Well, actually, they look a lot like every road bike shoe you’ve seen. Which is what makes their the new Specialized S-Works EXOS’ 99g claimed weight so insane, perhaps more so than the $700 price tag. Too much? Or, rather, too little? Don’t worry, there’s also a 150g “standard” EXOS version that adds a Boa IP1 dial and a touch more carbon for just $499.
Both shoes use a similar Dyneema upper with modified carbon fiber soles and a new heel cup design to achieve these insane weights. Which is really just glossing over the details, so we reached out to the Specialized’s footwear category manager, Stephen Quay, to see how they did it…
Following is a short interview with Quay, but for the answers to make sense, here’s a brief overview of the new Specialized EXOS shoes. The uppers are constructed of a 4-ply, custom made Dyneema material bonded to a mesh liner. This effectively creates a single piece of fabric that won’t stretch and weighs practically nothing, so it’ll support your foot without any bulk. And the “vamp” is designed to wrap your forefoot without the structure typically created by a toe box.
At the back is a new heel cup design that uses a bit more fabric to allow for a tiny bit of stretch so you can get into it easily. But the layers and shaping of the Dyneema panels there act as a soft heel cup to trap your foot. They say it’s as effective as the molded thermoplastic heel cup on the SW7 shoes, but way lighter.
The EXOS 99 gets a modified construction with laces to save weight, and the standard EXOS is shaped to use a Boa IP1 two-way dial. They chose this dial because it can tighten and loosen with indexed clicks and pulls cable in from both directions, which lets it cinch the upper around your foot in a more uniform manner. It also has enough cable spooling to open wide for easy entry, then pull tight enough to secure your foot.
How secure? They’re saying it’s a race shoe, and if anything’s going to stretch or stress the system, it’s a finish line sprint. So it has to be secure.
Underneath is a new FACT Powerline carbon sole that uses less material than ever. Thanks to ridges and advanced shaping, they were able to give it a proper stiffness index of 13 (slightly less than the S-Works 7 shoes, but equal to the prior gen SW6 shoes). The design leaves some cutouts where their analysis showed the extra material wasn’t needed. They use titanium alloy cleat plates that can flip 180º to give you 5mm of fore/aft adjustment on top of whatever your cleats offer.
Inside are all three Body Geometry features all of their shoes offer: forefoot Varus angulation, longitudinal arch support, and metatarsal button. The shoes come with a BG+ footbed and are compatible with their aftermarket custom and semi-custom footbeds and forefoot wedges.
How did Specialized make a 99g shoe?
BIKERUMOR: Just so we’re clear, the EXOS 99 uses laces rather than the BOA IP1 dial…any other key differences?
QUAY: Correct. This switch let us save some weight not only from the closure system, but also tongue and eyelet construction. The upper is otherwise left unchanged, except for a slight change in the TPU shape on the medial and lateral quarters. The biggest additional change between EXOS and EXOS 99 is in the outsole construction. We use a bigger PU cookie and refined carbon layers in the 99, reducing plate weight by about 15g. This makes it super difficult to manufacture and is one of the reasons there will be limited quantities of EXOS 99. The EXOS 99 also has a special heel lug which is bonded in without a screw (which can be replaced with the standard SW EXOS heel lug when it wears out) – not a major component, but it saved us about 1-2g.
BIKERUMOR: Is the lace material anything special?
QUAY: Yes, it is a tubular non-stretch lace. We also hand-trim the aglets (the little things on the ends of the lace that keep them from fraying), saving us about 0.5-1g in total shoe weight.
BIKERUMOR: What’s the weight difference in the carbon sole from the S-Works 7 compared to the Exo?
QUAY: Roughly 8-10g in carbon and about 5g in the toe lug
BIKERUMOR: What is a “vamp” as used in the shoe descriptions?
QUAY: Ah! The “vamp” is shoe jargon for the toe area.
BIKERUMOR: Any rider weight limits on these?
QUAY: Yes, 100kg (240lb)
BIKERUMOR: When are they available for sale and shipping?
QUAY: Both shoes are launching on the 26th of this month (at 9am Pacific time), but the EXOS 99 is being done by preorder directly through our retail partners. The Exos 99 will ship to the retail partner for riders on May 1st.
BIKERUMOR: What is CubicTec?
QUAY: CubicTec is a special blend of Dyneema fibers – a very low-stretch, highly-adaptive, and lightweight material. These are the same special fibers used in things like reentry parachutes for spacecraft and spinnaker sales on racing sailboats. The CubicTec process is taking these fibers, orienting them to achieve the desired stretch properties (in the case of SW EXOS, we do a 4-ply layup at 0d, 45d, -45d, and 90d to lock stretch in all directions), and then pressing them together to for a single material. This material, being ridiculously light yet strong enough to make a performance shoe out of, is one of the things that makes the SW EXOS and EXOS 99 so special, because it means we can shed weight without sacrificing the hold on the foot.
What else do you need to know?
They’re durable. Dyneema is the latest wonder material in the cycling world for a reason. It’s insanely light and equally strong. Specialized says these shoes are as durable as any of their other high end shoes and carry the same warranty.
That 99g and 150g weight claim? Those are for a size 42, single shoe. For the EXOS 99, they’re going a step further and setting a maximum weight per shoe per size, which is monitored and managed for every single one:
|Maximum allowable weight (g)|
The EXOS 99 will come only in the Rocket Red, and the regular version will be available in White or Black. If you want the EXO 99, act quick to drop a deposit at your local Specialized dealer, only 500 pair will be made, offered on pre-order and delivered later this spring.