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More than shoes: SIDI

From issue 4 (2011) • Words/images: Jered Gruber

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It’s impossible to engage in a discussion about cycling footwear without mentioning Italy’s preeminent cycling shoe company, SIDI. Dino Signori’s brand, which gets its name from the first two letters of the maestro’s last and first names, has long been on the forefront of cycling technology.

Like Castelli, another Italian company that has long earned its reputation as a leader in innovation, SIDI is a company that can boast a daunting list of firsts within the cycling industry. To sum it up succinctly, SIDI’s innovations have led the cycling market for almost forty years.

Signori didn’t take long to get started with his firsts.  The first widely-released cycling shoe to bear the SIDI name, the Titanium in 1973, incorporated the first use of adjustable screws to allow for better cleat placement, and with that, did away with the former practice of nailing the cleat to the sole of the shoe. The first use of the nylon sole followed a few years later, followed by the use of Velcro, then the micrometrical buckle, the Micro Lock, which then gave rise to the Techno II buckle and its microfilament line. All of these developments happened before the turn of the century, sometimes many years before their adoption by competitors.

SIDI’s innovations and perseverance are impressive, but that would mean little if the shoes didn’t feel good. Fortunately, that has never been a problem with Signori’s shoes, which are known around the world as some of cycling’s most comfortable.

SIDI certainly has had a long time to perfect their product. Signori, himself an avid, successful cyclist since the age of 15, founded SIDI in 1960. The beginnings were modest, as are most, but it was in a small workshop that the specialist shoemaker began carving his niche. He started with mountaineering footwear, but soon turned to his passion for two-wheels, both motorized and human powered.

The original workshop stood in the village of Maser, on the outskirts of Treviso, with the Asolo hills and the giant form of the Monte Grappa presiding over the entire scene. SIDI has never left its birthplace—it has only grown.

The company’s current factory, still firmly entrenched in Maser, is a monument to the art of shoemaking, enclosed in a structure befitting such a noble cause. Along with the logo out front, the distinctive, rolling wave of the roof catches one’s attention first, and it should, as it was designed with the scene that lies just behind the building in mind—the sublime, rolling Asolo hills.

Entering into the building is a step into the foundation of success. It all starts from the from the ground up, right? The shoes of countless champions line the walls and showcases of the entrance area: the dirtied, scuffed, well-worn shoes of everyone from Paolo Bettini to Laurent Fignon to Maurizio Fondriest to the icons of mountain bike racing, cyclocross, MotoGP, motocross, and more. 

The showroom off to the left would make anyone drool, and if you aren’t into two-wheeled motorsports before you arrive, you’ll likely be interested in giving them a try just to put on those beautiful boots. Showrooms and exteriors aside, that’s all more or less lagniappe, as they say in Louisiana—extra, bonus. The heart of the company lies further inside the structure on the factory floor and in the adjacent areas devoted to the design of the next innovation in SIDI’s storied timeline.

The factory itself, a marvel of an assembly line populated by massive, specialized machines and many skilled workers, immediately brings to mind Roald Dahl’s legendary Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The noise, the machines, and the colors—it’s a brilliant scene to take in, but instead of sugary sweets, the production line creates some of the world’s best, most timeless pieces of cycling and motorsport footwear. The process is exacting, precise, and defined by quality. It’s beautiful.

With so many shoes made and so many advances achieved, there seems to be little hope that SIDI’s unceasing quest for a better shoe will ever slow. The words of Signori say all that needs to be said.

“I’ve had lots of companies come asking if we would produce for them. But that doesn’t interest me at all. I have enough for me and my family; I don’t need any more work. My goal is to make perfect shoes. If I could produce just one pair of perfect shoes, then I would be completely happy.”

From issue 4. SOLD OUT.