With the recent launch of Weekend, our new performance cycling sneaker, we spoke with company founder and designer, Quoc Pham about the concept behind the shoe, his design process, and the problems that come when you build from scratch (and why it’s always worthwhile).
Pedaler - How long have you been working on Weekend?
Quoc - At least two years. And the reason for that is because we build all our shoes from scratch. We don’t use pre-existing lasts (the 3-dimensional mould upon which the shoe is constructed), or factory starting points. All our shoes start from an idea, a hand-sculpted in-house last, and end with an entirely new and unique shoe. Not a lot of brands do that. It’s time-consuming, challenging and filled with hurdles. But it’s the only way to achieve true comfort, fit and balance.
Pedaler - Where did the idea for the shoe come from?
Quoc - More or less from my own life. I bike between meetings, to the office and generally hop on and off the bike throughout the day. So I wanted to create a performance sneaker that offered the best of both worlds: comfortable to walk in, and also super-efficient on the pedal. But it also had to include environmental innovation. And it had to use elastic laces that once tied, could stay tied, even if you wanted to remove the shoe, or put it back on.
Pedaler - And it works?
Quoc - Yes, very well. The elastic provides a nice measure of give when you walk, but not enough that your foot feels like it’s going to exit the shoe. And on the bike, the pedalling motion is more toe-heavy and puts very little pressure on the heel cup, so again, the elastic holds the foot securely. Whenever you need to remove your shoes, a swift pull on the heel and you’re out. To re-enter, lift the tongue and slip your foot back in - no need to untie the laces. But of course, we also include a pair of standard laces alongside the elastic ones for the traditionalists.
Pedaler - With its strong sneaker aesthetic, Weekend doesn’t seem like a shoe that would have clip-in functionality. Can you talk us through why you included that feature?
Quoc - It comes down to completeness and the design aesthetic of the shoe. On the bike, connecting with the pedal is so much more efficient, comfortable and safer than just placing your foot on the pedal. It’s also pretty easy to slip off the pedals while commuting in non-cycling shoes, especially in the wet.
From a design perspective, Weekend is styled like a sneaker. And in this day and age, people wear sneakers for almost everything. Which means that if someone wants to hit the trails, tackle long commutes or even do a spin session, Weekend has to perform like a clip-in compatible bike shoe.
Pedaler - Were there challenges in recessing the clipless area enough so that walking was unaffected?
Quoc - It’s a challenge, but we’ve including clipless soles on our urban cycling line for several seasons now, so we’ve got it dialled. Our approach is to make the rubber on the sole a little bit thicker. You have to be careful - too much, and the cleats won’t engage cleanly on some pedal systems. But by adding a little extra sole thickness, the cleat stays nicely away from the floor. More rubber underfoot also helps the durability of the shoe in the long run, too.
Pedaler - With the dual demands of walking and riding, how did you approach managing the stiffness of the sole?
Quoc - We trialled a few options, and eventually settled on a nylon glass fibre material mid-board, often seen in football shoes. It’s stiff from the arc to the heel but flexible at the toe box.
Pedaler - Presumably when you embed a cleat box, you have to be sure of the material?
Quoc - You do. The issue is that we’re asking the mid-board to do a couple of things at once: to bend and to be stiff. But with the particular blend of nylon glass fibre that we developed for Weekend, we’ve achieved a great balance. I think our customers are going to enjoy it.
Pedaler - Considering the tech involved, the whole shoe is a very pared-down silhouette.
Quoc - That’s intentional. I didn't want to go too crazy with knit, or make something abstract just for the sake of it. Every decision came back to whether it would create the simple, classic aesthetic that everyone understands. And that extends to the features, too. For example, the colour-matched rubber toe area is reflective. But it doesn’t stand out as being reflective; it’s just part of the design, yet it does double-duty to help keep you visible to other road users.
Pedaler - So in simplicity, versatility?
Quoc - Exactly. You can dress it up when you go out, or you can slip it on and take a spin around town, transitioning from the bike to the coffee shop without missing a beat. Or as we talked about, you can go for a gravel ride, workout, or ride some slabs on a mountain bike course. It’s amazingly versatile.
Pedaler - And that uncluttered approach extends to caring for the shoe?
Quoc - Absolutely. The upper is weather-resistant, so it's just a case of taking a simple wet cloth and brushing the shoe down to clean it. Or you can put it in the washing machine, and it will come out in shape, as good as new.
Pedaler - How did the collaboration with Bloom, and their plant-based foam come about?
Quoc - I'd been following their progress for some time. But it was only relatively recently that we had the opportunity to try it, and see that it matched the durability of EVA. So we started talking and trialled some prototypes with the Bloom sole, and we loved it - high performance, grip and durability, greatly reduced EVA content, and all of the associated benefits of cleaner water and less carbon. Hopefully, this is just the start of our partnership.