Review: Specialized Trail 120 & Defroster MB shoes

4,000 Road Miles and Counting on my Favorite Specialized Cycling Shoes

Specialized Trail 120 MB ShoesI'll admit I liked the look of the Specialized Trail 120 shoes the minute I first saw them. True to their brand name, they've really turned out to be something special.

The rare 3/4 height offers great ankle support throughout the entire pedal stroke and as the images can attest, they've come through the first year with flying colors – well flying grayscale in this case. Other than the obvious concerns over weight, I'm puzzled why more cycling shoes are not designed with the high-top form factor, it's certainly been popular for virtually every other sport.

The Trail 120 has a rock-solid full carbon mid-sole, three secure velcro closures and a really comfortable woven lining with no sharp edges at the top of the shoe. They really didn't need a break-in period. The pair weigh less than 800 grams – negating any weight concerns – and their construction strikes a nice balance between ventilation and wind protection. Worn with a good pair of merino socks they're good down to 40F.

Initially I intended they'd be the ideal commuting shoe. With recessed SPD (MB) cleats, the 120s make it easy to put your feet down at intersections, and as I've demonstrated on numerous occasions when I've forgotten street shoes, wearable around the office. You get a little clicking from the cleat hitting cement if you walk to the corner for lunch, but it's nothing like the tap dance routine you'd perform in a road shoe.

When I purchased my Cervelo SLC-SL, there was nothing preventing me from building it with ultra-light, high-performance pedals and shoes but I had no desire to give up the look, fit or support of the 120s. While I may end up exploring some Crank Brother SPD pedal options, I mounted another set of Shimano A-520s on the Cervelo and haven't looked back.

Sometime soon, I'm going to buy a second pair and tuck them away. You know what always happens when you find something you really love.

           

The Specialized Defroster Promised to be a Warmer, Waterproof, Winter Cycling Shoe – but it's not quite Warm Enough

Specialized Defroster Winter Cycling ShoesI'd hoped that the Specialized Defroster would be an Alaskan version of the Trail 120. As dawn temperatures in Northern California dipped into the low 30s (F) before adding the wind chill of riding, the superb 120s required shoe covers to keep my feet warm.

That was fine for a while. The problem had nothing to do with my favorite shoes, it was just a matter of how long it was taking me to suit up every morning. I reasoned the awkward shoe covers could be eliminated from the routine when I spotted the Defrosters. I also expected the winter shoes to extend the life of the 120s.

I can report after two months of daily use, that it's great to be able to pull on the Defrosters and not fumble with shoe covers – I've got more important layers to worry about. The shoes have proven to be completely waterproof as advertised. They fit well and look pretty svelt for a winter shoe, but even with two pairs of socks, they're just not warm enough. Inevitably, the toes on my right foot end up half-frozen by the end of the 13-mile morning commute.

Normally, I wouldn't bother posting about a product that was almost great. I offer this review in the hope that someone in the Specialized design team finds it, and beefs up the insulation for next season. Then we'd have a real winner.