I own three pairs of Giro shoes, the Privateers being the most humble of the trio. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t compete. These are my do everything shoes, be that commuting, cyclocross, a bit of XC MTB stuff, that kind of thing. I also opted for a slightly different colour from the ‘norm’ and, so far, I’ve had a lot of positive comments about them. They’re nice, a bit different, and there’s some orange. Orange is good.
Let’s start with price. These are £124.99 rrp. And that’s pretty good for a pair of premium shoes nowadays. Shop around and you’ll take a bit more off. Opt for the grey, from Wiggle, as I did and you can get that down to £87.99. And that is very good indeed.
These are not the first iteration of the Privateer. The previous models were a little more ‘traditional’ overall, multi panel upper, lugs on a nylon outsole. The new Privateers follow the fresh Giro approach of being, well, a bit more walky and a bit more useful. More useful than previous Giro iterations and more useful than most other shoes. We’ll come back to that in a bit.
They’re not beautiful, a la the Empire VR90. But they are a good looking shoe in my view. The weight is pretty reasonable to 375g for a 42.5 and mine getting on for 400g. You don’t feel that weight for some reason, chiefly down to the fit. The upper is a microfibre, the sole is moulded nylon and the outsole high traction rubber. The insole isn’t the fancy supernatural fit system but it’s still a good insole with an anti bacterial treatment.
It’s all pretty standard really. Ratchet plus velcro, some bash guards, a decent toe protector and some perforations for ventilation. The bash guards deserve a bit of a mention. They’re welded to the shoe and are, in my view, an improvement on the earlier versions attached to the original Giro Code, for example. These are a bit more abrasive and hard wearing and don’t look like they’ll scuff up to badly. The upper really is wipe clean and that black interior lining means it’s easy to keep these looking as new. Even the orange outsole wipes clean too.
They’re available in black or if you’re particularly daring, blue. The outsole colour changes according to the upper colour. Fit wise, it’s all pretty normal. They do come up slightly wider in my opinion than the Empire VR90 but mostly in the toe box area. There’s also an HV (high volume) fit if you struggle to get a proper fit. The velcro strap and ratchet work very well. They’re easily adjustable on the fly. There are no hot spots or pressure points.
In common with all Giro shoes there’s no heel counter mechanism at the back. Instead you have a high section that cradles the ankle very well. There’s no issue with heel slip assuming you get the right size.
And then there are the soles. And you kind of wonder why everyone hasn’t gone down this route. It’s an all in one outsole bonded to the nylon base. It makes everything much easier to walk in as it’s a little more normal shoe like. But the rubber is also more, well, rubbery, than shoes like the Sidi Dragon and Shimano XC70 that I’ve tested previously. The result of that is a bit more safety walking on damp surfaces, rocks or even just walking on shiny surfaces when you reach the office on your commute.
There are other pluses as well. You know that thing where you midfoot strike your pedal, you slip off and bash your shin? That’s not really an option here because of the grip of the rubber. If you hit the pedal with the midsole you just stay there. Indeed, these make a pretty excellent CX shoe because you can hop on, cock up your pedal entry entirely and just pedal on the midfoot until you’ve sorted yourself out. The lugs aren’t hyper aggressive for mud but they do clear very very well indeed. And, as pictured, you can add toe spikes as well. What minimal traction they give away they more than make up for it in sheer runability.
Downsides? Well, the outsole is not replaceable. But you could walk the figurative 500 miles and 500 more many many times and these wouldn’t show much, if any, wear. Because there’s so much outsole the surface area is greater and wear is less of an issue. Crucially, it contributes very little, if any, additional weight.
I got these a few weeks before Battle on the Beach. So I started off just using them commuting, a bit of social riding etc. The one thing that they are is invisible in terms of comfort. They’re just like a pair of comfy shoes, trainers even. And you don’t always get that, even with the high end stuff. Even with the Factor and the Empire VR90 you do know that you’re wearing them, comfortable as they are. Some of the comfort comes from their stiffness or, rather, lack of it. These aren’t measured on any stiffness scale but if you compare them, by hand flexing, with the uber stiff Empire VR90 you’re left with one which is unmoved and one which is slightly flexible. But don’t think for a moment that translates to any lack of power, far from it. There’s a lovely balance to just how much spring and power Giro have got from a humble nylon sole.
So when Battle on the Beach arrived I had a choice to make, these or the Empire? The damn sexy ones or the slightly more dowdy do it alls? Given the potential for sand, a bit of abrasion, tree roots and falling off I plumped for the Privateers. And over both days (Battle in the Dark and Battle on the Beach) they were immense. On my lengthy commute, they excel. When walking on slippery surfaces, they are surefooted. You can do as many miles in them as you want with no issues. And that’s kind of what a shoe should be all about.
I’ve tried to think of what drawbacks there are. They lack a bit of weatherproofing, clearly. But, I think that’s about it. And, despite my reference to being dowdy, I’ve grown quite attached to keeping them clean and tidy. So, when the CX season comes, that’s a bit of a quandary. So I think I’ll solve that in a quite simple way. Use these for CX, give them a brush down and a clean, the nature of the upper makes that really really easy. And, for commuting and winter riding, get the blue ones for ‘good.’ Mind, I’m also eyeing up some Giro Republic and some Factor Techlace. I know you can’t have too many pairs of socks but, can one person own too many pairs of shoes? S+1 surely. Yeah, always +1.