20 July 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Gaerne G.BS Carbon mountain bike shoe

I like shoes. Not enough to hang with most of the ladies, but I often buy them even when I don’t need them. I carry this trait over to mountain biking, where I have a bit more restraint- but not much. When I saw the Gaerne G.BS shoe in an advertisement, I thought it looked great and it seemed to ooze quality. A few months later I saw they were available through a distributor in Oregon and I had my local bike shop order me a pair.

Gaerne Shoes are handmade in Italy. Being handmade doesn’t necessarily mean they are higher quality than shoes that aren’t, but it certainly helps, and they really feel well-made when you examine them. The fit is typically Italian with a slimmer low-volume forefoot area. This is not ideal for my foot but I have learned ways to deal with it (in this case they stretch after being wet, and I usually buy a half size too big). The entire upper of the shoe is made out of a single piece of Lorica (synthetic leather), with nylon mesh inserts for breathability. The G.BS has a full carbon sole, and while it is very stiff I have worn stiffer. For you gram counters out there, they are a bit heavy: about 450 grams for a single shoe.

The G.BS has loads of new technologies that all have wonderful acronyms. I’ll touch on some of them briefly, but most of them are all the same stuff that you expect from any high-end mountain shoe. The most useful and distinct of them is AICS (adjustable instep closure system), which allows the rider to change the position of the thicker padded portion of the top-strap. Ideally, this means you can adjust the amount/direction of the pressure on your arch from the main strap. In realty it does allow you to find the most comfortable place to position the padded portion (which is nice), but I couldn’t tell much of a difference other than that. They have a Power Control System which is a plastic “cage” that connects the main buckle to the heel to truly secure your foot in place. I couldn’t tell by feel if this was working and I doubt it’s any better than other top shoes in securing your foot to the shoe (many companies do something similar). They do have the SLSS (Safety Lock Strap System) which I did like despite the name. The SLSS is basically a set of opposing plastic teeth underneath the two lower Velcro straps. One side of the teeth is attached to the bottom of the Velcro strap and the other to the shoe upper. Once you tighten the strap the teeth grab and prevent the Velcro straps from loosening or slipping. Not a big deal for me, but it is a touch that I noticed, and liked [by handling much of the load seen by the straps, the teeth may also help reduce wear on the Velcro itself]. The Gaerne buckle is similar to others I've owned, though I find it easier to use than most. The entire heel is well protected by a hard plastic cup, which I think is a must for mountain bike shoes, and it is good to see one so sturdy.

Airflow is good and even some very hot days didn’t bother me despite the dark color of the shoe. I think there are other shoes that are cooler (temperature-wise) but the G.BSs were quite suitable for long rides on hot days. I would like to see some more secondary protection for the toe-box. Currently the shoe only has about an inch-wide layer of rubber armor at the very tip of the toe. Despite this, the toe is holding together just fine (so far), but the outer toe area is where most of my shoes start to disintegrate.

The G.BS is a good shoe with some novel and useful new ideas. The fit is unique so make sure you try them, or if you order them, make sure it is from a retailer with a good exchange policy. Weight Weenies will want to stay away, and so will anybody on a budget since they cost a not-insignificant $329.95. For those looking for a durable shoe that's hand made in the West, though, they're certainly worth a look.




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Anonymous said...

Great review. I am thinking of buying a pair - reduced to $115 at my local.Seems a good deal, cheers