Sidi has a reputation for making some of the most comfortable and long-lasting mountain bike shoes on the market. Their Dominator model — now in its seventh iteration — is found strapped to the feet of many aspiring racers around the world. The decidedly more expensive Tiger tested here is a brand new model that now sits atop the Sidi food chain, dethroning the Drako.
With an ultra-stiff carbon sole, all of Sidi’s best tech, and a flashy design, the Tigers are an unapologetic pair of XC race shoes.
Construction and Design
If you’re dropping $550 — yes, you read that correctly — on a pair of shoes, they better damn well be the best of the best. Sidi makes the Tigers in-house, in Italy. Pulling the shoes out of the box revealed an impressive level of attention to detail and perfect construction. Nary a thread was out of place on either shoe. I almost felt bad bolting cleats onto the flawless carbon sole.
One note on the fit: I typically wear a size 46 in just about every shoe out there, but the Sidis fit longer. In the end, a size 45.5 was perfect for me. With Shimano SPD cleats installed, the Tigers weighed in at 815g for the pair.
The soles feature replaceable lug sections around the toe, cleat, and heel, but the remainder of the sole is carbon with a thick, high-gloss clearcoat. Sidi calls the upper “Microfibre TechPro,” which is a synthetic material with a leathery feel. The made-in-Italy Microfibre TechPro is treated to repel water and prevent the growth of odor-causing bacteria. To improve breathability, Sidi included mesh openings on top of the toes and along the sides of the Tigers. A rubberized toe section increases durability and adds a bit of protection.
Instead of straps and buckles, the Tigers use Sidi’s Double Tecno-3 Push system. It’s a similar concept to a Boa system, just with a different execution. Two dials are mounted to a single base on the tongue of the shoe, and each dial is adjustable independently of the other. Pressing the red button on the dial pops up a little tab allowing you tighten the lace. To remove the shoe, grab the release buttons at either end of the base, and lift your heel.
Finally, Sidi touts the adjustable heel retention on the Tiger, although personally, I didn’t find it to make much difference in the fit. The added reflective bits on the back of the shoe are a nice touch, even on a shoe intended for off-road use.
On the Trail
By far, the Tigers are the stiffest shoes I have ever put on my feet–and that includes dedicated road shoes. Sidi engineered zero flex into the Tigers, which makes sense considering their intended use as pro-level XC race shoes. With such a stiff sole, the Tigers feel exceptionally efficient in terms of power transfer. Zero watts are wasted. Cinched up tight with a fresh pair of cleats, the Tigers become an extension of the cranks themselves as if welded to the pedals. It’s truly impressive.
In addition to the stiff sole, the upper felt rigid for the first month or so. However, the Microfibre TechPro proved remarkably comfortable once broken in. I appreciated the dual Tecno-3 dials with their ability to fine-tune the fit. I prefer my shoes to fit snugly around the top of my foot, but I want wiggle room lower down for my toes. The Tigers made that possible.
I raced in the Tigers a handful of times, but I used them extensively as a trail shoe as well. For traditional XC races where you’re typically clipping in once and then racing for two hours, there’s probably no better shoe out there. It’s when you start riding really long distances or heading into the backcountry that the Tigers falter.
On rides past three hours in length, the rigidness hampers comfort. I consistently developed hot spots around the balls of my feet. Stopping for breaks largely alleviated foot pain, but I wouldn’t be able to do a solo six-hour race in them, for instance.
Off the bike, the plasticky, replaceable lugs manage to provide decent traction on roots and rocks. Wear on the lugs is minimal after months of use. It’s the rest of the sole that makes the Tigers a nightmare to walk in. For one, the insanely stiff sole doesn’t lend itself to long walks up steep pitches. Beyond that, the high-gloss clear coat on the bottom is slicker than eel snot. Slicker than a bar of soap coated in bacon grease. Slicker than a frozen lake covered in banana peels that you have to cross wearing a pair of stilettos. Hopefully you get the idea.
That slickness not only impedes traction over obstacles, it also made clipping back in difficult. Riding unfamiliar or technical terrain — or when you just want to ride like a goon — there will be instances when you need to unclip from your pedals. If you don’t get your toe in just the right position and the pedal contacts the sole, there’s no telling where your foot will slide. In those situations, I had to slow, look down, and then clip back in. That’s not ideal, but again, I was using the Tigers far outside their comfort zone.
I have only one suggestion for Sidi to improve the Tigers. Put some damn rubber on that sole! Even in XC races, there will be times when you have to hop off your bike. Have you ever run into a traffic jam where it’s faster just to get off and run around folks? I certainly have. In those heated moments when your thinking isn’t 100% clear, the slippery sole is a recipe for disaster.
The Sidi Tigers are a shoe for one thing and one thing only — XC racing. You won’t find a better-performing shoe in that arena. There are shoes that come close and shoes that cost substantially less, but purchasing decisions aren’t always entirely rational. That said, the upper is supremely durable and other components — the lugs and Tecno dials — are replaceable to keep the Tigers purring for years to come.
Thanks to Sidi for providing the Tiger shoes for review.