By Simon Smythe
The recent news that iconic French brand Time had been sold to two separate American companies – the "pedals and all related patents" to SRAM and the "bicycle business and all related patents" to Cardinal Cycling Group – was greeted with enthusiasm as well as relief. The future of the connoisseur's pedals as well as that of the high-quality, French-made carbon frames seemed to be assured. But there appeared to a glaring omission – what about the shoes?
The wording of SRAM’s press release didn’t mention shoes at all, and it’s only in the SRAM Technical Service FAQ section that the question is asked: “Will SRAM continue the Time Sport shoe product line?” The answer runs: “SRAM has acquired the shoe assets of Time Sports. We are still looking into this and have made no determinations regarding this part of the business.”
To rewind back to 1986, Time’s original mission was to improve on French rival Look’s clipless pedal and incorporate float, which the original Look pedal did not have. The first Time pedal, the 50.1, was an instant hit when it launched that year. The pro peloton loved Time. As its marketing proudly proclaimed: “The Time pedal system has been selected by Système U, Fagor, PDM, Reynolds and Weinmann La Suisse.”
And then, in 1988 when the first Time TBT shoe was unveiled, it was every rider’s dream come true.
The Look clipless pedal might have liberated cyclists’ feet from the ancient instruments of torture that were steel toeclips and leather straps, but it was the Time cycling shoe with its white mesh upper and distinctive bold red bands that fully brought them into the modern era, consigning the Swiss cheese appearance of the traditional cycling shoe to history.
Not only was the new Time shoe engineered to work perfectly with Time pedals – it was no longer necessary to drill holes using Look’s template in the sole of a third-party shoe – but it looked perfect too. It even seemed as though cycling photographers’ eyes were drawn to them. If you google pictures of Pedro Delgado, Greg LeMond and Miguel Indurain in the late Eighties and early Nineties and you’ll almost always be able to study their pristine Time shoes. Try to find out what shoes Bernard Hinault was wearing at the end of his career and thankfully the blue Patricks will usually have been cropped out.
Delgado gave the Time shoe its first Tour de France win in the year of its launch, 1988. Another one followed hot on its red-banded heels in 1989 with LeMond, and then Indurain continued the run.
Undoubtedly the model most revered and treasured by Time aficionados was the white Time TBT Equipe Carbon Pro of 1992. This kept the now-trademark twin red Velcro straps across the forefoot and the third around the heel but introduced a delicate mint-green fade under the straps comprised of tiny disappearing polka dots. The lining was the same colour, with just the edging at the ankle visible when the shoe was being worn. The red insole had white polka dots and a repeating Time logo pattern. The sole of course was carbon, representing the state of the art at the time. As with all the Time shoes, there was a matching pedal – the Equipe Titan Magnesium with mint-green lettering at the rear.
Time’s shoe heyday had passed when founder Roland Cattin died in 2014, but in 2019 the company’s new owner Rossignol launched the Time Osmos – the first Time shoe in nine years – which paid homage to the original via its twin red Boa dials.
The Osmos was developed at Rossignol’s R&D facility at Montebelluna, Italy, the global capital of sports footwear. As a maker of ski boots, Rossignol was in a great position to come up with a pro-level shoe to bring Time back to the top of the footwear tree and compete on equal terms with the shoes from Specialized, Shimano, Sidi and Fizik, and the result was a big pedal stroke in the right direction.
Although Rossignol’s relatively brief ownership of Time didn’t work out, the Osmos shoe it designed and manufactured was a worthy successor to the the classic Time TBT. We keep fingers and toes crossed that SRAM recognises Time shoes' place in cycling history and will do it justice with a fresh new design that incorporates all of the US brand’s technological prowess and simultaneously pays homage to its revered origins.
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