Diadora was founded in 1948 by Marcello Daneili in the Veneto region of Italy. From being a workshop where the best mountain boots were handmade, Diadora has progressed with the times, introducing new manufacturing technologies to expand its range of products for a variety of sports, first into the world of tennis, soccer, athletics, and subsequently cycling, basketball, motoring and many other sporting fields in the 1980s. Many sporting greats have graced Diadora?s line of sporting footwear, among them Formula 1 racing legends Alain Prost and the late Ayrton Senna; soccer greats such as Zico, Roberto Baggio and Marco Van Basten; tennis kingpins Jim Courier and Goran Ivanisevic, and last but not least, world road cycling champions Francesco Moser, Gianni Bugno and Igor Astarloa.
With a proven track record of providing for the utmost demanding needs of some of the most outstanding sportsmen, Diadora looked to break into the high end MTB shoe market. Earlier models such as the Kava, despite the favourable reviews garnered, did not catch on with the MTB XC racer crowd. It was only in 2004 that Diadora had an answer in this market segment dominated by the SIDI Dragons and Shimano SH-M221s with the introduction of their top of the line Skorpione Carbon racing MTB shoe. 2005 saw the rolling out of the equally sleek Team Racer MTB model that is the subject of our review.
As far as design and features go, the Team Racer is your typical cross-country racing shoes, albeit with a few differences. Instead of having carbon midsoles, it features steel inserts inside the fiberglass outsole construction to provide a stiff platform for optimum power transfer. Two pairs of threads for 2-bolt SPD cleats come pre-fixed out of the factory, doing away the need for user installation; bolt on your cleats to either set of holes and you are ready to hit the trail. Diadora?s new buckle made from cold forged aluminum with 2 Velcro straps attaches the shoes to the feet and provides quick, on-the-fly adjustability. The Ergonomic support hugs the curvature of the heel for a secured fit. The uppers are made entirely of microfiber materials, soft fabric lining, Mesh Air Plus design coupled with tongue with overlapping flaps, work together to keep the feet well ventilated and moisture out. There is also the option for attaching toe spikes (which are provided in the package) for riding in soggy conditions. With a double row of threads almost everywhere to put everything together and the buckle working nicely, the titanium grey coloured shoes smacks of quality.
Like the Skorpione Carbon, the Team Racer is available in half sizes, from 38-47 to allow for the most deliberate rider to achieve the best fit possible. It is worthwhile to note that this reviewer had previously steered clear of racing shoes for their narrower cutting were always a torture for his over-pronated feet, but a pair of size 45 fitted almost perfectly, despite having to make an educated guess on what size the review sample was likely to fit. Still it is a good idea to visit a well stocked shop to pick the best fit, for a hurting foot will take the joy out of any ride in an instant.
The lightness of the shoe felt unreal initially (despite our size 45 weighing in at 955g complete with Crank Brothers Eggbeater cleats), considering that weighty steel were used to stiffen up the mid-sole instead of carbon more commonly found on other shoes of racing calibre. The straps did a pretty good job keeping the shoes secured on the feet and the ratchet buckle proved easy to use with plenty of adjustability. Walking in the Team Racer felt natural, without the awkwardness that is associated with the narrower soles found in racing shoes. Apart from some initial tightness in the toe box, this reviewer was pretty pleased with the overall comfort level for a brand new pair of shoes.
The Team racer was put through a variety of rides such as commuting to and from the local trail, muddy single track action as well as whole day overseas road rides. The sole is pretty stiff, has plenty of ventilation which kept the feet from overheating while keeping moisture from trailside puddle splash out, although in heavy downpour, moisture still inevitably found its way in especially through the socks. Even so, the shoe does not feel as waterlogged like some of the previous shoes this reviewer had wore before, in part due to the minimum inner cushioning, without any compromise in comfort. The ratchet buckle and quick release button remains unclogged despite being battered by trail muck, allowing for easy readjustments whenever needed.
For longer road rides and high intensity off road rides however, the toes began to go numb from a lack of blood flow, despite the excellent initial fit for the reviewer?s wide feet. It would appear that high intensity pedaling tends to cramp the toes forward into the narrower portion of the shoe, thereby creating excessive pressure which resulted in the numbness. To be fair, similar numbness was encountered with other shoes as well. Using the pulling upward stroke to ease the pressure on the forward part of the feet brought instant relief.
The soles provided plenty of grip over a wide variety of surface with generous amount of clearance provided around the cleat mounting area meant obstruction to clipping into my eggbeater pedals by the sole was never an issue. For the muddiest rides, screw on the studs provided for additional traction. With the wrench and hex bolt surface on the studs made of plastic however, regular mounting and dismounting of the studs will round off both in an instant. Also, the studs were a bit too tall for this reviewer?s liking, making walking on tarmac, hardpack surfaces and squatting to carry out trailside repairs extremely unpleasant. Given the excellent traction the soles already possesses, the shoes were worn more often without the studs attached.
With over a thousand kilometers on it, wear on the soles was on the reasonable side without any nasty surprises. The uppers of the shoe looked barely a day out of the box, sans minor scuffs on the microfibre outers and buckles (see pictures) which were probably acquired in the few clumsy falls this reviewer had. Facing the usual deadline, long term shoe integrity is an aspect which remains to be explored, but so far, the Team Racer has remained in one piece.
For the rider who is looking for an alternative high performance and race ready pair of MTB shoes, but without burning a ridiculous hole in the pocket, the Team Racer fits the bill perfectly. Comfortable, stiff, and with stunning looks, the shoes are also available in metallic blue instead of the titanium colour scheme featured here.