By Bryan Redemske
Of the hundreds of posts here on Uni Watch, the ones I find most interesting deal with the unique tweaks and modifications athletes make to their equipment.
Todd Helton’s Mizuno-clad Nikes were a revelation, much like the first time I saw Nomar was wearing Reeboks in disguise. The Bill Buckner lucky batting glove thing caught everybody by surprise. I think what makes those things so interesting is that every athlete — pro or otherwise — does little things to their uniforms or equipment to make them their own. It’s just that most of them aren’t noticeable until you take a closer look.
With that in mind, I remembered something a guy at the local bike shop told me when I walked in with my Lance Armstrong model cycling shoes: “You know, those things are so uncomfortable, Lance actually had Shimano soles glued on.”
Brief cycling lesson for those not in the know: Shimano is a Japanese component giant — it makes all of the individual parts on most of the bikes in America. Shoes are one of the company’s specialties as well. Before Lance joined NikeWorld, he wore Shimano shoes for several years.
So what the guy was getting at was this: Lance has Nike uppers glued onto a Shimano sole, which is like gluing a Nike running upper to an Adidas sole. We’ve seen disguised shoes and equipment before, but Frankenstein-style gear is hard to come by.
Here’s what the bottom of the production Lance shoe looks like. The cloudy white area just to the right of the toe is an air vent. That will be important later.
According to this article (first item), Lance ordered custom soles for the 2005 tour — ones with more curve to them than the standard Nike sole. Provided with a good look at both, they’re clearly different. The standard sole is pretty much straight where it attaches to the upper, but the custom version curves up.
The article makes it sound like something Lance did for the 2005 tour, but evidence proves otherwise. He had similar soles — if not identical ones — in 2003, possibly earlier. The curve where the sole and upper meet is present here. For comparison’s sake, here’s the production version, featuring a pretty straight joint.
And what about the vent? Take a look at this one again. On the sole, just to the right of the black toe piece, are two slit-shaped vents. Here’s a similar shot from 2004. Vents are nothing new — many shoes have them. But Shimano soles generally only have one vent, and the Nike production vent is a completely different shape.
So what’s the deal with the white cleats? And exactly where did those soles come from? They don’t match up with any Shimanos I’ve found, and they’re definitely not standard Nike issue.
Perhaps more importantly, though — who else is doing this? Given the pickiness of athletes in every sport, Lance can’t be the only one, right? If you know of any other Frankenstein-style equipment out there, send info here.
And for what it’s worth, I think basic Lance production model fits fine. But it’s possible that Lance might have slightly higher standards than I do.
Uni Watch News Ticker: Paul here. Greetings from Austin, where a small but enthusiastic group showed up last night for a Uni Watch gathering. Unfortunately, I left my camera back at the hotel, so no pics. At some point in the evening, Devin Curry asked if I’d noticed that the Nebraska football team wears “Huskers” on their chinstraps. This was news to me, so he sent me photographic proof after he got home. … The Phillies will unveil their new alternate uniform (already leaked months ago) tomorrow at noon. … Very odd NOB format for the Tunisia volleyball team, which uses the player’s last name, then a space, then a period, and then first initial (additional view here, with thanks to Jeremy Brahm).