Wednesday, January 10, 2018

How To: Add laces to your (non lace up) cycling shoes

If your first thought was "why?" then you're obviously new here. We'll forgive you for that. The stuff we do and try on this blog isn't about having good reasons, it's about seeing if we can do it. That said, my poor Specialized 74's have seen better days. I had replaced the boa's about a year ago and cut the new wires slightly too short, which made getting into them a real pain. A week or so ago I broke one of the new boa's and decided instead of replacing them again I'd see if I could make them into lace ups! Because that's the hot thing right now. It'd also be practical as it'd make it a lot easier to get into them and one might argue have more control over keeping them tight when riding. So there, there's you reason. But really, this isn't a blog for rational reasoning, just trying to do new and interesting stuff.

So, you want to breathe some new life into some old kicks. I did with my old Specialized 74's. 

They've seen better days since then. Not long after adding some gold "flare" to them one of the boa's broke on me.  The simple solution is to just contact boa and get a replacement shipped to the door, but that's no fun. Since I've been using these as my backup track bike shoes, I was interested in trying to convert them to lace ups. So, after scouring the internet for some time, I cobbled together what I decided was the "best" way to do it, and so this post was born. 

While the themes here are universal, keep in mind that your specific shoes might require more/less work, and you could indeed ruin your kicks if you screw it up. Follow at your own risk.

First, let's get to what you'll need.
- Seam Ripper
- Butter Knife
- Heat Gun (probably not necessary)
- Xacto Knife
- Hammer
- Leather Punches (+ a block of wood... junk)
- A leather punch tool with rotating head (you can probably pick one of the two)
- Eyelet Tool (and eyelets)
- Some laces

All of that together is probably $20-30 worth of stuff (minus the heat gun) depending on what you already own.  You can get the seam ripper (get one with a big handle) eyelet tools/eyelets and leather punch at your hobby/craft/sewing store for a couple of dollars each. (Also most of that you could find at Harbor Freight as well) 

With that out of the way, let's get to it!

First, you're going to need to remove whatever system of closure your shoes previously employed. (Straps, ratchets, boa's, etc) For me, that meant removing the boa closure system. Time to bring out your trusty seam ripper and start plucking away. Find and cut the seams on the INSIDE of the shoe first, the less you have to mess with the outside of the shoe, the better it's going to end up looking.

Just dig under the seam and push

This is going to make up the lion's share of the work you do. Take your time, and try not to rip out any seams that aren't directly holding what you're trying to get rid of. For me, the issue was that the top boa's were also glued onto the outer of the shoe. Now fortunately the glue was old and cracking so a butter knife under the lip did most of the work, but I heated it with my heat gun just to make it slightly easier to remove.

gap where the glue began letting go
With a little bit of elbow grease (and cutting a couple of the seams on top of the shoe as well) the dial finally gave up and pulled free.

One down

The key here is not to get flustered if it seems like you're not making headway. Take a step back and don't do anything hasty, that's how you ruin stuff. In my case the top boa also had a couple of "hidden" stitches I couldn't see (you can see them in the above picture in the top right corner) that were holding the boa in place. Instead of just yanking on it harder I ran my xacto underneath the boa and cut them by feel. After that it pulled off easily.

after getting the first boa removed.

For the most part the rest of the ratchets/guides were a snap to get off. The only other tricky part was at the bottom of the tongue, Specialized had decided to stitch the upper to the tongue itself (I suppose to keep the tongue from freely moving) which again required a steady hand and the trusty xacto knife.

removing the tongue from the upper.

After that it was mainly a little attention to detail that was necessary. Removing the loose / frayed stitches and just cleaning up the shoe left us with this.

all gone

Since my shoes were all white (or at least they started their life white) but really looking aged, I went ahead and took this time to freshen them up a little bit. I started with some Clorox wipes to remove the dirt and smudges, then moved on to a Kiwi "white restorer" I picked up at the grocery store.

White on White

While you certainly don't need to do the above step, it is a good time to at least clean your shoes a little bit before we move on. And the Kiwi works ok... just basically painting new white on. It does look "better" but certainly not like new.

Alright, so the kicks have been cleaned and freshened up as much as I'm willing to do... now it's time to start poking holes in them. 

Figure out how many eyelets you want, and where you want them. I marked mine with a tiny permanent marker. It's a good idea to put the eyelets back from the edge a little bit at least, since it'll be more sturdy. The flip side to that is that if you move too far from the edge some of you hole pokin' tools might not reach. 

Here's where the debate heats up as it were... which tools do you use. Purists, or at least those that work with leather a good amount will tell you that the punches are the only way to go. You get a clean hole that cuts straight through. The downside is that you need a hammer, a solid block of wood and a little more patience. 

tap tap tap it in

The other option is the rotating tool like I bought from Harbor Freight. Instead of cutting through you're really just pushing the head through and ripping the material. That sounds a lot worse than it actually is... and I decided after using both on this project that either would have been perfectly fine. The caveat to that is when using the handheld tool it's important to "twist" it while holding pressure on it to make sure you get a clean break/hole. Otherwise, you might end up with a bit of a mess.

I used to punches for most of the holes, but the handheld tool for the bottom holes because it was tough to get my wood block in position. Whichever way you choose, just take your time and do it right and you should have no problems. After all that we end up with something like this.


Now that we've got our holes (mine are offset a bit due to the way the 74's ended up after all the hardware was removed) I suppose you could technically stop here and lace them up. But, we'd like for it to look nice'ish and the eyelets should add a little bit of protection against ripping, and it's cheap enough to pick up that you really should just go the distance. 

It's worth noting there are other, "better" ways to add eyelets, but you're starting to get into harder to find / more specialty tools so we're not using them.

So poke some (right size!) eyelets into the holes you've created and grab your eyelet tool. It's pretty self explanatory as to how it works, just go down the line and get a good firm press on each one.

Lighting because...ambiance

Pressing in the eyelets

Once you've got the eyelets installed it's time to lace things up. When it comes to laces the sky (and maybe your imagination) is the limit. Me, I'm kind of old school, and just went with black. (Although some black and gold combination or maybe leather laces might be cool) 

The final product

Not bad
Snazzy new old kicks...

Not too bad of a job if I do say so myself. We'll see how the long term durability holds up, but this was a fun little project that ended up waaay better than I expected it would. I suspect if you were a little handier with the tools, and maybe a little more imaginative than I am, that you could have come up with something even better. Still, I should be able to squeeze out a few more miles in these guys now!

Thanks so much for reading, I really appreciate it!

- Christopher Morelock 

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