Jack Lee makes custom moulds for the best fit possible, but do they work?
Nile Rodgers is one of the most prolific musicians of our time. If you take a moment to listen to any of the tracks he has written, or produced, you’ll notice a clever pattern unfold. Unlike many musicians, Niles doesn’t like keeping his audience guessing what the song is all about. Rather than start with an intro, or a verse, Niles opens every track with the point he wants to make – ‘Le Freak’ starts with Le Freak, ‘Good Times’ begins with Good Times, ‘I Want Your Love’ goes ahead and asks for it, whilst ‘I’m Coming Out’ comes out loud and proud. You see, Niles keeps it simple.
What does this have to do with cycling? Like Niles, Jack likes to keep it simple – what Jack offers is ‘pure custom’ footwear. That’s the promise I was hoping for and that is precisely what I got.
Pure Custom? That means everything from initial conversation, foot moulding, design, production and shipping – every step is taken by Jack to ensure people get shoes that fit and work.
Late in the summer of 2017 I received a pair of Mk1’s. Let’s take a first look at what they’re like:
Box Fresh and Tubeless
I’m Coming Out
My go-to cycling shoe for ages were a pair of first-gen S.Works. Being an early adopter of the dial-and-wire closure system, coming with replaceable studs and a comparatively light weight were all a bonus, but the real selling point for me were its spacious toe-box. Unfortunately, after much use, they eventually had to retire. The subsequent editions didn’t seem to match neither the fit, nor make good on value. Since then I’ve been playing with DMT and Lake’s. They do very well, but they’re not perfect for me. Both are branded as being wide, but like most shoes, they narrow towards the toes. Now the last time I looked, my feet spread out, not inwards. This isn’t a problem with Jack’s custom offering – through the moulding process they match my feet exactly.
360 in 6 pics
Design and Innovation
Having met Jack a few months earlier for the personalised mould, we quickly set upon agreeing on the details. This included Speedplay specific cleats which he hadn’t made before, but was confident he could make work. And they do. The Speedplays are now direct mounting with no need for adaptors. This not only means less faff when setting them up, but more importantly, minimises the distance between pedal and the power which one can apply. There is of course the seatpost adjustment necessary to accommodate this change.
Easy dial in with the atop system
Construction – what a difference
The first thing I notice when unboxing are how they are unlike any other shoe I’ve come across. Of course I’d seen samples when I first met Jack in May 2017 and seeing Adam Hasen’s very own footwear made us all think this would one day be possible, but nothing prepares me for this kind of change. Everything about Jack’s creation is different.
From the moulding process, to the materials and the construction, there simply aren’t cycling shoes made to this exacting detail out there:
Materials – The shoe is light and altogether stiff for an unprecedented power output compared to other road shoes I’ve used. Surprisingly, this doesn’t sacrifice comfort because of the natural fit obtained through the moulding and the smooth inside-and-out finish.
Light – My shoe size is usually a 44, this custom shoe came in at just under 200g. For real world application, I may not need anything below this. Although, seeing Jack’s work on IG, he’s likely to better this.
Safety – Despite having no legal obligation, Jack is inspired by the high standards of Formula1. He insists on using Kevlar for maximum protection on all shoes and tests them to the absolute limit.
Hard wearing – Wanting to ensure even further longevity of the footwear, I ask for spare heels, but Jack is a step ahead: having tested his very own choice of materials to ensure that those supplied are nigh-on-indestructable whilst still throwing in an extra pair for good measure.
Jack offers personalisation on the finish too. The norm for other custom moulding companies is to sell a stock finish. Sure, there’s a wide choice of colours; you can even have some form of semi-custom paint job, but it is limited. For the time being, Jack lets your imagination run wild. So, I asked for reflectors to be added to the heel area and Jack kept me updated on the best materials available. Finally, I went for club colours. Naturally.
Heels on fire – subtle reflective strips as requested
Here’s what Jack is capable of producing:
In his personal cupboard there’s 6 to choose from, only because everyone needs a day of rest
It all comes down to Fit
The key to Jack’s shoes are they are personalised like no other. Apart from every pair being unique, each shoe is unlike the pair it comes with. Confusing? Well, line them up and immediately you can see they are wholly different. In comparison, shoes that purport to be custom are taking moulds whilst in their ready-made-shoe. Jack goes the other way – mould first, followed by making the shoes. Sure, even he is quick to admit he’s not the alone in doing it this way, but he believes his process is the best method for getting the right fit.
Here are some FAQ’s:
Are they comfy?
Yes, it is a different kind of comfort – it’s like being used to a plush mattress, to suddenly getting onto a futon. It takes some getting used to, but as for me, I like this solid and supported feel. The engagement with the pedals is closer than ever before. If you like the feel of running around barefoot, you’ll like these.
What’s the ride like?
These are my go-to shoes. I like them a lot. Not just for the look, but for the actual feel. I can’t stop looking down to admire them though, they work so well, I have to take a second glance to believe it. What it comes down to is fit and comfort, because ultimately the power transfer and how far one can ride depends on these two factors.
What needs improving?
There isn’t much, it’s more of an awareness of change, but here’s what I’ve come across:
I’ve noticed that if I change my pedal style to a more acute angle, the tongue can niggle ever so slightly against the bridge of my ankle. UPDATE – Jack has addressed this by updating his current design with a cutaway off the tongue that offsets any pressure – this now also reduces overall weight.
The Atop securing system is similar to that of the popular BOA system. Unlike BOA, you don’t pull to release; with the Atop, you simply rotate it one way to tighten and the opposite way to release. In my opinion, it is more intuitive than the BOA and when tightening there is a satisfyingly secure, albeit loud ratchet sound. If you’re riding early, it might be best to lace up out of earshot.
Ventilation isn’t a problem. The materials and vents in the sole keep my feet fresh. It’s when the cooler days come that you notice the difference. With the DMT’s I simply tape up the side vents and with the Lake’s, the leather is a good insulator. I find FCCS shoes requires the foil plus oversock treatment.
At the time of writing a fully customised pair is £1,414 + customs £60 (USD$2,000) I agree, you can get a nice bike for this kind of money and this alone will be a major barrier for some people. My take on this is a question of value. In the past 10 years I’ve spent more time, effort and money than that on finding a shoe that fits right and does the job properly. Finally, I’ve found the right fit. In my personal opinion this makes FCCS shoes by Jack Lee good value.
The Low Down
These are my go-to shoes. I like them a lot. Not just for the look, but for the actual feel. If I had to get another pair, I’d save up for these, but the way Jack has made them, it may be some time before they genuinely need replacing.
A full review will be made later in the year. Until then, you can see Jack Lee’s progress through FCCS.
:: The review is independent and the club does not have any involvement with Jack Lee, FCCS, CWCODE nor Hanseeno. We simply like their ideas. You can find a range of reviews here ::