Tough crowd. Imagine breaking into new markets. It’s not easy. Yeah, it helps if you’re an established brand that’s demonstrably associated with cycling, but getting into a market segment is still a big ask.
That’s what Giro, better known for their helmets, did back in 2011 when they decided to get into the cycling shoe market. Not just road shoes either, the whole shebang. They’re still at it today, trying to break into the clothing market. And, to date, it’s been a pretty successful transition in all cases.
When Giro released the original Factors back in 2011 I was at the front of the queue, drawn to the good looks, light weight and bling factor. So I bought a pair of the original white Factor shoes with their supernatural fit system. And they were sublime, lasted me for an age. Eventually they made way for some Rapha Condor Sharp versions which, for me, remain just one of the best looking cycling shoes ever made. I’ve owned the Trans as well, and the Treble. I’ve done commuting and CX in the Gauge and Code. Looking back, it seems I’ve owned more Giro shoes than from any other manufacturer.
And I had the Empire SLX in Orange. With the laces. And that’s the other thing Giro do. Make….stuff…..cool. So when they got Taylor Phinney to wear them in the Peloton everyone went wild. It’s not the case that they brought laces back, others had been doing it. But Giro were the only ones to make it really work as a commercial proposition. And now everyone’s doing it. But nothing touches the SLX in terms of style. And no off road shoe looks like the VR90 either. So you might ask, why don’t I still own the SLX? It was nothing to do with fit or ability, I swapped to a CX bike on the road for a year or so and just wore MTB shoes. So off they went.
Fast forward and, when I spend my time on the road, in the dry, hot days of summer, I wanted something a bit blingier than my trusty Shimano R171. Something a tad lighter as well. So I went back, as it were, to the beginning. Personally I still prefer buckles over laces but that’s a personal thing. If laces are your style, get the SLX, you won’t be sorry.
The Giro Factor AAC are in the process of being replaced. The new Techlace version are the de facto replacement. But the shoes are very similar in terms of the last and upper fit and there are so many good deals on the Factor at the moment that I thought I’d bring you this review.
Like most things cycling, making stuff isn’t that difficult a concept. You want a light weight shoe that breathes and that fits you well. Pulling it off is hard because we are all so very different. I take a 45 in the Giro. In terms of sizing I’d say they’re pretty normal. I’m a 44 in ‘everyday shoes’ but a 45 in most of my trainers. To that extent I’m wary of saying size up. But, in comparison with my other shoes, they are pretty much the same. They’re a nice snug fit in the main body but the toe box is, for me, a tad wider than some of the Italian brands. And that’s a good thing. They’re available in white/black, as reviewed here, white/red and all black.
Unlike the SLX this is good, old school buckle system territory. Two velcro straps and one ratchet buckle. The straps and buckles are replaceable but the top flap (where the Giro is sited) is not. But, in use, it’s a very durable system indeed. It’s easy to get the fit you want with the Factors. There’s no fancy heel system like you see on a Sidi. There are no internal grippy bits at the heels. Indeed, the heels are actually a little shorter than on comparable shoes. And you know what? It makes absolutely no difference. Providing you get the correct size you will not experience any heel lift whatsoever in a Giro Factor, which is important, given how stiff they are.
The upper is a microlight fibre. It’s not leather. It’s pretty resilient overall to bumps and scrapes. Crucially, it wipes clean very easily indeed. It’s great to see that Giro opted for a black lining, especially at the ankles. There’s no worse look than an otherwise pristine white shoe with faded or dirty inner white lining. Shoe makes, take note, it’s not big and it’s not clever.
The upper is covered in multiple perforations. This is a good shoe for the summer as it breathes very well. There are vents underneath, which I’ll come to in a bit. It’s certainly usable in winter but, guys, keep them for the good days. The buckle operation is straightforward and these are adjustable on the fly. The bottom lever pulls out and ratchets the strap tighter. The upper level pushes in and releases the tension. Altering the velcro while riding is a piece of cake.
But it’s the soles that are the soul of these shoes. A lightweight carbon fibre sole provided by carbon experts Easton. There are a number of different types. This is the ACC version, found in the Factor. The Techlace ditches it and uses a new SLX2 sole which is even lighter again and it that sole found in the uber light Empire model. The lesser models go for fibre reinforced soles. All are stiff but the EC90 variants are incredibly so.
The rear heel bumper is now replaceable (the original versions didn’t have this). The front one is not. But it should see you through loads of use. There are useful guidelines for clear positioning and, as stated, a nice little vent at the front. That means air in. It also means water in but, come on, these are not for rain! They’ll do rain, of course. They wipe clean and the fibre does not shrink. That can’t be said for other shoes. The sole is a work of art and always has been. In my view Giro/Easton have nailed it. The weight of EACH shoe in size 45 with Shimano cleats installed is 328g so sub 600g the pair without. If you want to go lighter then the Techlace shave about 50g off at the same size and, as you’d expect, the SLX a whole lot more.
I’ve opted to use the Giro Prolight insole in mine but the Factors are supplied with Giro’s excellent Supernatural Fit System which allows you to insert different arch supports depending on your foot type. The insole uses Giro’s x-static coating for bacterial prevention. I have to say, Giro have never skimped the provided insole and other manufacturers might learn a thing or two in this regard.
Price? It’s broadly irrelevant now in terms of RRP but they were £249.99. That’s actually very good in comparison to those premium marques who charge more and from which you gain no more. They’ll last for ages and they are about the most comfortable shoes out there. At the moment their pricing varies but I’ve managed to find a bit of stock at Sigma Sport where there’s good availability in a number of sizes at the price of £124.99. That is a bargain. They also have the black if that’s your sort of thing. But, if they are out of stock of your size, then a bit of googling should show up some good results. If you fancy the bling then hunt down some SLX and if you fancy some BOA fastening goodness then the Techlace should be on your list. It’s interesting to see that in only a few years Giro not only broke into the market but pretty much owned it.