Sidi's Dominator ($230 U.S.; www.sidiusa.com) has for several years been the go-to mountain-bike shoe of choice. Really bulletproof, with a very stiff sole for excellent energy transfer, a good fit, water-repellent uppers, and knobby soles for traction when off the bike in muddy terrain (extra toe spikes are optional). Hook-and-loop straps and a ratcheting buckle allow for good adjustment and secure fit.
Adidas also makes some nice mountain-biking shoes, such as the Marathon ($150; www.adidas.com). It has three hook-and-loop straps, a convenient system for fast on/off and one that holds well. And it has very aggressive tread pattern for traction.
Lastly, Answer's Impact shoes ($99; www.answerproducts.com) have good performance at a good price. Like the Adidas, three straps cinch them tight. And the sole is stiff enough for riding but a bit more walkable than some shoes out there, good for extended off-bike stretches.
As for pedals, I've become a big fan of CrankBrothers' pedals. I like their original four-sided Eggbeater design fine, such as the stainless steel Eggbeater SL ($120 U.S.; www.crankbrothers.com). Compared to other pedals I've ridden, they allow easy no-look clipping either by kicking your feet into the pedals, or scuffing them along front to back. They also stay engaged when you want them to, but release easily when you're desperately trying to cut loose from the bike. And mud has little impact on them.
Lots of mountain riders also like Speedplay Frog pedals ($140-$200; www.speedplay.com), which share the Eggbeater's super-logical simplicity, light weight, and tremendous clip-in/out ease.
Pick up a copy of the 2006 Outside Buyer's Guide, on newsstands April 25, for a look at 396 torture-tested products, including the 2006 Gear of the Year award winners and an all-new women-specific review section.
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