The Giro Privateer Lace shoe is an offroad shoe that mixes the shape and sole of the standard Privateer with the lace up adjustability of Giro's Empire range. Aimed at off-roading in general, it's light and a good compromise of comfort and sole stiffness.
For some riders lace up clipless shoes are purely an aesthetic choice, a trend (something Giro has been a large part of) brought across from the road. Away from looks, however, there are some advantages offroad, not least in reliability.
The last (the 3D shape on which the shoe is formed) is reasonably average. These don't offer massive internal space, but neither are they tight in either the midsole or toe box.
They do however have a very flat arch on the sole, and unlike some other shoes, they don't come with any inserts. That's a shame, as this could really improve comfort for some.
That aside, comfort is good. Flex from the sole is great enough to make them fine for walking, even on long hike-a-bike sections, but still stiff enough when you're pushing hard on the pedals that you don't feel your energy is being sapped away.
They can't match a carbon sole XC shoe for efficiency, obviously, but for most real riders it will be sufficient.
The Privateer stands up to plenty of rough use, finished the test period still looking great and feels impressively durable. Ours have been knocked on rocks and scrabbled up incredibly steep slopes, and the combination of microfiber upper and reinforced heel/toe remains very clean, with no noticeable marks or wear.
Grip is decent thanks to deep lugs at the front and rear. There's also the option to add toe spikes, should you require more grip, which is particularly useful for cyclocross or just general muddy, slippery use.
The chances of a lace failing whilst riding (or crashing) is almost zero, and while buckle and Boa dial failures are still very rare, for anyone taking on bigger rides or adventures it can be a key factor. The quality of the laces is good, too.
The lace tidy on the Privateer could be better, though. It's a small elasticated loop that should prevent them from straying into the drivetrain, and it's simply too far down the shoe. The loops are barely held and have a tendency to stray out, especially when walking and the sole is flexing. It seems a big oversight which could easily be changed, either moving the loop or just using longer laces.
Although there is no mesh, ventilation isn't an issue and even on extremely hot (30+ degree) days their cooling is fine.
The general lack of mesh makes them good for British riding too, but the downside of good splash protection is if they're submerged, water can't get out. It's a double edged sword: on some rides it's a great feature, whereas others you're cursing the pool that's freezing your toes.
Although not particularly wide internally, particularly around the toes, they're wide enough outside to rub against some bike's crank arms, and there's no sideways adjustment for the cleats. Also, long cleat bolts can be felt through the sole, suggesting the threaded section is thin – make sure you have some short cleat bolts.
The Giro Privateer Lace is a sturdy, comfortable and reliable pair of shoes that's great for UK weather. The lack of sideways cleat adjustment may cause crank rub problems and they're not for those with very wide feet (or fallen arches), but otherwise their secure laces, comfortable yet efficient soles and solid good looks impress.
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