American brand Giro have been in the bike game since the mid-eighties and, while their history is in helmets, they've been making waves in recent years with their eye-catching footwear. Since unveiling their first cycling shoes in 2010 it would be fair to say that their watershed moment came with the introduction of the Empire in 2012 which thrust lace-up shoes back on to the feet of racing cyclists and a few years down the line, most bike shoes brands have added their own lace-up option. And now, Giro have made their next move with a couple of new additions for their 2018 range.
Yes, you read that right - knit - but think a little less Nana and a little more high performance. Knit technology has been around in athletic footwear for a little while now with sportswear behemoths like Nike and Adidas leading the charge, but Giro have now bought the technology over to the bike world with the Xnetic Knit upper on their Empire E70 knit range.
Once you dig into the technical information you realise just how far from needles this knit is. Forget wool, Xnetic Knit uses a blend of nylon and polyester yarns which are woven together, wrapped around a last, and then heated to fuse the nylon and polyester fibres. Once cooled, those nylon fibres lock the shape in while the polyester base keeps the finish soft to the touch. This is quite the departure from the norm for cycling shoe construction where you'll typically find a few pieces of synthetic leather or mesh cut from a larger section of fabric, stitched together and heated, which has proved effective for years - so why the change? For starters, this knitted method cuts down on waste with the last made from one sheet of fabric. It also gives the designers a bit more room to play, with the option to interweave different colours or even different materials in specific areas to create support exactly where it's needed. Plus, the knit is more breathable and faster-drying than a traditional microfibre, and more comfortable - you don't need shoe to fit like a glove when it fits like a sock!
Giro haven't just picked a trend from another sector and hoped to carry it over either, and while the knit upper looks similar in appearance to a running shoe, the feel of the shoe itself is quite different, with carefully placed polyurethane film reinforcement used to add the support you'd expect to need when riding. In addition, you get a durable water repellent coating to keep the worst of the weather out, the now ubiquitous lace-up closure that Giro pioneered with the original Empire, and - best of all - a shoe that we think looks incredible with a very different aesthetic to most of the shoes you can pick up at the moment. All that knit technology is bonded to an Easton EC70 carbon fibre sole with extra reinforcement on the toe and heel to protect against wear, and weighs in at just 250 grams with both men's and women's specific models available.
Same style, extra visibility
The E70 knit might just be pipped to the title of 'most eye-catching footwear' - in the dark at least - by Giro's reflective Empire ACC. With an innovative reflective coating built into the EvoFiber microfiber upper these shoes appear fairly pedestrian with a muted dark grey finish during the day, but when the sun goes down and the lights come on the upper glows vibrantly, making your feet jump out as you mash the pedals and adding some visibility as you ride into the night.
Underneath that shiny finish is the same top-notch Empire shoe that has come to be admired and adored by roadies the world over. Originally developed with feedback from US pro Taylor Phinney, and worn to Hour Record success by Bradley Wiggins, the Empire is a top-level performance shoe with plenty of breathability and ventilation provided by the aforementioned EvoFibre upper, and a superbly rigid Easton EC90 carbon fibre sole to ensure that all of those watts that you're chucking out go straight through to the pedals. Obviously, the stand out feature of the Empire is the lace-up closure system which provides plenty of adjustability and comfort in a lightweight package.
With all that performance and the added visibility, this might just be the perfect all-rounder for the racing roadie tackling those winter evening training rides or bagging miles on the commute.
Giro Empire ACC Reflective Road Shoe
A classic laced closure offers unrivaled fit and adjustment and complements the highly breathable EvoFibre upper for superb fit and comfort.
- Premium Evofibre breathable microfibre
- Easton EC90 ACC carbon fibre with replaceable heel pads
- SuperNatural Fit Kit with adjustable arch support
- X-Static anti-microbial fibre
- 215 grams (size 42.5)
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