I was riding with a friend who had taken a liking to my white cycling shoes. “Those are really cool.”
“I’d like to get a pair.”
To which I said, “I really don’t advise you to get white cycling shoes. When you see them in the store or on the Internet they look so shiny and smooth and fast, but you know what? The chances that you have the chops to handle white shoes is pretty much zero.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
So I explained.
Used to be, you couldn’t even buy white shoes because no one made them. Who would? Cycling was a nasty activity that took place in the rain and sleet and mud and generally shitty weather. Why buy a pair of shoes that would look like a dirty diaper after a week’s training, or less?
Then one day Jeff Fields came home from Gent with a white pair of Duegis. They were track shoes, they had wooden soles, and they were shimmering white. Shimmering because they were made of patent leather … plastic coated leather that couldn’t be fouled. I lusted for those shoes, and when he went back to Belgium to do Het Volk I asked him to bring me back a pair.
I think they cost $60. At the time, Marresi has come out with a white road shoe that had green and red lettering on the white. Rick Kent had a pair and so did my ex-roommate Robert Doty, but they turned nasty and foul in no time at all. Like this, only worse.
And there I was with those shiny white Duegis. Unfortunately I couldn’t find a picture of them on the Internet, but here are the black ones, so use your imagination. They were gorgeous.
Being track shoes they weren’t very comfortable for 100-mile rides. And having wooden soles, it felt like sticking your foot into a hollowed out brick, kind of like the early generation Bonts, only with splinters. But oh, they were pretty. And even though they were patent leather they still had to be cleaned, and it was with those Duegis that I earned my white shoe chops.
I trained and raced and explored in those shoes until the early summer of 1987, when the soles broke on a steep dirt mountain trail outside the village of Shimogo, in Fukushima Prefecture. I’d had to dismount and was walking along, pushing my bike over rocks. In the snow. Suddenly one of the soles snapped. I guess pretty white leather track shoes with wooden soles weren’t made for hiking Old Rockytop in the snowy mountains. Who knew?
After that I never bought another pair of white shoes even though they became common, and the reason is that they were never truly white. They usually had holes or lettering or something to foul up their appearance … Sidi was a pro at taking a white shoe and making it look like it had been created by a chimpanzee fucking a palette of finger paints. Plus, they were like the old Marresis. After a while they looked like your senile grandfather’s old handkerchief.
But then Giro came up with a true white leather shoe that had treated leather for easy cleaning and carbon soles made of 100% pure carbon that were all carbon and made of carbon. It reminded me of my wooden-soled Duegis, which were also made of carbon, although they were of the deciduous carbon variety.
Anyway, I bought a pair of the Giro Empire All White Lace-Up Converse All Stars and have been wearing them for about a month now. And I’ve noticed other newbies giving the white shoe shuffle a try. I was very upset to see Sausage at last week’s Donut sporting a pair of these very shoes with black scuff marks on the toe, although he made up for it (a little) by explaining the CdA was lower than for buckle-ups (with a cool graph he carries in his jersey pocket that unfolds and can be tacked onto his collapsible easel), and by showing me an uber-aero trick for tucking the laces under the bottom lace for maximal aero aeroness with aeros.
Still, if Sausage, who is a pretty fashionable fellow and matchy-matchy, shows up at the Donut with scuffed shoes, the true amateurs are likely to have their whiteys looking like hobnail boots used for plowing through donkey dung in a matter of days. Don’t be that hobnailed donkey dung plough.
White shoes are hard work because after every ride they have to be cleaned. First, apply a damp cloth to remove the dirt, tar, poop, and blood. Then carefully evaluate where the leather has gotten scuffed. You will need this
After you get the scuff marks covered up, you can also get some neat’s foot oil and rubber cement to glue back the leather if it’s coming up in little strips from where, for example, you destroyed the pack with your tremendous power and caused Pablo to quit doing the Donut Ride because there was no coffee afterwards.
Once you have the shoes properly cleaned and buffed, you have to spend some time hand washing the white shoelaces, but I will cover that in an advanced seminar. Better yet, just get the black ones. They are pretty cool, too. Sort of.
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PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.