Home-Made Custom Carbon Cycling Shoes With Adam Hansen

Home-Made Custom Carbon Cycling Shoes With Adam Hansen


– And I thought, okay, I’ll
make my own shoes, why not? – This is the moment where I’m just like how do you even begin
to start with the shoe? (intro music) Right tech lovers, we’re lucky today because
we’re joined by Adam Hansen of Lotto Soudal. And well, he’s a guy who I’ve
not stalked specifically, but I’ve been really
interested in his career, particularly because he’s
an absolute tech lover. And well, a big thanks
to him because well, you’re about to get ready to
go on the team presentation here at the tour Down Under, aren’t you? So I don’t wanna keep you too long but I do in a way because
I wanna pick your brains about so many things. So I’ve got a few questions here. But firstly, what’s your
background in cycling, for everybody watching? Well in sport wise, I did a
lot of basketball, running, triathlons, duathlons, mountain biking. I wasn’t very good at cycling
in the triathlon scene, so I tried a year’s cycling in Austria to improve my bike leg. And then from there, that’s how I came into the cycling side. – Now were you always into technology? I guess a crude way of saying it is like do it yourself or DIY because when we look
at some of the things, which you’ve done in the past, you’re a great craftsman. Was that always something which you were doing
before you were cycling, or did you always have
a keen interest in it? – Well I used to love
pulling things apart, seeing how things work. – I bet your parents hated it. – Well in the end, they liked it, because I fixed everything
round the house. So that was good. But I was into software so I was a programmer
before I was a cyclist. And I did a lot of evaluation software. I used to work for Herron Todd White property valuers in Australia. And then from that, I went into also real
estate and renovations. I was buying flats, renovating them, and I did all the plastering, painting, wood floors, everything myself, that side. So as a do it yourself person, I was always into things like that, yeah. – And then you managed to I guess carry that over into cycling because on Weight Weenies, a forum, that’s where I first
heard about you really, when I was reading your posts
and everything like that. You were able to just
transfer your love I guess for handiwork into
actually making your bike, well, unique to you, let’s say. – Oh for sure. Like back in the Weight Weenie days where we could do anything, use any bike equipment you want, and the goal was to have the
lightest bike you could get. And I remember once, I
drilled out a (inaudible), just drilled holes all through it. – There’s people at home crying now. – And I’d get the chain rings, I’d drill them out also, anything to save weight. Used titanium bolts. I even used plastic bolts, like in the bottle cages. I made my own bottle cages, lighter ones. I would try and … Just even putting handlebar tape on, don’t put it too close to each other. – [Jon] Yeah, really tight as well. – [Adam] Yeah, yeah, less of it. So anything to make a bike lighter. – Your cleats on your shoes, I’m pretty sure they’re
quite far back, aren’t they? – [Adam] Yeah. – And I remember once,
racing against a guy, I think from Switzerland, and he showed me his shoes. And he had drilled them
in the center of the sole, and I asked him why. This guy must be crazy,
like why would you do that? And he said to me, “Jon, if
you were gonna kill a rat, how would you kill it?” And I said, “Well I
don’t know, with a trap.” He said, “No, no, with your foot.” And I said, “Well, in the
middle of my foot, I guess,” because you wouldn’t do it on your toe. You’d wanna … And he say, “Yeah, that’s where
your power’s coming from.” And I was “Yeah, I guess so.” And then when I saw your shoes, which I was sure were in the middle, is that the same thinking behind that, is that you can get more
power from that part? – Well it’s a bit of both things. First, they say with the running foot, you push most of your power
with the ball of your foot, which is true. But in a cycling shoe,
we have a rigid sole, and people forget that we really have a rigid sole in cycling. So this sort of defeats
the purpose on that side. My theory on it is that the more weight you have over the crank, the easier it is. So to work out watts, for example, it is torque multiplied by the cadence, and that equals your watts. And when you first had an SRM, you had to calibrate them ages ago. You did this formula. I used to know it off by heart years ago. But you had to put five
kilo weight and you put a new crank length in the formula, and it works out the slope number, and you had to enter into the SRM and then that’d work out the crank power. And for me, it was like okay, crank can support it. And it wasn’t, you wouldn’t
have to have it in the formula. And it’s like when you’re
taking a nut off a … And I always say this as an example. If you’re gonna take a
nut off a wheel of a car and use a short spanner, it’s super hard. But if you have a longer
one that will reach, it’s much easier. So with having your cleat further back, it puts your foot more forwards, and you’re having more
weight over the crank. So when you’re standing up, it’s super … well I don’t
wanna say it’s super easy, but it’s much easier when you’re climbing- – You’re letting all your secrets out now. – It’s much easier to apply the torque. So in low cadences, yeah,
if you’re more forwards, for me, I believe it’s much better. – Yeah. Now sticking then with cleats, I mean this is the thing which amazes me, because we spoke off camera just now and while I’m a
self-confessed lover of shoes, both normal shoes as
well as cycling shoes, and your shoes, they blow me away. I’ve just picked them up and, well, I couldn’t believe it, and the cameraman, he couldn’t believe it. He nearly passed over,
not because of the heat, but because of the weight. Because there is nothing to them. They are like 70 grams of
hair or something like that. So you hand make your own cycling shoes, which for many people out there, they won’t be able to believe it, but you do. What made you initially go
down that route and why? – Well this goes back to
the weight Weenie days where I always wanted
to have a light bike, and I always wanted to
have super light shoes. And at the time, I was riding DMT shoes, and they had the three Velcro straps, and this was really good. And then as shoes progressed, they started having a ratchet system. And I couldn’t have the ratchet system because I have a bone
sticking out of my foot here. And that’s where the
ratchet system used to be. So I used to get pain. So I’d always have to be
on the Velcro three straps. And that top model sort of died off and then I sort of ran out of options what type of shoes I had. And I really liked the DMTs because- – They were DMT Radial, I think. – Yeah, yeah. – Yeah, I liked them. I like really simple shoes, yeah. But anyway, sorry. – But what you could notice is, I used to gut them, I used to take … because there was a few
layers on the inside, I used to take all the
layers on the inside- – All that like very soft padding. – Yeah, so I’d take all that
out and then with the sole, I’d change the inner sole also, and I think I lost maybe 40 or 50 grams just from inside of the shoe, and you couldn’t tell it. And when I pulled the straps over, anything that wasn’t on the Velcro, a couple of straps short and everything to make them lighter. And I always just wanted a light shoe. And then they stopped producing them. So I ran out of options then. And I thought okay, well, I’ll make my own shoes, why not? – This is the moment where I’m just like how do you even begin
to start with the shoe? – Well it definitely was not easy. It took me I think three years, and I’m not gonna say three solid years. It was like okay, well I’ll give it a go. Can’t be so hard. And it was a lot of research
and a lot of trial and error, and the idea was just to make the sole and get someone else to make the top. And the other things I had, I had inner soles, and my inner
soles were 120 grams each. So they were super heavy,
just for the inner soles. – Was that like orthotic ones? – Yeah. And so my idea was okay, I’m gonna make my soles
based off my inner soles, so then I don’t need them, and I save 120 grams there, and I just make the top. I’d get someone else to
make the top and fabric. So I made a mold of my
foot in my inner soles, so the shape of my foot is directly in the position it should be in, by the orthotics. And then from that, I used
this wax over the top, because when you use
the epoxy with plaster, it gets absorbed and then
you need a separator. So it’s like a release agent, this special wax that I use. And then I had, as you call it, like a plug of your foot. And then I made basically
some flanges around it to make a mold from that. And first, I made the sole of a shoe. And I went to someone to make the top and they took way too long to do this. So I thought okay, it can’t be so difficult
to make the top also. And the problem with carbon
fiber is it’s super stiff, well, it’s the epoxy. So I tested with
different agents of resin, and I could make the epoxy more flexible. So the top layer of my shoe, if you have a look, you actually see it here,
where there’s a join here. And this part of the shoe
here is actually flexible. So that’s flexible. It’s actually really flexible. And the sole is, as you
feel here, as hard as a … It’s very stiff. – Yeah, there’s no movement
in there, is there? – And the way I got my shoes so light, and if you look at a few
examples like the Bont shoe, it’s called the bathtub design. Right, so the side walls
create the stiffness. So if you have a look here
at this defined line here, and my sole goes all the way
up there and it goes around. So my sole actually goes
over the top of my foot. And that’s where I get
the extra stiffness. So by adding extra layers of carbon here, I can reduce the layers here. And you see the line here,
they come through here. So all the carbon’s on
the outside of the shoe. And then here, there’s almost nothing. And you can actually push in
there, like on a bike frame, you know, when you push on top shoes? You don’t need stiffness there and you don’t need stiffness there. And all the stiffness is through the side. So that’s how I get the stiffness and it remaining so
light at the same time. So the top half uses a
different type of epoxy to the bottom part, and that’s the flexible one. This is the nonflexible one. And the other ways to make it lighter, I don’t have the metal bolts. – [Jon] Yeah, that’s right. What’s that, Kevlar, is it? – That’s Kevlar carbon. So what I do is I do have
the metal bolts in there, at the start, and then I make it set
up, everything right, then I use a glue gun
and I glue it in place. I take the bolts out and then I thread it with carbon Kevlar, and then I put epoxy on there and then it’s fixed and
that stays on forever. Other things I did, I used to have a [inaudible] system here. – I remember that, yeah. – Years ago. And then I went for a
Bola system at the back. And now I do a 3D printed
thing on my 3D printer, where it just wraps around there, add different knots,
different tensions there. – [Jon] Just pull it through. – Yeah, so I just pull
it through, hook it in, and I feed it through there. That was 2.7 grams. The Boa system without the bolts and without the bolts in the shoe, was 11 and a half grams, and I think there was like 15 grams there. So I saved 12 grams just with that there. With this here, I saved
27 and a half grams, and I just try everything
possible to minimize the weight. – Yeah, now did you have … Before you were making your own shoes, were you putting cleats
further back than normal? – Yeah. So I re-drilled the shoes also. Now I have them a little
bit more forwards, because when you have them too far back, you do lose a lot of cadence. And if you have them too far forwards, okay, you lose a lot of torque, but you have … more
flexible in the ankle, where I’m just trying to find a midpoint. And the strange thing is, if
you look at cyclists today, a lot of cyclists have the
cleats all the way back in their current shoes. So everyone is going a bit further back. It’s a bit easier. It’s less stress on your Achilles also. And it’s more safe if you’re a bit unsure
where to have your cleats. – Well I used to actually
do something similar to try and get a little bit further back, using a speed play adaptor, and actually filing it out and … Well, Dremel, and yeah. You know where I’m coming from. Now if I said to you, and this is a dream by the way, if I said to you, “Adam,
I’m gonna come over, I want a pair of shoes.” Imagine that, but for
yourself in seriousness, how long does it take
you from start to finish, now that you’re up to skills with it, because the first pair was what, three years you said? – So to do all the molds and everything, it’s about 14 days. But once the molds are done, I can do it in five days, but it’s only one hour work every day. So it’s one hour there and then you’ve gotta wait
24 hours for it to cure, then it’s another one
hour job with the epoxy, then it’s 24 hours to cure. So yeah. – Right, I’ve got another one then. Stiffness of a sole, does that make a big
difference to power output? It is recordable, I guess, because I remember …
it’s probably in my mind. I mean us as cyclists, we spend a lot of time on
our own, don’t we, riding, and all sorts of things
go through our mind. Oh, the soles are too stiff. My feet are hurting because of that. I always thought I’ll get
the stiffness sole possible because you’re not gonna lose any power, and I just wanna know
your thoughts on that after making your own shoes. I’m sure you’ve done all
sorts of different soles. – So with mine, I always
want the lightest, and sometimes I go too far, and I can feel that they’re
too soft, and I won’t use them. So I definitely have some pairs … I have a training pair
that are bulletproof, where I feel confident I
can throw it at the wall, it won’t break. These ones I race nationals with. These are eight months old, so they’ve done quite a lot of racing. I get goosebumps if I drop it. Because if I drop it at the wrong point, where the carbon’s super thin, they will break. Stiffness with these, these are the borderlines. I would not make these any
more lighter than this. I do have a white pair that I
use here on the sprint days, and they’re stiffer. Not by much. Let me say it like this, these aren’t flexible
enough not to use them, if that makes sense. – So you’re not gonna compromise
your job on your bike, are you, by having something- – Sure, no. – I still can’t get over them. – Well yeah, I say they’re
light and people are like, “Yeah, light,” but when they pick them up, it’s like it’s paper. – They genuinely are so light. And now I know that you’re
scared of them being dropped, I don’t wanna touch them. – Actually, I don’t like
people touching them. – Oh really, do you not? – Yeah, I have a special case I put them. – I feel awful now, because I’m like “Oh let’s have a look.” – No, but sometimes I’ll leave them there. I have teammates, they wanna try them. – Oh right, okay, yeah. – And you see it, it’s really … Like you see the ball of my foot here. You see my bone sticking out here. Like this part here. It’s really for me. People say “What size are you?” I’m like, “No, no, you’re
not trying them on.” Like I’ll go to a photo shoot
or something, come back, and I’ll see somebody like
trying to put his foot in them. Like “Don’t.” – No, stop. – “No, don’t.” Yeah, it’s not like that. So yeah, these ones are … Like in my suitcase, I’ve
crushed a pair a few times. – Oh no. – Yeah, so I have a special
place in my suitcase that I made from fiberglass
to put them in there, so they’re safe. And yeah, I always watch them,
I always carry with them, I never leave them here. I always take them to my room. Because the light ones,
yeah, they’re very fragile. It’s like an eggshell. – Yeah, I mean they’re incredible. Are you still fixing your
teammates’ bits and pieces, as well as other riders, because you’re quite well
known for that, aren’t you? Sort of the go-to guy. Like the TV doesn’t work
in the Bahrain-Merida bus. Adam can fix it. Are you still the- – It’s not the nicest thing sometimes. – No, exactly. It’s alright if it’s
your team but the others, it’s “Oh no, I can’t fix it. Sorry lads, you’re gonna
have to be stuck with-” – When someone breaks the
screen on their phone, they always take it to me, “Can you fix the screen?” Like “Yeah, I’ll do that.” – I’ve heard you’re good at that. – Yeah, yeah. Adam Blythe’s asked me if
I can wrap some things, because I wrap my shoes, I used to paint them. Now I wrap my shoes. So the white ones are wrapped now. They’re wrapped because … well first, when you put your shoe
in, it opens this way, and the paint used to crack. And that used to always annoy me. So I use car wrap, so all my shoes you see that are white, I just wrap them. And Adam heard I had some wrap, he goes, “How much wrap you got? Can you make my shoes more white?” I’m like- – It’s all he cares about. – Yeah, so I did some
wrapping on his shoes. Yeah, if something goes wrong or they can’t work out
installing some application or the computer has a problem, I get the knock on the door. “Is the office open?” “Yes, the office is open.” – Yeah, it’s 3 am, come on. Brilliant. Adam, thank you so much for your time. I’m aware that there’s riders
milling around behind us. When we started in here,
it was quite empty, and now, there’s all sorts
of people gathering around, ruining our beautiful shot. But no, thank you so much. It’s been absolutely brilliant and I can’t wait for us to
sit down again and chat, because it’s always insightful
and I learn so much, and it just makes me want to pester you more and more and more about technical stuff. So there we are. Let us know your comments for Adam, because who knows, maybe in the future, we’ll be able to hook up again and I’ll try not to take
up too much of his time, but we wanna know your questions. And also, remember to
like and share this video. Don’t forget, check out the GCN shop. And well, we did a suitcase
tour with you once upon a time, didn’t we, yeah? – That’s right, yeah. – Yeah, so if you wanna check out that to see exactly what goes on
tour with Adam, it’s amazing. Yeah, I’m not going to
ruin the surprise actually. Click just down here.