Lids and Kicks and Sh!ts and Giggles – First Impressions of the Giro Synthe and Empire VR90 Shoes

I’ve had a bit of time now to use the Giro Synthe helmet and Empire VR90 shoes whose arrival I professed to keenly awaiting a while back, so here’s a quick review of my thoughts so far on the two.

Giro Synthe Helmet

The Giro Synthe is an expensive lid, but fits amazingly and is exceptionally light. To quote Ned Flanders, “It’s like wearing nothing at all”. I cannot profess to the aerodynamic claims of the helmet as I don’t road race or typically participate in events where aerodynamic savings come into play, but it sure looks fast, so I’ll take Giro’s word for it. The helmet’s retention system is designed in a way that allows the helmet to levitate a bit and not squish directly against your skull, and as a result the aeration and venting is outstanding and almost too good – on a couple of chilly rides I was secretly wishing for a cap.

On this windy and wet day at the Ghost of Gravel race, the Synthe and Empire VR90s made the suffering a little more tolerable

On this windy and wet day at the Ghost of Gravel race, the Synthe and Empire VR90s made the suffering a little more tolerable (photo credit: E. Bakke)


Greazy Panda - always testing manufactures claims for the benefit of others.

Greazy Panda – always testing manufactures claims for the benefit of others.

On the safety side of things, unselfish as he is and clearly for everyone else’s benefit, Greazy Panda made sure to test the safety and impact protectiveness of the helmet by launching head-first into a tree the first time he wore it, and the helmet did its due diligence by taking the full brunt of the collision and leaving the rider uninjured and unscathed. It can be a worry for some that a helmet this light and racer oriented may not be sturdy enough to provide proper head protection, but this is clearly not the case with the Giro Synthe. Superb helmet! Order now! Redbike phone operators are standing by to take your call!

A Giro Synthe Haiku

So comfortable

Light and aerodynamic

My head is chilly

Giro Empire VR90 Mountain Bike Shoes

I’m really enjoying the Empire VR90 shoes so far. Even though I’m not one for attention, I really like the eye-catching colour scheme, and I will admit to slightly enjoying the “ooohs” and gawking the first time I showed up to the start line in them. They feel just like my most comfortable walking shoes, but while maintaining the stiffness and performance needed for a race-level cycling shoe. There must be some wizardry and sorcery in the design and manufacturing process somewhere. I wasn’t sure how laces on a cycling shoe would pan out; however, the ability for laces to fine tune the fit and snugness exactly where you’d like is not just an empty claim, but actually a very true and really beneficial feature. As with other high end Giro shoes released in the past, they come with three different arch support inserts so you can further fine tune the fit based on your foot shape. On the outside, the lace holes are nicely reinforced and laces don’t slip once you’ve cinched them to where you want them, and there’s a cozy little elasticized snuggy to stow the extra tied laces. I’ve worn them in both uncomfortably hot conditions and rainy/windy/cold conditions, and my feet were comfortable in both, which I can only assume is due to more secret mystery ingredients.

There's magic inside this shoe bag...

There’s magic inside this shoe bag…

The Vibram sole is wondrous, and unlike other mountain bike shoes I’ve worn actually provides traction when you need to scramble on your feet, unlike most mountain bike shoe treads, which typically make it more dangerous to walk than ride. Like the Synthe, the VR90s are also on the expensive end of the spectrum for gear, but with the fit, looks, and features, I don’t even hesitate to say they are worth the investment. Did I mention they come with a snazzy Giro shoe bag and an extra set of laces?

A Giro Empire VR90 Haiku

A glass slipper fit

Maybe made from unicorns

I’m Cinderella

Kokanee Redbike p/b Giro's Magical Unicorn Ingredients

Kokanee Redbike p/b Giro’s Magical Unicorn Ingredients (photo credit: M. Higuchi)

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Di2 is a Total Game Changer, Meh

While I hate reading platitudes in bike equipment reviews like, “This is a game changer” or “best (insert whatever here) ever”, this best describes how I feel about the Shimano Ultegra DI2 electronic shifting. Like most people who first heard about using batteries to run bicycle drivetrains, especially mountain bikers, I was incredulous about the benefits versus the detriments of such a system. In a traditional sense, one of the many beautiful aspects of cycling is that it is free from technological constraints, yet ironically, we yearn year to year for the newest innovations from the industry so we can ride lighter, faster and more efficient bikes. Bikes basically have looked the same for a hundred years, yet it is packed full of modern engineering and manufacturing, so when the idea of electronic drivetrains came to light, the misoneists went on a hysterical rant whilst fondling their Garmin and updating their Strava.

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After having many discussions with fellow cyclists about the positives and negatives of the DI2 system, I decided that the best way to settle the dispute was for me to actually buy a bike with such a system and test it out in a single sample size experiment. While I was eager to try out the new DI2 XTR system for mountain bikes, it was unavailable at the time. But, when the opportunity for me to obtain a cyclocross bike with Ultegra DI2, hydraulic disc brakes and carbon frame and fork came up from Opus, I immediately took it. To be honest, I have been eyeing this bike all summer as I was impressed that such a well built bike was a stock option considering that Devinci and Rocky Mountain seemed to be going with a conservative build within their cross lineup.

Out of the box, the Opus Stelle 1.0 had the looks that immediately made people look for adjectives which would describe an ugly baby: Unique, interesting or whatever. Well, whatever the looks or lack there of, I was more excited about the battery, modules and robotic noises of the electronic system. All you have to do to get the system working is to plug it in just like any other computerized toy in the house via its USB connector that plugs into the module placed underneath the stem. That’s it. I started to push the buttons and the derailleurs simply started to move. I didn’t have to connect it to the computer and program it like The Matrix, although with the Shimano software, which I have not bothered to download, you can adjust all the settings your heart desires. I find that I’d rather live in ignorance and just enjoy the simple pleasures of button shifting.

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The buttons corresponded exactly like the mechanical system where the right shifter controls the rear derailleur and the left controls the front, so the system was very intuitive from the start if you are familiar with the mechanical system (You can totally change the button functions if you want to, but I don’t know why) Once riding, the system was essentially fluid and precise, just like advertised. A click of whatever button you press, the system just moves the chain to where it’s supposed to go, and I know it sounds obvious, but there has been many times where I tried to shift and it didn’t do what it was suppose to do. The brilliance is in the front shifting, the bane of my existence. I hated its poor reliability and performance. I can’t tell you how many times I looked down in vain as the front derailleur refused to move that chain up or down on the desired ring. With one easy push of a button, the front derailleur moved that chain up or down with stoic authority. I would guess that the DI2 shifting will add to our need for immediate gratification, but I will not feel guilty about enjoying the expedience of bicycle shifting.

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After racing half the ABA cyclocross season so far, I think I put the system through a solid enough testing session. The results have been a resounding positive experience with no dropped chains, missed shifts or even delayed shifts. I had to only charge my battery once during the 6 weeks of riding, and that includes commuting, training and racing. I haven’t found any negatives in having an electronic system so far, and I’m sure something will come up as nothing is infallible, but even so, the positives will far exceed the negatives. Bring on the wireless electronic systems and the brain chips.

Thunderstruck

After what has seemed like an eternity since I picked up my showroom-fresh Rocky Mountain Thunderbolt 770 (my initial impressions here: http://wp.me/p3nKds-S), I have finally been able to devote some quality trail time to adjust to my new ride and form some opinions with regards to 27.5″ wheels and the bike in general. For those of you only interested in the Coles Notes version: I’m officially a ‘tweener convert. Technical climbing prowess, more traction, and increased smoothness and momentum over rough terrain more than make up for a nominal decrease in agility and acceleration compared to a 26er.

For those of you interested in all the nitty-gritty details, first some general stats. Rocky bills the Thunderbolt as a bike for “when XC gets rowdy“. The build out of the box certainly reflects this, and while it features a respectable arsenal of higher-tier Shimano and Fox components and Stan’s Crest wheels, at just over 28 pounds it is definitely not a weight-weenie XC bike (details here: http://www.bikes.com/en/bikes/thunderbolt/2014). I rode the bike a few times in the stock configuration and was admittedly overwhelmed by its heft. Despite a strict budget, I went to work swapping a few key items to shave off a bit of weight, and in the end, a Whiskey carbon bar, Selle Italia SLR seat, ESI grips, and Schwalbe Rocket Ron tires set up tubeless brought the weight down to a more tolerable 26.5 pounds. Still not “race light” by any means, but not bad considering the full aluminum frame. Swapping out the heavy OEM tires and going tubeless saved a pound alone and livened up the bike significantly – if you can only afford one improvement, lighter tires and/or wheels will give you the most noticeable improvement in ride quality and the biggest bang for your buck.

My slightly lightened-up Thunderbolt. Not weight-weenie approved!

My slightly lightened-up Thunderbolt. Not weight-weenie approved!

Mmmm, Whiskey bar...

Mmmm, Whiskey bar… Redbike makes it easy to find sweet upgrades for your ride.

On to the riding. Rocky describes the Thunderbolt as “An agile, playful XC bike that loves punchy, technical climbs and flowy singletrack descents“, a description that I agree with entirely. I’m typically quite a conservative rider when it comes to launching off trail features or choosing more reckless lines (old bones take a long time to heal), but the bigger wheels and bit of extra travel (120mm front and rear) really taunt and tease you to ride more aggressively. I’m getting air, and I like it. The extra traction provided by the bigger wheels certainly helps to eat up punchy, technical climbs, of which there are many in Edmonton, and I’m finding cleaning tricky sections is a great deal easier and takes less energy. Notably, if I do stall a bit while trying to overtake a large root or obstacle, it takes a lot less effort to get the bike moving again and successfully roll over the offending obstacle. Me likey. I also enjoy that the Thunderbolt likes to be (and in some cases needs to be) muscled around a bit, another reflection of Rocky’s “this is XC in BC” design philosophy. The bike is responsive yet stable, and despite a low bottom bracket, I am experiencing way less crank-arm and pedal smashing into roots and rocks than with past Rockys I’ve owned, likely a side-effect of the larger wheels and greater travel. Where in the past I would consistently clip certain obstacles and would expectantly cringe waiting for the familiar smash each time, now I can pedal through the same section cleanly with way less ratcheting and smashing, and way more smiling. Of course the bike’s grandeur isn’t completely owing to ‘tweener-sized wheels; this is my first experience with thru-axles (front and rear), a tapered headtube, and the short/wide bar/stem combo, which all certainly contribute to the ride quality and enjoyment factor aboard the Thunderbolt. Again, I’m finding myself pushing way harder and faster when coming into corners or when descending with no doubts in the ability of the bike to hold its own. I definitely don’t see my self ever reverting to skinny bars or quick releases.

The only downside of wide bars is remembering just how wide they are...

The only downside of wide bars is remembering just how wide they are…

Of course I do have a few complaints – what finicky cyclist doesn’t? The weight of the bike certainly holds one back on long, steady, open climbs. The Thunderbolt is clearly no match for a carbon hardtail 29er on such terrain, but then again I’m quite certain it wasn’t designed with it in mind. When after all have you ever encountered playful and flowly gravel road climbs? As a female rider, I also find the bike’s weight starts to become a challenge as I become fatigued – you might say, “when I gots no muscle left, I gots no hustle left” with this bike. The rear suspension of the bike is also very active when in trail mode – I find myself using the dual lockout (climb mode) way more than I initially thought I ever would, locking out on anything smooth, whether it be flat or climbing. Not a big deal if you’re always on rolling, techy, obstacle-laden trails (as the bike is designed for), but the bobbing is noticeable, and the constant button pushing to attain a more efficient pedal stroke can be a bit tiresome when riding highly variable terrain or in race situations. Finally, and not uncommon among small-sized full suspension frames, it’s a tight squeeze for a water bottle – a side loading cage and small bottle are required to avoid unsuspectingly flicking the rebound dial while indulging in liquid refreshment.

All in all, I’m happy to say I’m having a ton of fun on this bike so far.  It’s not built for hammering up gravel roads, so if that’s what you’re into you’re probably going to be happier on a 29er. If you’re more like me though, the bike is a blast to ride where it counts most – on punchy, rolling singletrack. If that’s where you’re in your element, this is a great bike for it, and I would highly recommend it. Additionally, I would certainly advocate to shorter women and guys to try out 27.5 wheels – the benefits of the platform far outweigh the small loss in agility compared to a 26er, and the bike actually fits someone my size properly unlike a 29er. Yes, it is a bit hefty for an XC racer, but then so am I, so you could say we’re a perfect match.

Rubbing My Cycling Hands with Anticipation

Most people spend a cold snowy evening drinking hot chocolate cuddled up with a loved one next to a fireplace watching a nameless Jennifer Lopez romantic comedy, and I am no exception.  Unfortunately, I don’t have any hot chocolate, I have this pathetic electric fireplace that blows fake paper flames like a Gillian’s Island campfire and I won’t bore you with stories of my floundering personal life, so I spend my nights scouring the interweb for cool and interesting cycling things to covet for the next 6 months until spring.  Here are a few things that I can’t wait to try out next year:

Dropper seatpost:

I can remember when the mere mention of a dropper seatpost at the shop would set you up for an earful of vitriolic derision like “Learn how to descend better, loser”, “Do you want training wheels with that?” or “Is your mother learning how to mountain bike?”  I personally would love to see my mom on a mountain bike so I didn’t see the point of disparaging mothers along with dropper seatposts, but I digress.  We didn’t understand why any self respecting mountain biker would want one as most of us local Edmonton cyclists can clean all the technical descents, and if we were doing anything else like chairlift or shuttle access downhilling, we just rode our downhill bikes with a low saddle height and 8 inches of travel.  Very few people have them locally, but reading the general reviews online, it made me understand some of the inherent benefits of a dropper seatpost, especially the remote actuated ones.

The first misconception I learned is that they are not used to help clean a decent, but to help you do them faster.  Sure, having a lowered saddle will position your body with a lower center of gravity to stay in more control thus helping you with completing the downhill section, but it’s really about being able to do it faster.  If you come up to a steep technical section and your saddle is at the normal pedaling height, you may have to brake a bit more because if you hit something and your center of gravity is high, you have a greater chance of going over your handlebar.  With a dropper seatpost, you can attack a downhill with more speed without stopping to lower it manually.

Second, a dropper seatpost is actually an advantage to the more skillful technically sound rider.  For example, if you are riding a rolling section of trail with lots of obstacles, a rider who has strong technical skill can “pump” speed into and out of the corners and smoothly “bunnyhop” over obstacles instead of hitting them and lose speed.  Imagine how fast Roddi Lega can ride “Golfcourse trail aka Rollercoaster trail” if he can drop his saddle 125mm and really use his bike handling skills to go faster in the corners and “pump” harder on the rolling bumps.  A hack like me probably will go slightly faster with a dropper seatpost, but not as much as a skilled cyclist like Roddi, Brad, Kurt, etc.

RollerCoaster

This is how fast Roddi can rip RollerCoaster without a Dropper Post

Third, the dropper seatpost will allow you to use larger stronger muscles on long descents during mountain multi-day races.  There are some races where the descents are so long, your arms actually get tired because your weight shifts to your upper body. With a dropper seatpost, you can lower your stance on your bike so you can transfer your weight to larger and stronger muscles or at least, you can shift positions on the bike to rest muscles periodically.

Lastly, with RockShox leading the industry with their well-reviewed Reverb, the dropper seatpost seemed to have left the plagues of the past in regards to their poor performance and durability behind.  Specialized, KS, Thomson and others are in the market and all seem to be producing some quality product.  I am personally excited about Thomson getting involved and hopefully imbuing their meticulous engineering into their dropper seatposts as they have with their other fine cycling products.

dropper

Thomson Dropper Seatpost

XX1:

Ever since the beginning of my mountain biking history, which goes back to the early 90’s, I’ve always loathed the front derailleur as it seemed archaic and poorly designed for it’s purpose.  I can remember countless moments when I wanted and needed to drop from the middle ring to the granny ring, but when I turned my thumbshifter (Yes, I wrote thumbshifter you young punks!!!), the front derailleur cage just rubbed sadly against the chain without action, much like a husband getting a lapdance from his wife.  Once you knew the chain wouldn’t drop, you had to concede, get off your bike, lift the rear wheel, pedal with your hands until the chain dropped to the granny ring, then you can continue with your epic cycling journey.  The design of the front derailleur didn’t change much over the past 20 years as it seemed the technology hit it’s zenith in the 90’s, so what did the geniuses at SRAM decide to do?  They just got rid of it.

XX1 is a single ring drivetrain with a rear cassette that has 11 cogs ranging from 10 to 42 teeth effectively making the mountain bike an 11 speeder.  I don’t know why they call it XX1 as it implies that it has 21 gears; I thought they would call it XI to correspond to their 20 speed 2×10 XX nomenclature.  Anyways, you can change the ring up or down 2 teeth without adding or subtracting chainlinks so you can add variability to the gearing without too much effort.  Sure, I may need a 30, 32 and 34 ring collection, but apparently, the switch is simple with only 4 bolts to deal with.  The idea of not having a front derailleur is exciting and monumental as this could be the beginning of a mountain bike standard.  The simplicity of having just a rear derailleur and shifter opens up more possibilities like a 1×12 system and clearing space on the handlebar for other remotes like lockout and dropper seatpost.

My Beargrease is coming with XX1, and it really makes sense for winter riding as the front derailleur can freeze up or get clogged with snow and ice rendering it nonfunctional.  It comes with a 28 ring which seems logical as you need the lower gears to trudge through the snow, but as a race bike, I am considering a 30 ring.  Overall, I am just excited to never look down with consternation at that pathetic front derailleur again.

XX1

XX1 Groupset

Enve carbon Wheelset:

This was a total ego purchase as the logic of spending $3000 on a set of wheels seems to escape most people, including me.  As a mid pack Expert ABA Master racer, my pedigree deserves a $3000 bike with decent reliable parts as my weakest link is probably my “muffintop” from drinking too much beer with my fellow cyclists (or anyone to be totally honest) and my penchant for 1 hour rides and 3 hours of coffee with Paavo or Shantel.  I never rode or raced with carbon wheels, and with its availability, I just thought the time for self-reward was now.  With it’s gossamer weight claims and purported durability, I chose Enve XC wheels because I didn’t want to second guess my decision as this may be the last chance to purchase such a decadent piece of cycling equipment.  Contrary to most people’s opinion, I despise the Enve logo/font plastered on the rims as it is reminiscent of some tacky 70’s USSR propaganda design.   Thankfully, the stickers peeled off easily to display the carbon rims in their beautiful naked form.  Despite my hopeful intentions of buying a set of light carbon wheels, I don’t really expect to see my racing results change much, unless you think placing 15th instead of 16th is an improvement.  I just really love the way it looks on my Rocky Mountain Vertex with XX1.  It’s a $3000 ornamental accent so I plan on taking plenty of pictures and posting them on facebook ad nauseam.

enve

Enve Wheels in all their glory 

The Cycling Waiting Game

Patience is a virtue for those who seek it or already have it.  For me, I always liked sulking and whining like a petulant child when I don’t get my way or get what I want right away.  In today’s society of instant gratification, it’s very easy to get things or information immediately from the palms of our hands, literally.  If we have any fleeting thought whether it’s trivial or a cathartic epiphany, we just go to our social media outlet and just type it out on our virtual soapbox and hope to get an appropriate response from our adoring audience.  We, as a society, do not have much patience for anything anymore so I can feel somewhat justified, or at least an assuaged guilt, to have a wrenching angst in my gut for my new carbon Beargrease XX1.

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Carbon Salsa Beargrease XX1 in the flesh @ Interbike.  With these HED fatbike wheels, the bike tipped the scale at 21.5 lbs!

This story starts back in April of this year where I was propositioned by redbike to demo a carbon Beargrease XX1 with a purported weight of sub 25lbs for the upcoming winter.  There were a couple of real concerns regarding this offer: First, I really had a great time riding my old Mukluk the past winter without any complains or failures, other than the time I broke my chain misshifting on a climb.  Secondly, will the BearGrease show up in time for the winter season or at all?  There are some famous quotes describing this situation: “ Once bitten, twice shy” and “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me”.   The second quote was fantastically mishandled by George W. Bush which still makes me chortle whenever I think of it.  For those unacquainted, last fall, QBP failed to deliver my Beargrease which left me fatbikeless for the impending winter.  Fortunately, redbike had a Mukluk that I was able to filch as a replacement for the BearGrease, then winter fatbiking history was made.  Hyperbolic?  Probably, but I put in so many winter trail miles, it felt monumental.

I will not be too redundant about the benefits of riding a fatbike as you can refer to my previous blogs, but I think that is why this waiting game is so frustrating for me.  I don’t have to guess, surmise or anticipate the fun of riding a fatbike on the snowpacked singletrack as I know exactly what I am missing.  I hate looking at my friends’ smug little faces as they discuss rear hub spacing, which tire width is best on what conditions and them feigning sympathy about my situation.  I love and hate being so covetous.

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Salsa Beargrease Glam Shot

So here was are, at the beginning of December, still waiting for my BearGrease to arrive from Salsa.  I can almost hear George W. Bush laughing at my misfortune, and that man should have no reason to be laughing at anyone.  Well, perhaps the American and Iraqi people.  Please don’t let me give you the impression that I don’t like winter riding on my 29er Devinci as it works really well, and I love the serenity, silence and Robert Frost whiteness of cycling in the snow with my friends.  As a lifer Edmontonian, I realize that fondness of cold snowy days is paramount to surviving the winters, and I just sampled cycling’s next big thing for snow so I want it, now.

Foundry Harrow Initial Review

Let me start this off by saying that I’ve been riding the same cross bike for a long time.  I’ve been using a Redline Conquest with a custom build for all of my cyclocross and road riding since 2009.  A buddy asked me how many km’s I have on it and I have no idea, but it’s a lot.

At first I was a little sentimental about the bike and even asked myself if I really needed a new one (it worked flawlessly).  But after Kettle Cross, the Canmore CX race and Cupcake Cross this weekend, I was happy to see the Harrow show up after my race on Saturday (all very rough races).  The Cupcake Cross course was so bumpy I DNF’d when my back started to seize up.  At this point I was thinking about bailing on the next day’s race, but 2 hot laps on the Harrow and I was coming out for sure.

I basically adjusted the seatpost, threw some pedals on, and hit the course.  The guys at Redbike built the Harrow for me and, as always, everything was absolutely perfect.  The first thing that I noticed was that the lateral and pedaling stiffness are considerable but the vertical compliance is outstanding.  The engineers at Foundry didn’t just lay some sticky carbon fiber up in an open mold, this frame is dialed.  With the addition of the whiskey through-axle 15mm fork, the bike goes exactly where you point it and holds a line until the tires don’t (might have happened a few times).

I’ve never really ridden a cross, or road, bike with disc brakes but the Avid BB7’s with 140mm rotors were flawless after a little bedding in.  I’m a big guy (195lb) and being able to single-finger brake from the hoods is something that I’ll now never give up (amazing on bumpy courses).

The drivetrain, being SRAM Red with FSA SL-K BB30 crank, performed flawlessly as expected from such high-end components with the Red shifting being noticeably crisper that SRAM Force. The FSA cranks are super stiff and the BB didn’t make a peep.

The wheels were one thing that I was originally unsure of;  I’m pretty committed to my Stan’s rims with Michelin Mud 2 tires run tubeless. But the Velocity disc hubs with A23 rims felt laterally stiff but not harsh. The biggest eye opener for me were the Clement PDX tires. These things have some serious grip in dry grass and gravel and still feel fast on the straights.  During the next day’s race I really tested the cornering traction and was very impressed.

So, after one very bumpy race, I’d say that I’m extremely happy with the Foundry Harrow. Weight is right around 18lb stock (for a 59) and everything works well together. I originally had plans to convert it to single ring and replace the rims with Stan’s Iron Cross right away. But after feeling how dialed the bike is I think I’m going to leave things stock and really get familiar.

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Josh testing the limits of his new carbon steed on the Rodeo Grounds in Airdrie. (Photo: Masa Higuchi)

Giro Code MTB Shoe Review

I have always believed that there is a very fine line separating something
from being resplendent or garish, and when I received my Giro Code mountain
biking shoes in a florescent green/yellow color, I found myself treading
that rather tenuous line.

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The Code is the top of the line mountain bike shoe from Giro that uses
Easton¹s EC90 carbon to provide lightweight stiffness for racing purposes.
It uses the common cycling shoe tightening system that employs two lower
Velcro straps with a plastic strap buckling top strap. Giro seemed to have
decided to keep things simple as opposed to competing designs where the
Velcro straps have been replaced by Boa or other mechanically
tightening/adjusting systems that Sidi and Specialized have favored.

I have been cycling with the revered Sidi Dominator for five years so I was
relatively incredulous about trying something new, and not because they were
infallible, but because Sidi was ³The² Italian shoe company that made flashy
cycling and motorcycle shoes for the elite racers of the world. It was the
common denominator with all the local Edmonton racers who fancied themselves
serious, much like the bandana colors of the Bloods and Crips. Well, not
really, but it was what everyone donned at the time.

Yet, as everyone was covetous about the Dominators, there were many
complaints about them that were quite consistent by most, if not, all
owners. The first thing was the horrible afterthought of a shoe insole that
you received with the shoes. It was like Sidi had extra cardboard laying
around the factory, decided to paint it blue and cut into insoles to put in
their shoes. There was no midfoot support, metatarsal arch support or any
corrective hindfoot valgus or varus wedges included, and considering the
price of the Dominators, I¹m surprised that we were all beguiled into buying
a pair. Everyone bought Specialized, Superfeet or custom made insoles to
spare themselves from the hotspots and foot pain due to the unsupported foot
structures. Secondly, the buckles would not release if mud got into them and
dried up. I remember having to drive home from a race in my cycling shoes
because I simply could not get the buckle to open up. You would have to use
a sharp object to chip off the mud to get the buckle to eventually release.
Lastly, and my most frustrating problem, was the Velcro straps just ceasing
to hold. Bizarrely, Sidi decided to put a red plastic piece in the middle
of the straps, allegedly to prolong the Velcro¹s ability to hold, but
ironically, it just prevented more contact between the fabric and made the
straps almost non-functional. After five years, the middle one just releases
and flaps in the wind whenever I going biking. In retrospect, the Sidi
Dominators have been disappointing. Why everyone bought them will remain a
mystery.

Getting back to the Code shoes, I had those Sidi faults in mind so I wanted
to see how Giro would have potentially addressed those now glaring problem.
They had developed the Supernatural fit insoles where they claimed that once
you decided which of the interchangeable arch supports worked best for your
foot type, it would prevent hotspots, numbness and cramping. I found that
the insoles did not provide adequate metatarsal arch support, for me at
least, and it did not address the hindfoot valgus/varus issue that is
associated with talus pronation that would effect the power transfer from
the leg/ankle to the pedals. As a chiropractor for the last 15 years, I
could be more critical of their claims, but I understand that the insoles
are not custom made orthotics and in comparison to the Sidi insoles, they
are significantly more effective in addressing foot biomechanics and
comfort. As a matter of fact, the Codes were immediately more comfortable
than the Dominators, and not just because of the insoles, but because the
toe bed is slightly wider therefore there seemed to be less wedging of the
toes. The insoles came with the medium arch support as a default so I went
for my first ride with them. After a two hour ride, I did develop some
forefoot hot spots and notice that my midfoot arch was not supported enough.
The next ride I switched the arch support wedges from medium to high and
noticed the difference right away. The wedges seemed like it wasn¹t just a
marketing ploy, but it did change my biomechanics by supporting my pes
planus and providing slight rearfoot varus. The next time I wore the
shoes, I raced the local Tuesday night race, and it was a long race so it
was a good test for shoes¹ performance. Simply put, it felt great with no
hot spots or cramping. Considering it was my second time out, this bolds
well for my communion with the shoes.

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The buckle system is a very simple functioning ratchet system seen in the
majority of cycling shoes. You lift one side to pull the plastic strap and
tighten the shoe, then you push the other side to release. I can only
surmise that once mud gets into the mechanism, it will prevent proper
release just like the Dominators, but we can only wait and see.

I would have thought that Giro would have heeded to the Velcro complains and
developed a better system. But at first glace, it seems like they didn¹t
address the issue at all. Perhaps the most obvious difference is that the
Velcro strap loops at the top of the foot instead of the more medial loop
that was in the Dominators. The most concerning issue is the design of the
transition of hook side to the loop side of the Velcro strap. The hook side
stops far too early, and so when you pull the strap and push down the end,
there is not a lot of actual hook and loop surface contact. Most of the
contact is the loop to loop, therefore not contributing to the hold at all.
It seems like an obvious design flaw because if Giro would have just
lengthened the hook side just another centimeter, there would be double the
functional contact. This would have perhaps increased the lifespan of the
Velcro straps. Now, it may never be an issue and the Velcro straps may
always hold, but I think a simple change would drastically prevent the
Velcro strap from being nonfunctional in the future.

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Despite some minor and perhaps prognosticating issues, my initial response
from the Giro Code shoes have been very positive as they feel comfortable
and transfer power effectively to the pedals. With two races done, I hope
to race many more and look resplendent in them in an 80¹s way.

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