Given the country’s historical legacy as footwear artisans, you can imagine that there’s likely no segment of Italian cycling products in Italy that would be as highly competitive as it would be with shoes.
While Crono isn’t a household name when it comes to Italian cycling shoes, they are the product of a company that’s been in the business since 1973. For more than four decades, Sabena Calzaturificio factory has partnered with more famous cycling shoe brands in developing new shoe designs.
After all those years working as a sub-contractor, Sabena is now producing their own line of shoes with a focus on providing a lower-cost alternative to their higher-priced competitors. The Crono CG1 represents their no-frills, entry-level model of off-road-capable shoes.
As a bit of a retro aesthetic, the CG1 relies laces versus modern dial or Velcro closures. The upper material is high-quality microfiber with a polyurethane reinforcement that covers most of the toe area. Very formable to the foot, but between the extra toe support and the TPU (thermoplastic polyurethane) heel support, the foot is held in place securely. You’ll find a fair amount of ventilation throughout the shoe by way of precision-cut holes in the side and top. Not as high-tech ventilation as we’ve seen in other shoes, but worthy for our long gravel rides for sure.
A carbon-composite sole is stiff and designed for maximum ride efficiency and grip when hiking the bike up a slippery hill. Crono also claims the sole has a profile that helps release mud buildup, particularly near the cleats. A removable footbed insert utilizes Crono’s own SAS (Shock Absorbing System), which is said to help with vibrations throughout long rides. For a combination of power efficiency, stiffness, comfort and cost savings, the Crono has a carbon-reinforced nylon sole.
Keep in mind that the sole is compatible with a two-bolt cleat, so if you’re the type who (like some of us) prefers to use road pedals on your gravel bike, you’ll have to make the switch.
The first thing we noticed when slipping on the CG1s was the way they immediately formed to our feet. They were very comfortable with literally no break-in time needed. For most test riders, lace-up enclosures are not our first choice. We found that tucking them into the loop designed to keep them from flopping around was a bit tedious, especially if you ride every day with them. Also, when you’re dealing with laces, it takes an extra effort to get an even tension compared to a dial system.
At 305 grams (per shoe), it felt like nothing on our feet, and we could see using them on either our gravel bike or mountain bike. One downside, though, was that after barely rubbing up against a rock, the outer layer of material on the toe got chipped. Of course, if you’re only riding fire roads, you won’t have to worry much.
One of the most impressive aspects of this shoe is the amount of grip when hiking the bike up a hill. There’s plenty of tread for climbing loose, steep bits. Thanks to the ventilation, which was a boon on hot-weather rides, we encountered some frigid toes on cold mornings, so without booties, the Cronos may not be the best for winter riding.
For $120 more, Crono offers the CX2 model that relies on the more commonly found Boa dial closure. But, if you’re looking for a classy-looking lightweight shoe that doesn’t break the bank, the CG1 is a good option. Besides the cost, the biggest takeaway for us was the comfort while either pedaling or walking. We wouldn’t say they are the most high-performance race shoe, but they’d manage for most of us. They’re not too flashy but have an old-school look to them with laces, especially the gold laces they came with and we swapped to. The CG1s are only available in black and come in a whopping 17 sizes.
• Great cost/benefit ratio
• Are a lace-up fan?
• Made in Italy