With so many shoe options on the market today, we decided to shine some light on the two latest releases from faraway Euro brands Northwave and Time, which might fly low on your radar.
While both brands have been in the industry for years, Time’s release marks their return to the shoe game since their last go back in 2013. The French brand is best known for its pedals, as well as their line of carbon bikes.
Northwave is based in the part of northern Italy (Montebelluna) that could accurately be described as “shoe alley” given the close proximity of every other major Italian brand nearby. First made famous on the feet of Mario Cipollini, Northwave has been designing shoes there for over 30 years and currently sponsors the Astana Pro Team for 2019.
The original Extreme model is now more than five years old, and it was intended to be a lightweight race shoe. For 2019 the N-Wave team has picked it apart and began the process of shaving grams and increasing sole stiffness.
A pair of size-44 Extreme Pros weighed in at 585 grams—certainly not the lightest, but still respectable. The upper is made with a supple and thin microfiber material. Northwave uses their stiffest unidirectional carbon sole in the Extreme Pro. The wider sole is partly to blame for some of the extra grams, but the added power transfer that results is noticeable. The sole is drilled for both three-bolt cleats and a Speedplay configuration.
Two of Northwave’s own SLW2 dials pull the upper to overlap the tongue and secure the shoe. The SLW2 dial is easily tightened with a twist, then features a two-way release. If you push on the release lever, it loosens by one click at a time, but it tends to stick when it gets dirty. If you pull the lever up, it quickly and easily releases completely. The Northwave also uses a reinforced heel cup with gripping material. The fiber orientation of this material allows for easy entry, but also holds the heel in place.
With all the technology Time has devoted to crafting the ideal road pedal, the idea behind the Osmos line is focused on a high-performance sole that mates to their pedal system. While it is compatible with other three-bolt cleats, the carbon sole design was optimized for the Time Xpresso cleat. The sole is relatively slim, especially in the toe box, and has scattered holes for ventilation. The Osmos hit the scales at 558 grams.
Time opted for a thick synthetic upper and a thin tongue, which is secured by two plastic Boa dials. The upper is supportive, but struggles to mold to fit until it’s broken in. As usual, the Boa dials twist clockwise to tighten and pop up to release. Two vents on the tongue increase airflow from the vents on the side and toe box of the shoe.
Out on the road, these shoes make you want to go fast, and the wide, stiff soles almost demand more power. They are responsive, with a minimal amount of flex in the sole or in the upper material. The overlapping closure system with the SLW2 dials created a snug, even fit without hot spots. Out-of-the-saddle efforts were complemented by the design and reminded us that these were built to perform at the highest level. Most stiff soles tend to cause wear on riders during longer outings, but the Northwave soles didn’t cause issues on even our longest rides.
We did notice that after a couple of dusty rides that the SLW2 dial began to feel a bit crunchy, especially when clicking down for the micro adjustments on the road. Even after a good washing, the shoes struggled with the precise fit. Northwave does offer replacement dials if this occurs.
During our warmer rides we did notice the lack of ventilation, the tops of our feet would overheat, but for lower-temperature night rides, the shoes felt fine. A vent in the front of the shoe to increase airflow would be our only addition to the shoe we’d like to see.
On hot days, airflow throughout the Time shoe is noticeable, and the venting is well-designed. During hard, out-of-the-saddle efforts, the shoes had a minimal amount of flex, but not so much as to be a deal-breaker.
The thin sole fit flush against our feet when we twisted the Boa dials, but the thick upper took about a month to break in, but once it did, it provided a supportive fit that feels the best on long rides. Paired with the medium-stiff sole, the padded upper made the Osmos a shoe that won’t wear nearly as quickly as other lighter weight shoes after extended use.
Time designed the Osmos without any exterior seams, which give them a clean look. The seamless design helps the upper wrap around the foot once they are broken in.
When you’re shopping around, don’t forget these two Euro imports. Northwave’s supple upper mesh and extremely stiff sole set it apart from the Time; however, the Italian brand’s in-house SLW2 dials are difficult to adjust on the fly. Northwave’s size run is impressive. For those looking for a top-end, breathable shoe that will outlast other lighter-weight, less durable counterparts, Time’s Osmos line should be considered.
Both of these brands bring a high-quality shoe to the table. The Extreme Pro succeeds at being a performance-oriented shoe, while the Time Osmos focuses on comfort and durability while still being lighter than the Northwave.
NORTHWAVE PUNCH LINES
• Legacy high-quality shoes
• Proven in the WorldTour
• Stiff for max efficiency
Sizes: 36, 37, 38, 39, 39½, 40, 40½, 41, 41½, 42, 42½, 43, 43½, 44, 44½, 45, 45½, 46, 47, 48
Weight: 585 grams
TIME PUNCH LINES
• Back in the shoe game
• Break-in time needed
• Vented for max airflow
Sizes: 39, 40, 41, 41.5, 42, 42.5, 43, 43.5, 44, 44.5, 45, 46
Weight: 558 grams