In the grand scheme of mountain biking equipment, if there’s one area that has lagged behind in terms of options, in my opinion it would have to be shoes. Like a large portion of my riding buddies and the riding population, most of my riding fits in somewhere between XC and what we would now refer to as Enduro. According to industry lingo that would more or less fall under the “Trail” umbrella. Ever since I started mountain biking in the mid-90s, most riding shoes have typically been either too race-y for my liking or at the other end of the spectrum with a bulky shape and more protection than I really need.
Fortunately, along with the stratification of mountain biking has come an increased focus on what different types of riders expect from their equipment. The same thing that works for an XC racer is going to be very different than the needs of a recreational trail rider, and so on, and so on… Specialized certainly is not the first company to capitalize on this trend towards diversification, but they too wanted a shoe that was better suited to fast trail riding. Not quite Enduro/DH, not quite XC, with their latest footwear offering, Specialized is honing in on the perfect mix of Trail pedaling performance, walkability, and protection.
A natural extension to the 2FO footwear line, the 2FO Clip Lite could be considered the mutant offspring of the 2FO Clip and the S-Works XC shoes – a shoe that is light and comfortable enough for all day epics, but still burly enough for when the trail gets rowdy…
In spite of the fact that the 2FO clipless shoe was just successfully introduced last year, Specialized’ footwear designers wanted something better suited towards fast trail riding. Pointing out that the average rider can make as many as 10,000 pedal strokes over the course of a 3 hour trail ride, Specialized took some of the best features from the 2FO Clipless and cut out weight where possible. Side by side there isn’t a huge difference between the two but the ClipLite is definitely slimmer and runs a standard sized fit instead of the roomier fit on the Clipless. Overall Specialized was able to trim 50g per shoe for a weight of 389g for a single size 42.
Inside, the ClipLite still has the same 3/4 Lollipop nylon shank of the Clipless which is where the shoe gets its efficiency. Since the the shank is only 3/4 of the length of the shoe, the heel zone remains flexible for comfortable walking – of which we did quite a bit during our ride up to Mt. Elwell. The sole also continues the use of grippy Slipnot rubber which is molded around the Landing Strip cleat pocket. With a name like 2FO (Foot Out, Flat Out) you’d expect the ability to quickly throw a leg out around a corner and get back on the gas just as fast which is exactly what the shoe delivers. The cleat slot on the shoe is also extended 4mm for riders that prefer a more rearward cleat position.
One of the most obvious changes to the ClipLite is the use of Boa dials instead of laces for the Zonal closure system. Using a proprietary dial only available to Specialized, the dials operate similar to the new IP1 reels in that if you turn them one way they tighten, and turn the opposite direction they will loosen. The Specialized/Boa S2 dial also has a unique shape that is fairly low profile and sits up higher on the shoe to avoid damage from obstacles on the trail. Designed as a cartridge system the individual dials are easily removed with a flat blade screwdriver and can be replaced with aftermarket color options, or as part of the lifetime warranty. Below the two S2 dials is a single velcro strap which probably won’t be touched again once set. Under all of that is a gusseted tongue designed to keep debris out of the inside of the shoe.
As part of the weight shedding process the thickness of the rubber sole has been reduced and has been replaced with more EVA foam. The cushioned midsole and molded heel cup are meant to improve the stability of the foot and in an attempt to protect the EVA foam from damage it has a TPU skin surrounding it. Along the back of the heel is a hard heel collar which will help keep the heel from breaking down over time and offers further support.
If you’ve ever smashed your foot on a rock or a root while wearing XC slippers you know that protection isn’t just for downhill, but just how much do you need? To reach a balance between the 2FO Clipless and something like the S-Works XC, the ClipLite is given an asymmetrical toe kick to protect your little piggies from rock strikes. There is also a padded ankle cuff on the inside of the shoe near the crank, as well as Ceramic printing around the shoe for reinforcement and abrasion resistance. Ceramic printing might not sound like much protection, but the technology is already being used elsewhere in the industry for abrasion resistance to impressive results.
Sold with a Body Geometry insole, the shoe includes the lowest arch profile. That leaves the blue and green BG insoles for riders with higher arches which are available through Specialized dealers.
Sold in 4 “men’s” and 2 “women’s” colors, technically there is no difference between the two other than the size run. The two on the right side above are the women’s shoes which are sold in size 36-44, while the other four colors will go up to size 48. Available July 15th, the 2FO ClipLite will sell for $180 while the pricing for the standard 2FO Clipless will drop to $149.
#DestinationTrail – if you follow Specialized, you’ve probably seen the hashtag. To launch the new 2FO ClipLite as well as the new Camber, Specialized brought us out to get the full trail experience. That meant traveling to Graeagle, California for trails worthy of the hashtag and a location that was the prefect backdrop to show off the new product.
If you haven’t ridden in the Graeagle area before, it is as rugged as it is beautiful. Relatively new to developed mountain bike trails, groups like the Sierra Buttes Trail Stewardship and Yuba Expeditions have put in a ton of work on trails like Mill’s Peak. Just a stone’s throw away you have the world famous Downieville Downhill where we were provided with shuttles to the top from Downieville Outfitters. Needless to say, if you’re into mountain biking this area is tough to beat.
While Mill’s Peak and Downieville were epic fun, it was the ride up to and down from Mt. Elwell that was the true test for the 2FO ClipLites. What started as a leisurely pedal from the lodge quickly turned into a boulder strewn technical grunt of a climb which eventually gave way to a good amount of hike-a-bike. Nearly five hours of clipping in and out, pushing, hiking, rock climbing to the summit, and absolutely ripping on the way down was a pretty solid test of what has proven to be an awesome shoe.
Coming from someone who typically needs their shoes on the wider side for room in the toebox, the ClipLite seems to fit pretty well even with the reduced volume. Recently I wore them with the thickest pair of socks I own and I was able to feel my pinky toe against the side of the shoe, but with normal socks it isn’t noticeable. I would say the fit is on the wider side of shoes that don’t come with a wide designation. The only other fit consideration comes from the insole since the shoe is built around a varus wedge that tilts your foot up to the inside. To me the tilt is a little too much but after discussing the fit with Specialized shoe guru Rob Cook, I may be one of the few riders who would benefit from a valgus wedge which tilts your foot the other way, or at least a neutral foot bed. If you’re used to the fit of Specialized Body Geometry insoles then the fit of the ClipLite will be perfect. I plan on trying out some different insoles to see what it does for my fit.
On the bike, the ClipLites felt instantly familiar which is always a good thing when you’re riding gnarly trails with a lot of fast riders. About half way through the Downieville ride there was a distinctive moment where I realized how easy it was to clip in an out. From that point on it really way foot out flat out around corners but more importantly – easy to get out if you have to dab.
There are a number of shoes in my closet that I would not have wanted to be wearing while we were pushing up Mt. Elwell. Fortunately, the ClipLite will not be joining that group. Even after a long day of some extremely steep hikes, my feet and ankles were still happy.
Elsewhere the shoes seemed to perform as advertised offering plenty of grip on wet, slimy rocks (it rained a lot while we were there), and no painful impacts to my toes – though you wouldn’t know it by the scuffs on the toe. Finally, while it doesn’t look that ventilated, after a hot day on Mt. Elwell I wasn’t left wishing for more vents.
What you’re left with is a shoe that isn’t overly bulky, is easy to hike around in, offers plenty of performance, and is all day comfortable. With the exception of XC racers, what’s not to love?