A full carbon sole at this price is going to make the dhb Dorica Carbon almost unbeatable in this category, and the rest of the shoe backs it up well. The lack of crispness at the heel – both in look and feel – is the only thing stopping these shoes from scoring a perfect 10.
Full carbon sole
Heel cup needs tightening up
By Simon Smythe
The dhb Dorica blends a retro lace-up aesthetic with a modern carbon-fibre sole, as pioneered by Giro with the highly acclaimed Empire. While the Dorica can’t be expected to deliver the same level of performance as the Empire, which costs three times the price, it’s up there with the very best cycling shoes in the sub-£100 pen.
dhb Dorica Carbon: construction
The star of the show here is the sole. It’s relatively rare to find a full carbon-fibre sole at this price. Dhb says this is the same sole used in its Aeron shoe range, and it does supply a step-up in stiffness compared to the original non-carbon-soled Dorica as dhb says, and also compared to most other shoes at this price point.
The sole is drilled for three-bolt cleats. If you want to run SPDs, the original Dorica fits two-bolt cleats.
The microfibre synthetic upper is perforated across the top, as is the tongue, for breathability.
Dhb calls the seven-eyelet lace-up closure ‘Oxford style’, which is pleasingly quaint. However, other than recalling the dreaming spires, laces have many advantages, including better refinement of fit compared to Boa dials.
Dhb says it has increased the toe box width of the Doricas – as is often the case with entry-level shoes which are used for a variety of different cycling rather than just performance riding – and I found the laces were useful for taking up the slack down here while gradually easing off on the upper foot, which fitted well.
Compared to the rest of the shoe – especially the insole, which is on the thin side – there is an inordinate amount of padding around the heel cup. The heel is also quite wide. This led to the fit here being not quite as crisp here as with more sculpted heel cups: here the heel is cushioned rather than enclosed.
Dhb specs an elastic lace retainer on the tongue – like the Giro Empire – so you can tuck the bow under it and out of the way.
As for sizing – dhb says you should size down to get the correct fit, which is slightly baffling, but it’s the correct advice. I found the size 44 was roomier than the 44 I’m used to with the usual cycling shoe brands. But, as I mentioned, there's plenty of adjustability thanks to the excellent lace closure and this wasn't an issue.
Weight is competitive: at 255g per shoe for the size 44 these are only a handful of grams heavier than pro level shoes like the Specialized Ares.
I set the dhb Dorica shoes up with my usual Shimano SPD-SL pedal/cleat system. As expected, power transfer was excellent – I was immediately impressed. The Dorica’s carbon soles are very stiff, absolutely on a par with those of shoes three times the price.
Despite the heel cup not fitting as precisely as some, I didn’t notice any heel lift when out of the saddle.
I was expecting to miss support at the arch, since the insoles are thin and the carbon soles are relatively wide and flat, but I found my feet stayed stable. In any case, riders with stability issues would ideally be using aftermarket footbeds or insoles.
Like the majority of shoes at this price point, the dhb Dorica shoes don’t include mesh panels for extra breathability. This makes them a bit more robust if you’re using them for commuting, and also makes them suitable for chillier riding. I rode them at 3°C without overshoes and didn’t get cold feet. But if you’re doing a lot of indoor riding they obviously won’t be the coolest.
As for durability – the white upper wipes clean quite easily, but there’s also a camo version, which certainly would disguise mud well.
I’ve noticed a little bit of untidy wrinkling developing at the heel after putting them on and taking them off a few times. They are starting to look a little trodden down, and I put this down to that lack of stiff heel cup. It’s a shame, because it’s not in keeping with the otherwise sharp appearance.
OK, I have niggled about a few things but if you want a perfect fit, vice-like grip, ultimate power transfer and foot spa-like comfort you may have to rethink your budget. There’s stiff competition in the the sub-£100 category from shoes such as the Shimano RC3 and Specialized Torch, but for value the dhb Dorica Carbon with its full carbon sole, very chic appearance, low weight and good comfort level that could be improved yet further with better insoles is hard to beat.
Simon Smythe is Cycling Weekly's senior tech writer and has been in various roles at CW since 2003. His first job was as a sub editor on the magazine following an MA in online journalism (yes, it was just after the dot-com bubble burst).
In his cycling career Simon has mostly focused on time trialling with a national medal, a few open wins and his club's 30-mile record in his palmares. These days he spends a bit more time testing road bikes, or on a tandem doing the school run with his younger son.
What's in the stable? There's a Colnago Master Olympic, a Hotta TT700, an ex-Castorama lo-pro that was ridden in the 1993 Tour de France, a Pinarello Montello, an Independent Fabrication Club Racer, a Shorter fixed winter bike and a renovated Roberts with a modern Campag groupset.
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