes to really stretch out (-:

  • Cass Gilbert

    Many years ago, I rode across SE Asia in Shimano SPD sandals and loved them!

  • Cass Gilbert

    I think pricing, and the way we perceive it, is always a hard balance to strike. Given these Cairns are made in the States by a small company… their high cost doesn’t necessarily mean they’re bad value, in my opinion.

    Glad you’re liking them and thanks for your thoughts!

  • Cass Gilbert

    Never say never (-;

  • Idle Prentice

    You’re right and I guess that came out badly. If i lost these over a cliff I’d go buy another pair immediately so they’re worth it for sure.

Share This

others did. Support us and pass it along...

Follow Us

and join the conversation.
art