Ion made some improvements to their well received Rascal clipless mountain bike shoes for 2019, and the updated Rascal Select converts its predecessor’s “cons” to “pros.” I have been wearing the Rascal Select kicks for a few months now, and they are my go-to footwear for all-day riding adventures, photographing races, and trailside camping.
The two most notable elements that changed from Ion’s original Rascal shoe are an added neoprene-like ankle gaiter to keep debris out, and a more adjustable Serpen_tie cinch-strap.
The Air_Prene gaiter wraps the ankle like a hug and extends down beneath the laces in place of a traditional tongue. The wetsuit-like ankle layer keeps dust and mud on the outside and pads an oft-smacked area. I expected the shoes to feel hot with this additional, higher layer, but the brown, Kevlar-reinforced upper material is thin enough that the shoes breathe fairly well overall, and they dry faster than their predecessors.
I have narrow feet, and the Serpen_tie cinch-strap on the original Rascals was only good for keeping the laces out of my drivetrain, as it didn’t tighten enough to cinch down on my foot before running out of velcro. The revised Rascal has a 2-position hook on the outside of the shoe that allows riders to adjust the amount of strap needed to compress the Serpen_tie around their foot. With this update, I am able to adjust the squeeze of the strap on the fly.
If you remove the strap from its anchors for any reason, make sure to keep track of the hook on the outside of the shoe. Without the strap holding it in place, it falls out quite easily and is likely better left permanently on the main strap.
The Rascal Select lowers and sole are covered in reinforced rubber for impact protection and durability. The sole material and tread wrap up the toe and heel for improved maneuverability while hiking, and the thick rubber has been noticeable and appreciated every time my front tire launches a stone at my toes.
Ion’s no-sew interface between the sole and upper, and all around the toe-cap, leave little to snag or fray. I have thoroughly abused this pair of shoes in Alpine rock gardens this summer, and if I cleaned them it would be easy to see that they are still in fantastic shape throughout. Fortunately, I think they look best bathed in dirt and encrusted mud.
These shoes seem like they are built to last through several sets of cleats.
The shoe’s toe box is heavily rubberized, and certainly saved a few of my toenails from rock strikes. Uphill traction on these shoes is comparable to a high-end pair of hiking shoes.
In addition to their robust build and widely adjustable fit, the Rascal Select’s glowing advantage is in the sole. They have heaps of grip where riders need it, at the heel and toe respectively. Few mountain bike shoes can compare to the level of traction and overall walkability of these shoes. They are so comfortable that I have been wearing them to tromp up and down the steep Italian and French Alps while photographing races.
That grip also comes in handy when things get hectic on the trail and there isn’t the time or focus to clip in after a dab. I have been able to save multiple near-crashes by planting the mid-sole on my pedal and knowing it will stay put.
Lastly, Ion added a bit of stiffness to the Rascal Select sole that was noticeable in the first few pedal revolutions, and somehow they still feel great to walk in. When I initially clipped in with the Rascals things felt somewhat strange, because I had no tactile indication of where my pedal was. I couldn’t feel it whatsoever. Now that I have grown accustomed to exactly where the cleats are I am really enjoying how little pedal-feel they allow. Racers will appreciate the stiffer cleat interface, particularly while springing out of corners or landing harsh drops.
Each Rascal Select shoe weighs roughly 520g, with Shimano SPD cleats installed and a reasonable amount of dirt ground in. The shoes retail for $139/€139.
Thanks to Ion for sending the Rascal Select shoes for review.