Specialized Recon 2.0 Review: After 2,000+ Miles

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With a purposeful design that blends a cross-country construction with fairly aggressive tread, the new Specialized Recon 2.0 might just be the perfect line-blurring shoe for all things unpaved. After 2,000+ miles of use, find our full review here…

It’s interesting to watch the cycling industry react to all the sub-genres that fall somewhere between gravel and trail mountain biking these days. Drop-bar bikes are becoming more like mountain bikes, and many mountain bikes are being dialed back to serve a less aggressive purpose. Many of us appreciate this “off-road” middle ground. After all, more and more people are coming into the world of unpaved cycling from a simpler, non-racing, and more pragmatic perspective. With that, you’d think that the bike industry would be all over this with apparel that matches—footwear, in particular. However, cycling shoes often seem to go one direction or the other. Many of the shoes that are marketed for gravel these days are still cut from the same cloth as road racing shoes—with a sleek aesthetic, slippery toe cleats, and uncomfortable plasticky soles that are too stiff and just don’t cut it for hanging out at camp (and aren’t ideal for extended hike-a-bikes, either). And many of the MTB shoe options are either a little too bulky, clunky, flimsy, or just a little too “moto.”

I don’t think I’m alone in this rather oddball preference: I like a shoe that’s kind of between gravel and MTB, if there is such a thing. Earlier this year, Specialized released the Recon 2.0, which they classify as a mountain bike shoe with a tendency toward comfort and efficiency. And while it certainly still has a sleek, cycling-specific look and design, it’s proven to be a versatile winner after well over 2,000 miles of use. Read on for the full review.

Specialized Recon 2.0 Review
  • Specialized Recon 2.0 Review
  • Specialized Recon 2.0 Review

To preface, I’ve pretty much all but completely switched to flat pedals for trail mountain biking and longer bikepacking trips. However, when I ride a drop-handlebar bike, no matter its classification, I almost always reach for a pair of Shimano SPD pedals and some good clipless shoes. For a while, my shoe of choice was the classic looking Specialized Recon Mixed. The QUOC Grand Tourer and Bontrager GR2 are a couple of others in this genre that I like. I wouldn’t consider any of these ideal for my taste, though. While I like the look, they’re all kind of race-inspired and generally feel like road shoes—either a little too stiff for long trips or not quite as hiking/off—bike-friendly as I’d like. The revamped 2020 Specialized Recon shoe line was released earlier this year and looked like it might tick a few boxes with significantly knobby-yet-normal soles, yet still a rather sleek XC construction. The Recon comes in three models segmented by performance and price (1.0, 2.0, and 3.0). At first glance, the Recon 2.0 appeared to be the best suited for general off-road use.

Specialized Recon 2.0 Review
  • Specialized Recon 2.0 Review
  • Specialized Recon 2.0 Review

The Recon lineup is actually based on Specialized’s popular and ultra-stiff S-Works XC race shoes. And while the Recon 2.0 features a similar look and shape, it has a much more aggressive tread pattern and a flex zone just behind the toe box for a more natural feel when walking, hiking, or just sauntering around after a ride. Aside from costing much less than the S-Works model, the Recon 2.0 also has a stiffness rating that’s significantly lower. Looking at Specialized’s own “stiffness index,” the 2.0 gets a 6 while the S-Works gets a 13. Even so, I found the Recon 2.0 sole to be perfect in that regard. It’s not quite as stiff as the Recon Mixed, but it’s stiff enough to feel very responsive while pedaling and comfortable on and off the bike. On a mid-summer scouting mission, I was averaging 80 miles a day for 10 days straight and never felt any of the arch fatigue that often comes from shoes that aren’t quite stiff enough or pressure pain from shoes that are too stiff.

Similar to the recently reviewed Specialized Rime 2.0, the Recon 2.0 features X-PEL hydrophobic fabrics to decrease water retention and dry time. However, they don’t have technical open mesh areas or welded, rubberized coverings like the Rimes. Instead, the Recon 2.0 has more of a classic looking material with small holes placed on the side and front to allow ventilation. They take on water relatively easily in creek crossings and such, but the X-PEL construction seems to do a good job of making them not feel like waterlogged bricks once they do get wet. As far as breathability, I found that they stayed relatively cool on summer rides, although I wouldn’t consider them to be the airiest shoe I’ve used, at all. Even so, considering their substantial welded construction, they seem to dry relatively well, despite the lack of mesh fabrics.

Specialized Recon 2.0 Review
  • Specialized Recon 2.0 Review
  • Specialized Recon 2.0 Review

Out of the box, the Recon 2.0 was immediately comfortable. Specialized’s Body Geometry sole and footbed promise increased pedaling efficiency alongside alignment and comfort. The Recon 2.0 didn’t disappoint in either department. The heel cup seems to fit my relatively narrow foot quite well with zero slippage, even when hiking up steep inclines. And the arch support is spot on too. While the 3.0 has dual BOA dials, the 2.0 has a single BOA one-way cable dial per shoe and a velcro strap at the forefoot. I found that this system worked pretty well and I didn’t wish for a second dial, although it typically required a few clicks of tightening once I was on the bike to dial in the correct tightness. Also, the one-way micro-adjustment means that if you over tighten it, you have to pull out the dial to release tension before re-tightening. That’s not perfect, but it’s also not a deal-breaker. Honestly, as I was trying to gather some thoughts about these shoes from a comfort perspective, I often realized that I forgot about them while pedaling. And that’s a good thing.

  • Specialized Recon 2.0 Review
  • Specialized Recon 2.0 Review
Specialized Recon 2.0 Review

Not only are the Specialized Recon 2.0 quite comfortable both on and off the bike, but they also seem very durable. After well over 2,000 miles of pedaling, shuffling, and pushing during several scouting trips, they’re hardly showing any signs of wear. The soles are in almost perfect shape and the uppers are nearly flawless, aside from some slight fraying where the BOA cable contacts the closure—this is hardly an issue, however. I expect them to last a whole lot longer, which is quite important to me with shoes.

  • Actual Weight (pair) 770 grams (with cleats)
  • Size Tested 42.5
  • Sizes Available 36-49 (half-sizes in 38.5-46.5)
  • Place of Manufacture China
  • Price $160
  • Manufacturer’s Details Specialized.com

Pros

  • Comfortable fit, out of the box
  • Lugged soles and flexible toe area offer excellent traction for hiking
  • Nice middle ground between comfort and efficiency

Cons

  • Toe box might not be spacious enough for some
  • Large logo is a little over the top for those who prefer a minimal aesthetic

Wrap Up

The Specialized Recon 2.0 quickly has quickly one of my favorite clipless shoes of all time, even after a whole lot of use and abuse. As mentioned, they’re very comfortable while pedaling and hiking, and they are stiff enough to provide excellent efficiency without feeling like you’re wearing a hard sock. And after 2,000+ miles of tough riding, they look almost flawless, aside from that nice dirt patina. I expect that they could get another 2,000 miles on them without any issues whatsoever. I’ll be sure to update this post when they do.

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