A quick note on shoes for the Dirty Challenge (and bike touring / exploring in general).
If you like your cycling get yourself a pair of Mountain bike shoes and peddles. They are the best beginner option for cycling shoes, will give you more power and are safer than normal shoes. They are great for touring, gravel, off road, commuting, bad road etc.
Shimano m520 double-sided (300RMB) or Shimano PD-EH500 single-sided (600 RMB) (better for commuting or also wearing normal flat shoes).
Get a 3mm Allen key and turn the key counterclockwise to make it easier to disengage the shoe from the peddle.
Make sure you use Shimano M56 (black) cleats not M51 (silver) Cleats. M56 disengage from more directions and thus better for beginners.
With the peddle screw counter clockwise and shoe cleat M56 type you will have the easiest option for removing the shoe from the peddle. We suggest all cyclists start with clipless (clip in) peddles this way and then tighten the tension and change the cleat over time. Then use road peddles.
I like Specialized shoes, they fit my feet well and are highly reviewed for good reason.
Recon 1.0 MTB shoes (560 RMB on sale now) are a great entry point. Comfortable, easy to clean and good soles for non-slip.
Recon 2.0 MTB shoes. A nice step up with BOA laces also on sale for 1000 RMB. BOA’s are great for easily adjusting the shoe and looks cleaner.
You also have the Recon 3 and Sworks Recon, Lace recon etc but they are geared for the more advanced rider being lighter and stiffer.
A few key recommendations: DO NOT BUY SHOES WITHOUT TRYING THEM ON!!!! . Better to buy too big than too small as your feet swell with heat and blood flow and your winter socks will fit when you need them. Trying different inner soles for a more custom fit. Wash them and keep the cleats and peddles clean. Socks are seriously important but that’s another post.
IMHO if Specialized shoes don’t fit your budget or foot shape try Shimano shoes (a bit plasticky in appearance and narrow toe box which I dont like but good value) or if you have really strange shape feet look at the really ugly Lake MX242s.
Other than that flat peddles with no clips and some cycling-specific flat trainers with stiff soles are better than normal trainers.