Back in 2012 Shimano released the M162 shoe. Over the last few years it's become a bit of a sleeper hit with aggressive trail riders who didn't want the bulk of Shimano's actual All Mountain shoe (the AM45, which was actually more like a DH shoe). Unfortunately the M162 never made it to our shores but thankfully the bastard child of the AM45 and M162 has, well I should say did, as they sold out in an instant (more stock won't be here till March). Luckily we were able to get our feet in a pair and have given them a pretty intense first week of riding/pushing/climbing on our recent trip to Mt Buller in Aussie.
As you can see they take the best of both these shoes and roll them into a pretty futuristic disco slipper that off the bike would garner some pretty judgmental stares. The lace saver from the AM45 mixed with the burly buckle strap from the M162 makes for a pretty rock-solid upper, although standard laces are done away with in favour of a pull-cord similar to that found on Mavic's popular Crossmax and Alpine XL shoes.
Venting is impressive in what looks like it would be a hot shoe. The strong and rugged toe-box area still manages room for ample airflow and they haven't tried to be tricky and glue, but have chosen to sew, which always gets ticks from us. The fewer places shoes are bonded, the better!
The buckle itself is extremely low profile, thankfully so as on day one of our trip I had a high speed crash and slid on my right hip and shoe for over five metres on rugged ground; fearing I'd be taping the shoes up each night it hung in there for four more days of riding. The Velcro on the underside of the lace saver is a nice touch, positioning the lace pull-cord out of the way every time.
As you have already probably noticed, this shoe, much like your early 90s snowboard, is asymmetrical and features reasonably high ankle protection on the inside of the shoe. In fact it would be safe to say it offers similar support to that of a riding boot, but when riding the rest of the shoe is low profile enough to not really even notice the high instep. Your ankle will thank you though, but maybe not your crank graphics. At this point (the last photo) I should probably talk about three pretty important things. First up just how grippy and walkable these shoes are; as a photographer it's pretty high on my needs for a shoe and the M200 was particularly adept at climbing trees (the Aussie ones with no branches) and climbing up and down banks looking for the 'right' angle. Secondly, cleat position is a pretty big deal and the M200 has room to move in spades. Like most modern riders I like to run my cleats quite far back and it's rare for me that I don't have to drill the slots longer in shoes, but with these there is still 3-4mm of room left once my cleats are on, which is a nice touch. And finally there is the the whole TORBAL thing...
The what? TORBAL provides some sideways flex in the back section of the sole, while maintaining stiffness in the front. According to Shimano this improves balance and bike control by letting the heel section accommodate some lateral movement, while optimizing pedalling efficiency at the sole-and-cleat interface. It's pretty tech and lets dudes like Matty Hunter do mean turnbar/scrubs while putting the power down!
So how did they hold up after riding all day for five days straight? On the whole, pretty amazingly really. With pretty much every other brand of shoe having problems with bonding (Giro have now remedied the Terraduro) it was good to see no signs at all of any bonding issues with the cleat section of the sole; that said, one of the orange heel contact rubber bits did fall off. Fit though was like a glove and the comfort was immediate. In fact they were so comfortable after day one that I was going to say they didn't need to be broken in, but the second day's riding in them was even better!
Unless you can find a shop with stock you'll be hard pressed to find a pair of these at the moment, but March isn't that far away and at $229 it would pay to hit up your local store for a pre-order.