Written by Robert Thorpe
Lake Cycling Ambassador & Shoe Designer
Cycling isn’t just a sport with elite athletes. It’s a sport, a pastime, a means of travel and a culture that involves so many people. That’s why here at Lake, those people that we believe truly represent cycling globally, well… they’re not all elite athletes. They’re simply great people like you - and like Christoph Döttelmayer, Head of Design at Austrian based mountain footwear specialist brand, Dachstein, and an avid cyclist. Christoph comes up with his new design innovations and ideas while on long mountain cycle rides and is a great believer in the culture of cycling. It’s his thinking space, being both challenging and relaxing.
Lake Cycling is also, all about a passion for designing and producing the very best footwear for you, our customers. Like Christoph, we too believe in the pursuit of excellence, and we thought that you’d like to know more about global footwear designers like Christoph, and what makes them tick, what inspires them, where they ride and why every single detail is important in their delivery of excellence. It’s time for Christoph to do the talking then😉🚴♂️
Christoph Döttelmayer- My Design Journey
I’m a creature of the mountains. I don’t just live there, I live within them and they’re part of me. They bring me to life and they allow me to live the life that reflects me; whether it’s trail running, mountaineering, skiing or cycling. Being born within the Austrian mountains, I grew up with mountain sports at the heart of my life. And, although I’ve travelled, especially when a young man, I find that I have to live in the mountains. Thankfully, in terms of my cycling, I’m a fan of climbing steep roads. Being 170cm in height and light, I guess that I’m the perfect build for a climber, and it’s a passion of mine on the bike.
As child, I wanted to be a pro basketball player, and I even moved to the USA for one year to pursue the dream. However, I’m a realist, and when I knew that it wasn’t go to happen, I drew on other aspects that had intrigued me, like the footwear - especially the Nike Air Jordan’s, and how their form and function worked in relation to the human foot. I’m fascinated by the human foot, it’s complex structure and how it all operates as one. It’s one of the most fascinating and important parts of our body - especially as cyclists and mountaineers - and it was this fascination that led to me working on footwear design, initially at Mammut and then here at Dachstein, helping to make the very best footwear for those who venture into the hills.
My Cycling Awakening
As I’ve mentioned, I’m in love with cycling and I love climbing. In fact, I love sport, and it was through a running injury / foot pain that I came to use Lake Cycling shoes. I’d been getting pain at my toes that I couldn’t figure out. I decided to work on my feet properly, wore wider shoes and started using Lake Cycling shoes - the CX432 was my first pair. I was genuinely surprised at how the pain in my feet eased and how comfortable my cycling was in the Lake shoes.
I’m a perfectionist at work and I guess at home too. As a footwear designer that’s involved in mountain sports, I understand how so many injuries and feelings of discomfort are related to our feet, how they’re structured individually and how we each use them in slightly different ways. For example, our feet are the base of our body; they’re the connection to the ground and earth if you will. If your feet are not aligned or they ache in some places, this can spread out all over your body and cause other issues like knee or hip pain, all the way up to the neck and jaw. Cyclists often forget to take care of their feet; but after all, it’s the feet that transition all the power generated by the legs. When you have a weak arch and you pedal hard, all the watts go directly through the collapsed arch and into the stiff carbon sole, and then to the pedal. It’s clear that in these circumstances you are losing some power there. In other sports such as climbing, the relation you have with your feet is totally different. Robert and I talked about climbing and feet, as we’re both mountain guys.
Mountaineers and climbers need to protect their feet from the environment and hard conditions of nature. No one wants to experience a frost bite above 7000m of elevation, or a broken toe while climbing the Eiger north face. Hence footwear has become also a safety feature for our body. It’s an armour which enables us to go beyond our physical human capabilities. Moving back to cycling, it’s our shoes that give us more grip, waterproofness, protection and also a direct connection to our bike, with cleats and a stiff sole to transition all the power directly into the bike.
Finding That Inspiration
I often find my footwear design ideas and get inspired when I’m out cycling. On long solo rides in between hard climbs, ideas about new designs and details browse through my head. Sometimes, it’s hard to remember them after the ride when the physical effort has been to overwhelming. However, it’s on those rides where I can be within myself and let life pass and just chill and get recharged.
Why design and footwear? Design is both solving problems and telling a story.
A new design needs to solve a certain new problem that occurs, why other reason should there be in creating a new product where we live in a world with immense amounts of products already. On the other hand, I want to tell stories through a shoe, why it is there, how the performance comes to life, details that inspire us and this creates a new opportunity for the user of the shoe to create his own story with adventures to come on their pair of shoes
My favourite Ride
I’m an image person too, and pictures and scenes mean so much to me. I love climbing mountains as much as I love descending them. Try this: think about a movie which starts slow as you ascend and you soak up the landscape, then smell the fresh air and taste the salty sweat on your lips. Complimented with some music, the strong breath and fast heartbeat, this makes a pretty good intro.
The moment that you reach the top, maybe tighten your helmet and close the zipper on your jersey and the mood switches into a stunning tension. You turn up the volume on your headphone and watch your bike computer as the speed increases. The scenery might sometimes take over the concentration and put your brain into different sensations, but once you go over 80km/h everything else in life is forgotten and you focus on the moment nothing else. There is no other way. This is our built-in safety feature to stay in the zone and in the moment. Let it fly. And, once you reach the bottom and you are stoked, you’re ready to do it again. I love playing this movie over and over. Each time saving new pictures in my head. Yes, cycling is more than a passion, it’s deep in my soul.
My favourite ride is actually my home town mountain. Although I´ve been climbing this road on countless occasions and Everesting it twice, I am drawn to this magical pile of rock. It is something that’s deeply rooted into my heritage and experience through life. When it comes to spirituality, for me this is where I find my peace - in pushing up as hard as I can for all those 743m of elevation. It´s a bit funny when you consider the mountain is called “Loser” mountain, an actual dialect German word for “listener”. On this mountain all you will ever loose are bad thought in your head as they will be exchanged with breath-taking memories - at least for me.
My Cycle Shoe Choice
I´ve been riding in the Lake Cycling CX403 road cycling shoes for 10 months now. I wanted to get this particular pair, as you can mould the carbon chassis to the shape of your foot, and I needed something stiff to transfer the power into my pedals. It’s a shoe that will eventually also make me a fast rider, being designed for performance and comfort.
The sensation with a wide shaped shoe is easily noticed when you don´t notice anything - it’s just so comfortable on the feet. While you ride, everything just feels right. It´s hard to imagine now, riding slimmer shaped shoes, as they would simply restrict my toes from spreading and stop my feet from properly working. It sounds simple, but they literally wrap my feet and allow me to maximise the power and performance. The upper of the CX403 is made out of pristine Kangaroo leather, also used in high end football shoes, and adds this vintage touch to a highly modern performance shoe, which is also a lot easier to clean than synthetic materials. The carbon chassis is simply out, the heart of the shoe, which can be moulded to your foot several times and, it adds the maximum stiffness that you can imagine from a carbon fibre outsole.
I´ve been a big fan of BOA for some time, and the two dials on the CX 403 help you to tune in your fit perfectly and let you adjust the shoe while riding, with simple tweaks carried out in seconds. It’s so easy to adjust on the fly, and it means that I can focus on the ride alone.
Overall, in times of my life in design and in sport, I’m living a good life, with sports at the heart of things. How each of us arrive our current destination in life varies - and our feet vary too. Our feet are such a crucial part of us and our whole journey through life. When we’re young, our parents remember that time when we first walked, and when we walked away, to university or elsewhere. As mountain adventurers, we use our feet in critical ways. They get us deep into the hills, and when on the rock face, it our footwork that keeps us safe, as we use those ultra-strong leg muscles. Whether we’re hiking or biking, our feet are doing so much work, and yes, working slightly different in all of us. They always carry us home.
I find this so fascinating, and I love cycling in the mountains, for the challenge and for the images that are collected. I like things that are well thought out and well developed - and that’s why I like Lake Cycling Shoes, especially my current pair the CX403 - but also the MX238 for gravel riding, another cycling passion of mine.
All of this and my cycling, wearing the Lake CX 403, and benefitting from its complex design and performance orientated and customisable fit, together with BOA´s high end Li2 dials, which are tightening and loosening the shoe - in my mind, it makes for about the greatest cycling shoe of all time, it really does. And, as a shoe designer myself, who’s been brought up in the mountains, that’s kind of a good recommendation I’d say - so ‘thanks’ Lake ;-)