BY MAZY RYDER-ALLISON
When it comes to cycling shoes, comfort probably comes top of the list in terms of requirements, but should visibility be a consideration?
Your feet are the one part (two parts?) of your body guaranteed to be almost continually mobile as they turn your pedals, so it makes sense to have them as visible as possible. Movement attracts attention, after all.
This was a factor most likely at the forefront of the minds of the Giro shoe team when they decided to make their top-of-the-range Empire shoes reflective.
These are already outstanding shoes. A model that sparked a lace-up revival when it was launched a couple of years ago, the result of a design collaboration with Taylor Finney at Giro’s California headquarters.
In a market dominated by velcro and those crazy but admittedly efficient Boa fastenings, a return to laces seemed at first to be a foolhardy move. A backwards step in cycle shoe evolution.
Fast forward to the present day and there are plenty of brands featuring a lace-up shoe in their lineup. Proof that sometimes, you can’t go far wrong with the tried and trusted methods.
And that’s what lies at the heart of the Empire, that familiar feeling of lacing a shoe. You’ve done it so many times that you know just how tight it needs to be to be comfortable and if you can’t tie a shoelace, you really shouldn’t be riding a bike.
One aspect of the Empire doesn’t lend itself to is competitive racing. That is the ability to adjust the fastening on the fly, when you’re barrelling along in a peloton at 25mph. Any attempt to untie and loosen a shoelace in those circumstances is almost certain to result in disaster.
Not that you should need to. As we have said before, the laces offer an exceptional flexibility of fastening possibilities. Tighten a bit towards the lower end for a more relaxed, leisurely riding style. Do them all the way up nice and tight to deliver full power transfer.
The revamped Easton EC90 sole plate itself is remarkably flexible, offering a high degree of comfort on the rare occasion you are off the bike at the cafe stop, for instance.
But the real reason you will be choosing these above all other Empires is the reflective properties. This is a reflective coating built into the microfibre upper and boy does it do its job. These things light up like the high beam on a car.
It’s not just a night-time thing, either. The shoes do an equally adequate job of reflecting the sun when they catch it at the right angle. When they don’t, the default shade of these shoes is a mid grey, which makes them totally not in-your-face at the coffee stop. While we haven’t been wearing these long enough to say for sure, the fact this reflective coating is an integral part of the fabric should mean the shoes will remain effective for as long as you use them.
What’s more, the microfibre is wipe-clean, meaning a quick spruce-up is only a cloth away.
Summary: These shoes are equally ideal for the commute as they are the club ride and are built to provide an unmatched level of comfort. Exceptional reflectivity but remember they are fastened by good old-fashioned laces. That will either be a drag or a draw, depending on your sensibilities.
5 / 5