By: Joe Parkin
Redefining happy feet
In the mid-1980s, when the United States Cycling Federation decided to mandate hard-shell helmet use for all bicycle racing in America, Jim Gentes came up with a better helmet solution, and founded Giro. It is safe to say that Giro helmets have been the benchmark for helmet innovation ever since. And now they're tackling shoes.
I have to admit I was more than a little excited to receive the invite for Giro's official shoe launch in Livigno, Italy (home of Hans Rey's Flow Country trails). I've been a harsh critic of cycling shoes for as long as I can remember, but I knew that the team at Giro had been working on the project for more than two years. Having now ridden the fruit of their labor, it's clear that the folks at Giro are as serious about doing to cycling shoes what they have done with helmets.
Giro's entry into the mountain bike shoe market comes in the form of their flagship model called Code, which will retail for $280, the Gauge at $200 and a women's specific model named Sica that also goes for $200. We were able to test the Code over the course of two days in and around Livigno's Mottolino bike park. While a bike park, where gravity riding is the big draw, may not be the ideal setting to test an XC race/high-performance trail shoe, my initial impressions of Giro's shoes are still more than a little bit positive.
To start with, the Code felt like an old friend right out of the box, thanks in part to the Teijin microfiber upper, luxuriously thick, EVA tongue padding and an arch-adjustable footbed. Giro calls this footbed the Supernatural Fit System and it comes complete with three arch "cookies" so that riders can dial in a comfortable amount of arch support. The top layer of the footbed is made of anti-microbial X-Static and helps alleviate funk.
At the heart (so to speak) of the Code is an Easton EC90 carbon sole plate, which gives the shoe incredible power transfer. What I found most notable in my short hours wearing the Code was that this sole plate seemed to completely dissipate the shock from the park's braking bumps, roots and small drops. Obviously, a carbon-soled shoe is supposed to do this, and perhaps what I felt was a combination of the footbed and sole plate working in tandem, but this is a feeling I can't remember experiencing before.
Although I wasn't scampering up any rocky hike-a-bikes, the Code's lugs provided easy walking, and a scuff-guard between the heel and cleat helped engage the cleats even when trying to do that in the rough stuff.
We'll go ahead and reserve our final judgment until we've put these babies through some months of hell, but I have a feeling the report with be more of the same.
Giro's new mountain bike shoes will be available January of 2011 in sizes 39-48 (w/half sizes from 39.5-46.5) for the men's models and in sizes 36-43 (w/half sizes from 37.5-42.5).