I have a perfectly good, but worn and well-loved, pair of Sidi Dominator 6 shoes, which share many of the same features as the Dragon 2.
However, I recently discovered that my feet have gotten a tiny bit bigger and no longer fit so well in these size 46 shoes. I can still ride with them fine once I wedge my feet in, but walking, and especially running in cyclocross, hammers my toes. So I got a pair of blue 46.5 Dragon 2s because they looked so beautiful as well as being bigger.
I once again fell in love with the Sidi fit and comfort, but now also with the shiny good looks of the Vernice (means “varnish” in Italian) model. Thing is, I wasn’t sure which size was better for me, both now and in the long run, so I bought a second pair, in red and in size 47. For beautiful, comfortable, high-performance shoes to come in Euro half sizes in big boat sizes like mine is truly a luxury, and while I reveled in it, the down side is that I just could not decide which size (and color!) was better and ended up spending a bunch of money I hadn’t intended to. Had black been the only color option, I would have just stuck with a single pair, but once I got those red ones on my feet, I had to have them. After all, they match my red bike and my VeloNews red/black/white team kit.
Sidi uppers always fit great on my feet, and the soft Lorica microfiber synthetic leather fabric is quite soft, even though it looks hard and shiny. The screw-on “Adjustable Heel Security System” is a U-shaped plastic band that that brings the shoe in snugly around the Achilles tendon and below the ankle bones and will tighten down a total of 6mm; you can remove it with a single screw if it’s too constricting.
The sole lugs are soft enough for good grip but hard enough that they don’t get torn up quickly (like my first pair of Sidi MTB shoes with replaceable tread). And when the lugs do get torn up, you can replace them with a Phillips screwdriver.
The Dragon 2 comes with an optional toe guard that screws on where the toe lugs attach (still allowing toe spikes) and covers the toe against abrasion and impact with a solid plastic cover. I also got these toe guards with my Dominator 6s, but I never used them. I couldn’t see the point to them then, but now I do. The toes on my Dominator 6s are really scuffed, worn, and a bit torn up. I have an old pair of Sidis where this has happened to the point that I have patched the holes around the edge of the outsole with Shoe Goo and still sand gets in when running through it.
I don’t want that to happen with these Vernice shoes; in fact, I don’t even want to know what color that Lorica is inside when you tear off the red or blue shiny exterior. So I have installed the toe guards. Another advantage of the toe guard is that the lugs on it are harder than the red toe lugs in the regular screw-on set. Those red toe lugs wear out much more quickly than the other lugs in the set, increasing wear of the upper at the toe. Look at the photo of the worn toe lugs on the Dominator 6 to see what I mean. And when they’re worn out, you have to buy an entire set of replacement lugs; you can’t get just toe lugs (unless you use the toe guard).
The replaceable carbon sole screws onto a thin nylon outsole, and since the carbon does not quite reach the ends and is split between the first two toes, there is a bit more flex than a solid carbon outsole offers. This makes for great pedaling performance—stiffness, with a hint of flex at the toe and heel to allow the foot to move a bit and be more comfortable.
However, it is still no walking shoe, and it is especially no running shoe. The sole is too stiff for that, as are the hard, replaceable traction lugs. If you were heading out for a run, there is simply no way you would choose these shoes.
I’ve been racing cyclocross on the Dragon 2s all fall, as I did last year with the Dominator 6s with the same sole, padded, buckle-closure top strap and heel tightener system. For somebody like me who stays on the bike as much as possible and is a slow runner, the fact that the sole is too stiff to run well in is no big deal, and pedaling and clip-in performance and looks are so good that it is a worthwhile tradeoff. But running on hard ground is a pounding and unforgiving experience, and when running up a steep hill on your toes, the heel tries to pull off. Fortunately, you can prevent this from happening by tightening the Caliper buckle and the heel tightener.
Because of the backward-facing wings of the “Caliper” buckle, it doesn’t collect as much grass and weeds as Sidi’s old “Spider” buckle that is still available on the Dominator 5 (but not on the Spider model!). Like the Spider buckle, the Caliper buckle grants single-step loosening, single- or multi-step tightening, and complete release, and it is probably more intuitive for first-time users than the Spider buckle was. I did break one of the wings off of one of the buckles on the blue Dragon 2s by clipping it on a fence post, but the buckle still works fine, albeit a little less responsive at releasing completely. And if I needed to replace it, it is held on with only a single Phillips screw.
The buckle strap over the top of the foot is soft, replaceable, and, most importantly, adjustable. You can keep it centered comfortably as you wish, even if you have a very high or low instep. The soft, padded, snipped-at-the-top-edge tongue is sewed in up past the Techno II twist closure on the outboard side, so it does not slip to the side as was a constant occurrence with old Sidi models.
The retaining bridge for the strap on the inboard side of the instep is thin and set high, so that it drags on the crankarm less than some strap adjustment retention systems (it doesn’t drag on my mountain bike cranks at all, but it often hits on the road cranks on my cyclocross bike).
Sidi’s High Security Velcro straps have plastic teeth running down the center of both the hook and fuzz parts of the strap to keep the Velcro from slipping. This works very well.
The Dragon 2 Vernice shoes are beautiful, versatile, adjustable, long-wearing, well-built shoes that fit and pedal great. For that, you pay a high monetary price as well as the price of a sole that is too stiff and lugs that are too hard for running to be efficient.
Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Lennard Zinn.
Technical writer Lennard Zinn is a frame builder (www.zinncycles.com), a former U.S. national team rider and author of numerous books on bikes and bike maintenance including the pair of successful maintenance guides “Zinn and the Art of Mountain Bike Maintenance” – now available also on DVD, and “Zinn and the Art of Road Bike Maintenance,” as well as “Zinn and the Art of Triathlon Bikes” and “Zinn’s Cycling Primer: Maintenance Tips and Skill Building for Cyclists.”
Zinn’s regular column is devoted to addressing readers’ technical questions about bikes, their care and feeding and how we as riders can use them as comfortably and efficiently as possible. Readers can send brief technical questions directly to Zinn.
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