Sneak Peek: Quoc Gran Tourer Carbon-Reinforced Gravel Bike Shoes
Since our sneak peek at Quoc’s new Gran Tourer lace-up gravel bike shoes, I’ve been riding a pre-production pair for over a month for an exclusive review ahead of today’s Kickstarter launch. As part of the Quoc promo, we’re also giving our Review shoes to one of our lucky readers that was selected via Instagram. With a bunch of snowy, muddy, and generally cold riding, the new Gran Tourer shoes look like a solid solution for cyclists searching for a mix of performance and simplicity.
Quoc Gran Tourer Carbon-Reinforced Gravel Bike Shoes
The idea of a gravel bike specific shoe sounds a bit silly at first, but the touring name of the shoe itself is a better indicator of what market these shoes really are after. As gravel riding and bikepacking become more popular, dropbar cyclists need a pair of shoes that pedal efficiently on the bike, and are walkable both on rough trails that require a hike-a-bike and around town at your destination. Walking in the dirt immediately rules out road shoes (and pedals), so gravel & adventure riders have rightfully adopted mountain bike pedals & shoes. For these mixed-surface road riders a simple aesthetic is important too, not to mention that eliminating dials & buckles means less to fail if you are adventuring far from home. While a few companies, like Giro with their Empire VRs, have adopted the classic lace-up that doesn’t look out of place off the bike, those mostly use a super stiff carbon sole that isn’t so walkable for very long. Touring cyclists have traditionally had to pick between a technical mountain bike shoe for performance or something basic for simple looks and more usability off the bike. So that’s where Quoc has tried to position their new Gran Tourer, with it’s carbon-reinforced composite sole – a mountain bike shoe ready to tame gravel roads, bikepacking and any adventure tour you dream up.
Tech Details & Actual Weights
We looked at the details in-depth in our Sneak Peek at the Gran Tourer, but let’s recap… Key features are a soft rubber sole with bike lugs for plenty of traction, a relatively stiff carbon-reinforced molded composite sole, and a durable synthetic upper with Quoc’s unique Double-Lock lacing pattern. Quoc claims a weight of 380g for the vegan-friendly shoes, with our size 42.5 pair hitting just a bit less at 757g for the pair (378.5g each). That’s not super light for a lace-up cross-country shoe, but still on par or lighter than many mountain shoes with buckles & dials. Based around their own wet UK-riding, Quoc wanted to build the shoes to resist water getting inside, so the shoes get a wide rubber strip heat-welded all the way around, above the sole, and the synthetic upper only sparingly gets laser perforations for ventilation. The result is a shoe that Quoc calls waterproof up to the top of that rubber band. That also allowed them to vary the look of the shoe with a touch of color. Our Review shoes are called Black Camo with a subtle dark gray on gray camouflage design that mixes Vietnamese Tiger camo and some British contour lines, paired to the natural rubber sole. The Green Camo pattern is a bit more visible, but mixes in a quieter black sole. The all black version can satisfy those looking to blend in, while the tan shoes with a bright pink waterproofing stripe are by far the loudest.
Setup & Fit
Quoc put an effort into what they call a special unboxing experience for those who support their Kickstarter campaign. That means that backers will open their shoebox to an insert giving a background on why they made the shoes, and a pair of technical merino blend socks as well. We tried to socks out too, and can’t fault their looks, padded construction, or feel. I mean, every pair of socks should be merino. Under the socks are the shoes and a cotton shoe bag to carry them in. The Gran Tourer shoes that I have been riding are labeled as a UK 8.5/EU 42.5, although I would say they realistic are a bit larger than that would suggest. I typically wear a size 43 in other mountain bike shoes from Northwave, Shimano, Sidi & Suplest for example, and the Gran Tourers still had room for me to comfortably wear a winter weight wool sock for the duration of my tests. I suspect this is just due to the pre-production nature of the shoes, and Quoc actually quoted these samples as 43 at first. I had good luck picking a size on the Quoc Pham Urbanites when I tested them back in 2015, so would suggest going by Quoc’s own online size guide to pick what is best for you. With regards to adjusting the shoes, the two locations of Quoc’s patented lock-lacing took a little getting used to. The main body of the upper is stiff enough to feel supportive, but that also means it takes some effort to tighten the laces to your desired fit. I had to do it without gloves each time. Once you pull the laces through the double locking eyelets, the laces stayed tight. That is great once you figure out just how much you want to tighten them, but it was probably my third time wearing them before I got the tension right on the first try. Every other instance involved me taking off my gloves mid-ride to either eliminate a hot spot or hold my foot more securely. One small nit to pick, they include a small elastic loop to stow the laces. While it did its job, it was unnecessarily tight to use in practice. Here’s to hoping Quoc makes it a bit longer or more stretchy in the production shoe.
Once I worked out my desired tension of the laces both at the forefoot and overall, the Gran Tourer shoes mostly disappeared under foot. The reinforced sole manages a good level of stiffness that felt efficient pedaling and my heel stayed comfortably planted. Off the bike it didn’t really seem at first like the shoes were flexing. But when I ended up on a steep rocky walk-up, I could feel the shoe bend in the forefoot to offer enough flex to comfortable hoof it up the hill. Now climbing off the bike might also be the only place where I really see a downside in the shoes though. While the array of eight lugs across the toe looked like it was going to offer a lot of grip, in wet and loose terrain my toes would repeatedly slip until more of the sole grabbed the ground. That’s not to say that the shoes aren’t as good at walking in nasty conditions as most mountain shoes, but without a provision for thread-on spikes there’s no avoiding a bit of slippage on the wet terrain this shoe seems designed for. The other thing to keep in mind is that making a pair of shoes waterproof up to a certain line, also means that they are water-holding. Accidentally dip these puppies in a creek crossing and they will hold a decent amount of water. Even if you just ride in really wet conditions, water that drips down your leg is likely to accumulate inside the shoe. My suggestion is to get some light, waterproof covers like the VeloToze MTB if you are going to be riding in the rain. And make sure you store the shoes upside down in a well-vented area if you ride in wet conditions or warm enough weather to work up a sweat. I’ve been comfortably riding in temperatures a few degrees plus or minus freezing with a couple different heavy merino socks. Colder than that and I needed insulated shoe covers. I expect that the ventilation in the tongue and on the top of the shoes will make them work well in cool to warm temperatures by varying socks. But I get the feeling that my feet might overheat on the hottest days of summer riding.
Kickstarter Pricing & Availability