After my interview with Fabio at DZR, I mentioned how I would love to do a review of the Mamba X shoes from the perspective of a polo player, and he graciously sent a pair for me to try out. I received the shoes back at the end of June and now have played four tournaments and numerous pick-up games on the shoes, so I feel like it is time to give the Mamba X a thorough review. The review consists of three sections that I feel are the most important situations a polo player would find themselves wearing the Mamba X: Commuting, Playing Polo and the After Party. Whether it’s running errands or waking up for a “9 a.m.” start time of a tournament, the Commuting section will discuss the shoe as a daily vessel. In the Playing Polo section, I will discuss how well the shoe handles getting hit by balls or mallets, how it holds up hoping around and all the other polo specific questions. In the final section, I will discuss how the shoe holds up going from an aggressive sports shoe to a shoe that you’d see cutting a rug on the dance floor at a polo After Party.
Before taking a knife into the sole of the shoe, to prepare it for clipless riding, I wanted to test the shoe as, simply, a shoe. My first thought when putting them on was how they didn’t feel like my old pair of clipless shoes. Yes, they are heavier than the Vans that I typically wear commuting, but these felt so much lighter than the cement brinks that were my old mountain biking clipless shoe. A quick walk around the block revealed the shoes perfectly executed stiff but flexible sole. After the quick jaunt, I hoped on my commuter bike and took the long way around town to run errands so I could get a good feel for the shoes. The Mamba X has a padded upper that allows for great comfort while using toe cages or pedal straps. The stiff sole showed its true self while I did some intensive pedal mashing. The stiffness mixed with the gummy rubber compound allowed for what felt like more power with every pedal stroke. I even took these shoes for some creek exploring before cutting out the bottom, and they withstood the test of walking on rocks for a long distance without losing their comfort. So, whether you are looking to pick up the Mamba X as a polo shoe to use with platform pedals, a stylish daily commuter, something for BMXing/FGFS/mountain biking/etc. these clipless shoes will work great as a normal shoes until you are ready to cut into their sole and reveal their true purpose.
After wearing the shoes around for a week or so, fully intact and falling in love with them, I decided it was time to cut into the sole and see how they held up on the courts. In my old shoes, you had to remove the insoles of the shoes and hold the cleat anchors in place to screw the cleats in. When I took the insoles out of the Mamba X’s I discovered DZR’s brilliance in water proofing the cleat cutout. They have a plastic piece glued to the inside of the cutout that goes over the cleat anchor to prevent water seeping in through the bottom. The plastic piece also held the anchor in place so that it didn’t slide around like the ones in my previous shoes. I was used to running my cleat at the top of the cleat guide (closer to my toes, for more pedal mashing power), but in trying this with the Mamba X’s, I ran into my first problem with the shoes. I found myself having a really hard time clipping into my pedals with the cleat at the top. The sole of the shoe is so thick (for good reason) that it made clipping in during a fast pace situation—like a polo game—very difficult. To fix this, I simply moved the cleat closer to the back of the cleat tracking and now have no problems clipping in and out. The shoe’s metal reinforced Nylon shank allows for intense pedal mashing and hopping around without worry of the shank breaking and the cleat coming off, like I’ve seen with other shoes. Another advantageous element of the Mamba X, for bike polo, is the heavily padded ankle support. Not only is there support to prevent the accident ankle roll while dabbing, but the thick padding protects from the hardest of shots. I’ve personally experienced being hit in the ankle with both a ball and a mallet while in these shoes, and it feels like being punched by an old lady with a pillow wrapped around her fist.
The first thing I noticed while wearing this shoe out post polo tournament or pick-up, is that I didn’t feel that I needed to change shoes for many different reasons. The first of which is the deep sole of the shoe. This allows you to bar-hop, cut rugs, climb into a dumpster party, etc. without wearing down your cleats. Also, there isn’t that annoying walking on broken glass sound of walking on cleats. The shoes are extremely breathable for such a padded shoe. You can wear the shoes for a full day of polo, head to the after party and then back home without accumulating too much foot sweat. This was a major problem I had with previous clipless shoes. Before I felt like I had to take my shoes off after every game I played to give my feet a chance to breath, but with the Mamba X’s your feet breathe easier. The only other disadvantage I’ve seen to these shoes versus other clipless shoes is that the mid-sole pulls away from the body of the shoe. Unlike many shoes, the Mamba X does not have a stitch to connect the mid-sole to the body, and instead relied on glue alone. I’ve had my shoes for four months now and it isn’t too bad, but while at the World Hardcourt Bike Polo Championships, I saw some other shoes that were worse than mine. One person even went through and sewed the midsole to the body himself so that he wouldn’t have any problems. Outside of that, these are not only a practical shoe but a fashionable one as well. In their sexy charcoal blue color, they are something you could wear out and not feel like “that guy” wearing a cycling shoes while not cycling. An added bonus is the reflective strip on the back of the shoe that not only allows you to be seen while drunkenly biking home, but lets your shoes stand out in the strobe lights of the after party dance party!
While I was unable to move the cleat to the top of the shank’s tracks like I was used to, and despite the mid-sole coming slightly unglued where it meets the body of the shoe, I still feel the trade off of having a breathable shoe with a stiff sole that flexes enough for walking, a water proofing over the cleat anchor, heavy duty ankle protection, a thick sole, a sturdy shank that won’t break while hopping, and it is stylish on top of all of that, makes the Mamba X the best shoe on the market for bike polo players. For only $120, this shoe will take you anywhere you and your bike want to go, so no need for a different clipless shoe for each of life’s adventures. I’d give these shoes 9 out of 10 easily!