Teva Pivot Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe
Intended Use: All-Mountain riding that involves pedaling, but not spandex
Size Tested: U.S. 10
Rider: 5’9”, 150 lbs., rides clipless for everything but dirt jumping
Pedals: Time pedals – MX6, Z-Strong and Atac
Days Used: ~20 days
Test Locations: Mainly around Whitefish, Montana, with some time in Hood River, Oregon and Coeur D’Alene, Idaho
Teva dove into the bike scene a few years ago with the Links shoe, but the new Pivot model is Teva’s first clipless compatible shoe. And while there are plenty of examples of companies that try to branch out into new sports and fail miserably, Teva hit the nail on the head with the Pivot. It’s got a couple uncommon features that are really good ideas, and really well executed.
When I’m looking at clipless shoes, I generally put them into two categories: (1) cross country-oriented shoes with buckles and ratchets, where power transfer is top priority and walkability is secondary, and (2) skate-style shoes that are often more comfortable to walk in and they usually have some added ankle protection, but power transfer tends to be sub-par.
The Pivot falls somewhere in the middle, which makes sense since Teva designed the shoe with all-around trail riding in mind. Teva unabashedly claims that the Pivot looks terrible with spandex (I didn’t test this, but I imagine it’s true), but the Pivot is also not really a full downhill shoe. It simply does an awesome job at pretty much everything in between.
Stiffness / Power Transfer
A big part of why I ride clipless pedals is that they allow me to put the power down when needed. Almost all clipless shoes have a rigid shank in the sole; the stiffer the shank, the more efficiently you can transfer power to the pedals.
High-end XC shoes generally use a carbon fiber shank for maximum stiffness and light weight, but most shoes (including the Pivot) use a plastic shank. I found the Pivots to be not quite as stiff as a full-bore race shoe, but fairly stiff by non-race shoe standards. They’re quite a bit stiffer than other skate style shoes I’ve tried, like the 5.10 Maltese Falcon.
Power transfer has always been a problem I’ve had with skate-style shoes—the lace up enclosure and the mid-foot strap (I’m gonna call them powerstraps, since that sounds more badass) that most skate-style shoes have don’t generally do a particularly good job of locking in my foot. And like a ski boot, the stiffness of the boot or shoe ultimately doesn’t do any good if there is too much slop in the boot or shoe.
I’ve spent a fair amount of time in some 661 Filter shoes as well as some 5.10 Maltese Falcons, and neither of those do a good job of really holding my foot in place. The Pivot has far better foot retention than any other skate-style shoe I’ve tried, including the Filters and the Maltese Falcons. In terms of locking down my foot, I would say they’re right up there with some XC-race oriented Shimano and Sidi shoes.
While the Pivot doesn’t initially look that much different than, for instance, the 5.10 Maltese Falcon, there are a couple seemingly subtle differences that help them hold my foot more securely.
First, the Pivot’s laces come up a bit higher than most other skate style shoes I’ve tried. The laces on the 5.10s end just below the powerstrap, while the laces on the Pivot continue past the powerstrap.
Second, the Pivot’s powerstrap actually delivers power; it’s wide (about 50% wider than the Maltese Falcon’s), and you can synch it down really tight. For pretty much every other skate-style shoe I’ve ridden, I’ve always just cranked the strap down as tight as I could get it. I did that on my first ride in the Pivots, and my foot went to sleep within ¼ mile—you can get the straps really tight.
The straps on lots of other shoes seem like they’re mostly there to keep the laces out of the way, but the strap on the Pivot is clearly designed to improve pedaling efficiency.
Third, the Pivot is fairly narrow around the heel and mid-foot, which further allows the powerstrap to do its job; when you crank it down, it’s really hugging your foot. On a wider shoe, the strap has to flex the sides of the shoe in to grab my foot, which makes for a less secure hold.
Finally, the Pivot has a really solid heel. There’s a piece of plastic that wraps around the back, making the heel of the shoe quite stiff. When you’re pulling up on the shoe to apply power on the upstroke, that stiff heel keeps everything locked in and does a great job of efficiently transferring power to the pedals.
I’ve never really spent a whole lot of time thinking about laces, but they’re a perpetual problem on bike shoes. Once the shoes get dirty and dusty, the dirt acts like an abrasive on the laces, quickly leading to deterioration and breakage. This sucks, particularly when you’re in the parking lot suiting up for a ride and your shoelace decides to make itself much shorter. I’ve literally had to duct tape my shoe onto my foot when a dry, rotted lace died on me at the start of a ride.
Some shoes, like the Shimano AM45 (see Blister’s review of the Shimano AM45) go so far as to use a full lace cover to keep the laces clean. The Pivot just uses nice laces. They’re some sort of super dense weave that, so far, dirt doesn’t seem to really penetrate. I’m sure that over time these will begin to deteriorate, but it also seems like they’ll last a lot longer than the “normal” laces used in most other bike shoes.
In theory, I wear bike shoes for biking and walking shoes for walking. But in reality, I spend plenty of time walking around in bike shoes. And the Teva Pivot is hands down the most walkable bike shoe I’ve ever worn.
First and foremost, the stiff shank ends right in front of the cleat attachment area. This means that the toes bend fairly easily, which makes walking much more comfortable.
That might sound like a fairly minor feature, but to the best of my recollection, I can’t think of another performance bike shoe that does this; normally, the shank runs all the way to the front of the shoe.
And in very good news, I have not found the shorter shank to affect power transfer in any appreciable way; your toes aren’t the source of your power when pedaling. I found myself wondering why this is not a standard feature on most bike shoes. It should be, because it’s awesome.
Another big bonus for walkability is the deeply recessed cleat area. While this can make cleat setup a little trickier (more on that below), it means that my cleats don’t touch the ground when I’m walking. That means no more clack-clack-clack while walking across pavement, and no more broadcasting to everyone in the bar that I’m wearing bike shoes.
Teva also incorporates some foam into the Pivot’s soles, which is a feature that you won’t find on many other bike shoes. It’s the same sort of foam that you’ll find in pretty much every walking shoe, because it cushions your steps. I don’t plan on walking such long distances in these shoes that this really matters, but it certainly doesn’t hurt anything.