Choosing a new pair of cycling shoes can be a challenge. Often, it’s the “I know what works for me” versus “I would like to try something new.” When it was my turn to face the choice challenge, I felt like going for something new, something I never tried before: Mavic Zxellium.
I saw the Zxelliums for the first time on Thor Hushovd in 2008 Tour de France and 2 thoughts popped in my mind as it happened: these must be Mavics (who else would make yellow road cycling shoes?), and, I want a pair. I knew nothing about how good or not so good they were, but in the ocean of Euro white everyone was wearing on their feet, that striking splash of yellow seemed like a ticket to stand out from the crowd.
I don’t buy cycling gear these days without checking what other cyclists around the world say. After some poking around the web, I learned that the Zxelliums were originally designed by Adidas, and then licensed and refined by Mavic. For me, this was a good sign—I raced in Adidas road shoes in the ’80s and they were great.
Another thing I learned about the Zxelliums: they were ridiculously light—something around 275g per shoe in my size (43 EU). And everyone was raving about how stiff they were. So it seemed like a no-brainer to me: the looks, the weight and the stiffness are all top dog.
Chain Reaction Cycles had by far the best price so I ordered my pair from them. Ten days later I hit the road in the most queer shoes I have ever worn on a bicycle, feeling that some mysterious shoe maker tailor made these shoes for me—that’s how good they fit me. And then the real test began.
Two days later I was in a road race when my front wheel was taken out by an erratic move in front of me. This was my “come back” race after a hip fracture and as I went down, I thought how lucky I was going down on an uninjured hip. Something else I thought between realising I’m going to crash and hitting the asphalt—my beautiful, yellow Mavic shoes! Never mind my equally new bike, it’s the Zxelliums I worried about.
When I got up and saw how much of my skin was gone, I knew the Zxelliums would be scarred too. It was worse than scarred though. I looked down and saw the damage—half of the ratchet buckle was gone, filed away by the tarmac. I was furious; at the guy who took me down and at the stupidity of the damaged, 2 days old, most amazing shoes in the world.
I sat down on the side of the road to wash the wounds. The crash happened on a last lap of a 4-kilometre loop so I wasn’t going anywhere.
While on the ground, I tried to unbuckle the damaged shoe and, to my surprise, it worked—the strap was released from the buckle when I pressed on it. I pushed it back in again and it worked too. Wow, I thought, these babies are good, I can live with a sad looking buckle as long as it worked. And then it got even better.
At the time, I had a teammate who worked in a bike shop. When he saw the damaged Zxellium, he said not to worry about it, and that he’ll get me a new buckle from the Mavic distributor.
“You mean, the buckles are replaceable?” I said.
“Sure they’re, mate,” he replied.
Not even 3 days passed when he gave me a small plastic bag with a pair of new buckles in it—a left and a right one. “They come in pairs,” he said, “so you’ll have an extra one just in case.”
“How much?” I asked.
“Don’t worry about it,” he said, “they (Mavic distributor that is) want you to be happy and enjoy the shoes.”
The next race the Zxelliums got another hit. This time I managed to avoid a mess in front of me, swerved to the left and ended up in someone’s front wheel with my shoe. The guy happened to have one of those blade spokes and one of them cut the side of my shoe like a knife. Bummer! No one crashed though—and that was a good thing—but my poor Zxellium now had an unrepairable cut on its face which gave it a look of a tough street shoe fighter.
I rode in Mavic Zxellium pair 2 full seasons, and then some (at least 40,000km) before they were replaced with Specialized S-Works as part of a sponsorship deal. I didn’t throw them away though. The shoes were so good and well made I decided to use them on a mountain bike. That’s right, a mountain bike. I installed road pedals on my mountain bike and started riding dirt in my yellow Zxelliums. As you can imagine, they’re not as yellow anymore as they used to be—here in Brisbane, it’s either super muddy or super dusty on mountain bike trails; their bottom is scratched by rocks from an occasional walk on unpaved surfaces but they’re still holding on fine. Tough puppies.
So, to round this all up: what’s my impression of Mavic Zxellium road shoes?
- Comfortable to ride in
- Well made
- Once the foot is locked in, it doesn’t move inside the shoe
- Yet, the shoe is not too tight to interfere with the blood flow in the foot
- Plenty of mesh in the upper allows for some good air circulation in and out the shoe which also serves well in the rain—the water escapes through the mesh without a problem.
What else? The Zxelliums are probably no good for you if your feet are wide; they’re on a narrow side of cycling shoe designs.
And finally—if you race, like to attack, often find yourself in breakaways and you know others are watching you, yellow Mavic Zxelliums will make you stand out from a mile away; you’ll be, literally, a moving target. You might think it’s a bad thing—anyone who cares knows where you are. But so what? Let them keep watching you while you keep smashing them on the head until it doesn’t matter anymore if they know where you are or not. And don’t forget, your teammates have eyes too. When they see you on the go, they’ll take care of you back in the peloton or, at least, won’t chase you with the others.
Disclaimer: Please know that my links to Mavic Zxellium shoes in this post are affiliate links and I do earn a commission if you purchase through them. This will not cost you anything. If you do make a purchase, please send an email to me through my contact page so I can personally thank you.
PS: The Zxellium road shoe model is no longer shown on Mavic website, it is replaced with a new line of products. Which means the prices for Zxelliums are now low.
Through my affiliate link on Chain Reaction Cycles, the Zxelliums are at 51% discount right now (January 2015).
The upgraded version, Zxellium Ultimate is at 55% discount. These are good deals.
If your foot size falls outside of popular sizes, I would recommend checking Amazon for some low prices.