Specialized Recon Mixed (Terrain) Shoes: Remixed.
‘Where the pavement ends, adventure begins.’ A lightweight and stiff shoe with classic stylings, built for road and gravel exploration. After a year of use, here’s our review.
As the latter portion of its name suggests, the Recon Mixed shoe is designed to tackle a variety of surfaces, from pavement to gravel to singletrack trails. It’s made for all-day riding and contrary to its handsome aesthetic, built for the rough stuff. The retail hang tag, die cut in the profile of Mt. Tam (Tamalpais), reads, ‘Where the pavement ends, adventure begins.’ From a marketing perspective, Specialized without a doubt had ‘gravel-grinders’ pegged as the target audience. When I first received these shoes a year ago, although I’d ridden my fair share of ‘class 5’, I didn’t consider myself a gravel aficionado… But when I opened the box my eyes twinkled and I immediately yearned for that familiar bacon-frying sound beneath the tires.
The term ‘all-road’ has gained main stream status in the last year. Throwing glamorous industry definitions out the window, it’s essentially mixed terrain riding on a road bike, perhaps with larger 40mm+ tires. For bikepacking, the concept is interesting: leave from your front door on tarmac, ride fast, ride far, find an abandoned national forest road, dig a little deeper on some double track, camp, and return the following day in time for lunch at tour local neighborhood deli. It’s about taking a road bike to the next level. Bikes such as the Niner RLT 9 Steel, Specialized’s new Sequoia, and the Salsa Cutthroat come to mind.
The Recon Mixed sports a stiff carbon sole, perfect for transferring power over long stretches, but not ideal for the prospect of long and burly hike-a-bikes. That said, it’s surprisingly not too bad when lugging a loaded rig over rocky steeps. The pugnacious Slipnot™ rubber tread is fairly soft and grippy enough to provide traction over the cobbliest of hike-a-bikes. Think portage over a rail bed, or clamoring up short steep sections, not necessarily trudging over infinite passes in the Andes. I am not sure I get the removable hard plastic toe studs though. While it seems like they might add some traction on loose rubble, they often cause slippage on rocks or hard surfaces; but then again, they’re removable. Perhaps they are specifically for CX use.
Recon Mixed are constructed from a handsome ‘Italian leather’ outer, which is actually a synthetic water-resistant and vented material called ‘Micromatrix’. The toe box is protected by a molded rubber kick. Specialized claims that the classic lace-up design provides a true adaptive fit, which I can get behind. In my opinion, for fine tuning the fit, lace-ups always have an edge on velcro or ratcheting designs. Specialized also upped the ante with water-resistant, non-stretch laces and an elastic lace-lock that keeps them tidy. The added lace holes provide the opportunity for a ‘runners lace’ that allows additional control over heel slippage.
The Recon is ergonomically designed based on Specialized’s ‘Body Geometry’, which they suggest maximizes power and comfort. Out of the box the Recons were extremely comfortable, especially for SPDs. They are not a walking shoe, by any stretch of the imagination, but they fit like a glove without any odd pressure points, typical of many new shoes. On initial impression, they felt like a shoe that could be ridden for for a while without fatigue. And, after some such days on various gravel and mixed-terrain bikepacking routes, and many long day rides, the Recon has proven to be quite the comfortable big mile shoe. And, it’s held up without any issues; it hasn’t stretched too much and the tread has barely worn.
- Price: $249.95
- Weight (size 10US/43EU): 357 grams per shoe
- Place of Manufacture: Vietnam
- Contact: Specialized.com
Wrap Up (updated)
Performance underpinnings and aggressive tread mixed with a stylish Paris-Roubaix/Italian leather aesthetic automatically makes the Recon highly intriguing. They are beautifully rugged looking shoes. And after putting a pair through their paces over the last year, they seem to perform about as well as they look. However, the Recon Mixed don’t come without complaints. Aside from a very heft $250 price tag, my other main beef is with the odd-ball hard toe studs, but again, they’re removable; although I’d have rather seen soft gripper studs in their place. Ultimately the Recon Mixed is not a shoe I’d take on rough and tumble singletrack trips, full of long hike-a-bike sections. But it is a super comfortable, hard-wearing shoe that performs really well for what it’s marketed for — gravel riding and mixed terrain adventure.
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