I’ve been through a few long-term shoe relationships. First Mavic, then Fizik and most recently Giro. I’ve had a few affairs along the way with some cheap kicks that caught my eye, but despite the initial attraction (often price reductions), these didn’t last long at all. I’ve learned enough along the way to know what is important for me in a pair of cycling shoes.
Prior to testing the Quoc shoes, I had been happily riding lace-up Giros for both road and also gravel for quite some time.
My first reaction to seeing the Mono Nights was that they were visually clean. I’m a fan of uncluttered, functional, borderline-minimal design and I liked what I saw. The shoes are a picture of restraint, with nothing added that doesn’t serve a purpose.
Despite the impracticality of my choice, I prefer white shoes and accept that this means I will have white shoes for a few days, then varying degrees of off white as the rides clock up. I still opted for the white, when given the choice for the Mono Nights. As well as being my preferred colour generally, I felt they showcased the shoe’s subtle features just a little more than the stealthy version. I’ll admit I’m probably in the minority here though. One aspect of the black version that I did like was the tone on tone look and I would have been happy with off-white logos on the white versions too, going full-on for that minimal style. The black logos are not overbearing though.
Recently the closure systems on high-end shoes have polarised between high tech cables and dials, such as the Boa system, on one hand, and low tech laces on the other. Straps are still around of course, but I see them less and less. The Mono Nights have straps with a difference. Well, two differences. Firstly, on the top side, they maintain the clean aesthetic of the rest of the shoe. There is a simple but effective adjustment system avoids the ugly issue of misaligned straps. A nice touch. The second difference is hidden on the underside; a fastening technology that more closely resembles lego than velcro. I’ll admit I was sceptical, even after having closed the shoes for the first time. I expected that the straps would pop open when I laid down my limited power. I was wrong. I’ve got a lot of confidence in the straps now. The added benefits of easy cleaning and silent operation were also not immediately obvious but will be very welcome for those who need them.
I use Speedplay pedals and had no issues fitting the cleats to the standard three bolt system on the sole, as you would expect. From experience, I was able to set up the cleats to my usual position easily as well. What was less expected was just how comfortable the shoes felt, even from the very first pedal strokes. The sizing in terms of length, width and heel cup all felt very similar to my Giros. This is a good thing, for me at least. It's not unusual for shoes (cycling or otherwise) to need a little breaking in period. That was certainly not the case here. The first two rides I did with the shoes were both over 100Km and were completed without any pressure points or slipping at all. And even without the need to adjust the straps. At a cafe stop during the first ride, I noted how I really hadn’t thought about the shoes much at all while wearing them, and that’s a sign that they are doing their job well. There were no niggles wriggling their way into my conscious. I could just get on with enjoying the ride. That’s what we want, right?
We’ve been lucky to have had some warm weather in Salzburg recently so the ventilation holes on the upper, which trace the curve of the sole, were put to the test, and passed. I didn’t have any overheating issues. Of course, if you happen to get caught in the rain then moisture will get in a little quicker than without the ventilation, but that’s a fair trade off in my eyes. You get wet feet in the rain regardless if you’re not prepared with overshoes. There is a drainage vent on the underside, should you get soaked, but I’m happy to have not tested this yet. The same goes for winter; you can always add extra layers on top to keep warm. It's not uncommon for double overshoes to be required in the freezing Austrian winters and the ventilation holes are not going to make much difference either way once that is factored in, so that’s also not a worry.
There are a number of things in cycling that seem to the uninitiated as though they should be uncomfortable; saddles are often the first to be questioned. Extra stiff soles could be added to that list, but just like thin race bike saddles, I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I’m cycling, I’m cycling. I do little walking, so my gear is optimised for that. From the bike to the cafe table is about as far as I go on foot. I’ve become so accustomed to stiff soles and the wonderfully direct response that they provide when stamping on the pedals, that even the slightest ‘give’ feels soft and squishy. The soles of the Night Monos were just as I like them; very stiff. Soft soles would have been a deal breaker for me, so this was another well thought out design choice. You can’t blame your lack of KoMs on watts lost through bending soles!
It's hard to comment on durability after only a few hundred Kms, other than to say there have been no issues so far. The manufacturing levels, even of the pre-production models I tested, seems to be very high. As I mentioned above, white shoes are not going to stay perfectly white for long, but the Night Monos did seem to be particularly susceptible to marks - more so than other shoes I’ve used. I understand that materials used in the final versions will address this to a certain degree though, which is good to hear. I can have white shoes for a few more days!
Moving to the sole again and I was worried to see what looked like a non-replaceable heel pad. Even with my limited walking, this is always likely to be a weak link and is usually the first point of failure for road cycling shoes, after long usage. I should have learned already to have more confidence. So much care and attention have gone into the other parts of the shoe that I should have known this wouldn’t have been overlooked. Indeed, a quick glance inside, under the insole reveals the bolt that allows the pad to be replaced. Not only was this not missed, but it's also an improvement over many other shoes. With the bolt on the inside, it's protected from damage, so when the time comes to replace the pad, you’ll have no problems. Simple, but clever.n
Cafe stop chat often revolves around cycling as well. We can’t get enough of it, it seems. Any new gear never goes unnoticed - and the owner can expect a cross-examination. The group on my second ride with the Quoc shoes were quite taken with the Mono Nights, requiring me to take them off and pass them around for a closer inspection. Are they aero? Are they stiff? Are they light? The important questions always come first. In the case of the weight (and lack thereof), the shoes suggest that immediately once you pick them up, but go one step further and confirm it in writing (220g), as noted on the ‘specification’ text on the heel. They are clearly stiff to use and the dimpled surface is claimed to help air flow. I’ve got no reason to doubt that but no wind tunnel to test it. See, I told you I wasn’t obsessive about cycling tech!
Also on the heel is quite a large reflective section that is useful for low light riding but remains almost invisible otherwise. We’ll add that to the list of nice touches.
The pricing for the shoes seems quite reasonable given their excellent performance and is around the norm for high-end road bike shoes. In cycling, style and a sense of exclusivity often command a sizable premium. The Night Monos will provide generous helpings of both, on top of their functionality, so in that respect, the pricing looks even better. Overall, I would happily recommend these shoes.