The arrival of two sets of handmade Spanish Luck road cycling shoes for review put a swagger in my step – even before unboxing them.
I grew up with the perception that a Rolls-Royce is the best vehicle money can buy because each one is put together entirely by hand.
A product created by hand evokes a specific mental picture. I imagine a greying and bespectacled technician almost lovingly fitting a component and then stepping back to judge his handiwork.
If anything is not entirely to his satisfaction, I imagine him poring over it and fiddling with it until it is just the way he wants it. He steps back once more and a smile of satisfaction runs over his face.
In the same way, I imagine Luck craftsmen in Arnedo putting a bit of their soul into each pair of their hand-crafted cycling shoes.
A tradition of shoe-making
The town, just south of the Pyrenees, has a population of 15 000 and the economy is based almost entirely on the shoe industry. Here, shoe-making is a tradition.
It reminds of knifemaking in Sheffield, England, following the industrial revolution and watchmaking in Geneva, Switzerland.
For the Luck people, I imagine, there is no rush. Pride takes precedence over production every single time – as does the daily afternoon siesta.
This was the emotional connection I had with the brand before lacing up.
The South African distributor, Positive Sports Solutions, sent me one white and one black pair from their high-end Ator range and, after much pondering, I decided to cleat the white ones.
Although they have an all-white look, they sport black soles and unobtrusive black trimmings that really make them pop.
In recent years all my shoes have been black and boring with probably way too much thought going into practical aspects such as keeping them clean.
What I loved straight out of the box was the understated elegance. The only evidence of what I would be wearing was a minute white-on-red plastic Luck logo sewn into the heel’s outside seam – unreadable to anyone in my slipstream.
The outer is made of microfibre, a synthetic fibre purportedly thinner than a strand of silk. The inside of the shoe has a fine leather-like personality while, on the outside, it looks and feels lacquered.
Two neat groupings of ventilation holes have been placed on the left and two more on the right side of each shoe and these are the only “artwork” on my pair.
On the bottom, six mostly oval openings form part of the design of the carbon fibre sole for purposes of ventilation and moisture dissipation.
Three are grouped behind and three in front of the cleat with each cavity neatly covered by fine wire meshing.
The rear edge of each hole on the front of the sole has been raised slightly to help channel moving air into the shoe, a design element that gives one insight into the brand’s attention to detail.
The manufacturers incorporated a double Atop reel-knob lacing system on the top of the shoe, which, in my opinion, contributes to its overall slick look.
When you review a product, there is always the fear that you are not going to like it. Or like it enough to rave about it. Or, ultimately, like it enough to recommend it to your friends.
As a creature of habit, I have used only two brands of shoes in three decades and was interested to find out whether Luck would – or could – match up to my experiences.
Especially so because all my other shoes sported either Velcro or ratchet straps or a combination of these.
The obvious advantage of Velcro is that you can tune it as finely as you wish but, over time, you probably sacrifice efficiency.
With ratchet straps, I have experienced the pre-determined settings to be limiting – often finding the perfect setting on one foot but not the other.
My fear for change was immediately allayed when I slipped my feet into the pair of Ators. They felt snug and almost slipper-like – until, of course, you try to walk.
I found the sole to be incredibly rigid, which is a good thing when riding and less so when walking to your bike.
On both feet, I was able to set the tension of the laces – which are attached to three sets of eyelid hooks on each shoe – to near perfection by turning them clockwise. Two clicks in the opposite direction result in a full release.
Possibly expecting the tension to decrease during the ride, I erred by overtightening the laces on the first ride. Even so, a quick release of the offending knob and retightening it on the go was easy-peasy.
I used the Luck shoes – weighing in at 245g – on 12 rides totalling about 20 hours and a bit over 500km and it took less than two of those to mould to my feet.
Being blessed with questionable biomechanics, the most interesting aspect was the way I was able to put the power down. With my personal shoes, I always feel that I’m missing out on 20 per cent power on my left pedal stroke.
For the first time in a decade, it felt like my power delivery was equal from both legs and that it is being delivered from a stable core. A chronic sensitivity on the inside of my left patella vanished after three or four rides.
Whether these are factors of this shoe or mine, it is an interesting observation.
One of my personal quirks is to use thicker, more forgiving mountain bike socks when I cycle on the road to increase the comfort level. I decided to test the thinnest pair I could find and was pleasantly surprised at the positive feedback from my feet.
As many of my cycling rides are casual, I like to fit both my road and mountain bikes with a two-bolt mountain biking clipless cleat system. This allows me to use mountain bike shoes on the road bike whenever the situation warrants it.
The Ator shoes at my disposal only had the option for a three-bolt road cycling system and this was, from my perspective, the only real shortcoming.
It is the sheer unpretentiousness of the Luck brand that won me over initially. Add to that a slick design, incredible riding comfort and fantastic power delivery and you have a keeper.
I have no qualms about recommending these Luck shoes to my friends.
Availability: Luck shoes come in various ranges and are available from Positive Sports Solutions in South Africa.
Price: The Ator model falls within Luck’s high-end range and retails for R5 499 including VAT and delivery within SA.