Building a shoe that can effortlessly cross from commuting duty to office duty is a difficult task. You have polar opposite interests competing for inclusion. On the one hand, you need the shoes to be stiff to transfer energy to the cranks. On the other, you want shoes that provide all-day comfort and look stylish in an office setting. At Engearment, we toss another wrench in there by using standing desks. So, not only do shoes have to be comfortable enough to wear all day – you have to be able to stand in them all day, too. Enter the DZR Mechanic.
DZR has been making bike shoes for a while. Fabio and Shane, husband and wife, met working for Scott. Fabio is an Italian trials champion. Shane is a shoe designer. They combined their powers and founded DZR in Switzerland, later moving to San Francisco. DZR produces multiple product lines – a street collection and a dirt collection. Recently, they sent us a pair of their new street shoes, the Mechanics, to try out on our commute to the office. With the unnatural monsoon season we had for most of May, we unfortunately had to let them sit in the closet for a while. Now that we get to see the sun again, they’re out and on our feet.
We like the look of the shoes. They use a perforated vegan toe cap and ballistic nylon side panels to keep things stylish. The inner fabric has slick camouflage accents that we dig. We’d replace the laces with something else – we couldn’t keep the waxed, flat laces from twisting. Laces have to look sharp!
The Mechanics come with a gum sole that includes a removable patch of rubber, under which you’ll find an SPD-standard cleat mount. We started with the patch in place and the shoes on some Shimano PD-MX80 flat pedals attached to our beloved, belt-drive Van Dessel WTF. At first, we noticed some slight interference with the sole plug and the center pins. But, we had our flats set up for street shoes, with the center pins higher than the outer pins. Once we lowered the center pins, everything fit perfectly. Without the sole plug, there’s no issue no matter where your pins are set. After we’d tried the Mechanics on flats, we pulled the sole plug out and put some cleats in to try clipless, using our usual Crank Brother Eggbeaters and some Shimano PD-858s we had sitting around. With both the Shimano and Crank Brothers cleats, the rubber sole is thick enough that you won’t be clicking on hardwood. We found no interference with either clipless pedal. Good news!
The Mechanics pedal like a well-reasoned compromise. They’re stiffer than your average street shoe, but aren’t carbon-sole road shoe stiff, nor are they meant to be. The shoes have what DZR calls a Variable Flex Shank under the insole to stiffen things up. They’ll add a bit of efficiency and power transfer to your daily commute without making the shoes feel like boards while you’re walking. They’ll speed you up a bit on your commute or at least allow you to put a little less effort into your ride. Overall, we think DZR struck the perfect balance between pedaling efficiency and walkability.
And, of course, wearability off the bike is paramount as well. This is where things broke down for us. We don’t sit down much during the day – standing desks, hallway conversations, etc. The insole in the DZR Mechanic did not provide substantial enough cushion for us to wear the shoes all day. We could feel the cleat interface on the shank. Maybe we’re sensitive. If we were more sedentary at work, we could imagine the shoes being just fine. Or, if DZR used thicker or firmer foam for the insole, everything would be copacetic. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it was enough that we noticed. We tossed in a set of more substantial insoles and it made things a bit better.
With an MSRP of $99 and the ability to replace two pairs of shoes for the right person, we think the Mechanics slide into a nice niche in urban cycling gear. They’re not perfect for us, but they look great and strike a great balance between riding and wearing. We can recommend the DZR Mechanics, but we suggest wearing them around the store a bit to see how they feel before purchasing.
(DZR provided a pair of Mechanics to us free of charge, but didn’t tell us what to think. No one tells us what to think, man! All of the opinions are Engearment’s.)