ROAD.CC9 OUT OF 10
Giro's Prolight Techlace Cycling Shoes are ultra-light, attractive top-end shoes that will make a big dent in your wallet but are a worthy purchase if you can justify them.
Giro has been the leader in reintroducing what some might see as an antiquated way of securing your shoes, and these flagship Prolight Techlaces are the latest in the line from the Californian company's range of top-end footwear.
A pretty ordinary looking box opens to reveal the treasure within: a travel bag, the shoes themselves in all their bright crimson red loveliness, a bag of parts and an instruction manual. Seeing a manual with a pair of shoes threw me to start with, but it did prove useful as it gives easily digested guidance on what to do with the bag of parts, containing the adjustable footbeds and a set of titanium cleat bolts.
The shoes themselves are indeed remarkably light, feeling unbelievably featherlike in the hand, but that's no surprise when they only weigh a scant 193g per shoe for a size 46. The quality of construction is obvious to the eye. The sole is made from Textreme carbon; the science is rather complicated but the upshot is that it's lighter (20% on average) and stronger than your standard carbon. It's also used by Felt on its top-end bikes and PRO uses it for its eye-wateringly expensive wheels.
As regards the upper, I can honestly say I haven't seen anything like it before. The skeleton – literally, as there are many cutouts – of the shoe is made from ultralight Techmesh, then covered with a Teijin TPU top layer, which has an unusual feel to it and is opaque. Yes, really. Choose your socks carefully as where the cutouts are you can see what's underneath. Again, baffling science behind the materials, but it looks good, vents well and is easy to clean.
In the ongoing race for lightness it would seem that going back in time is the key, as more and more shoes hitting the market lately are dropping the ratchet, full Velcro enclosure and even now the Boa dial in a quest to save a few more grams. With the Prolight Techlaces, Giro has taken the full lace setup from its Empire shoe and modified them to the enclosure we find here. Consisting of segmented laced sections with Velcro attachments at the ends rather than two continuous laces, as in a traditional shoe, it offers adjustability at three points similar to a lot of full Velcro closure systems that have been around for years, but reducing the weight by a good margin. In use I found them to work well, getting the fit right quickly before getting on the bike and then easy to adjust when on the move.
I usually use a set of custom made footbeds with any cycling shoes I wear, but after reading through the manual and taking a look at the included adjustable footbed I thought it was worth a try. Far more naturally moulded at the heel than typical, they offer three different arch supports from minimal to high (which I generally fall under). The manual guides you though determining which would be best for you, but I opted for the largest size based on my custom pair and left them in for the first couple of weeks.
They performed very well indeed, not feeling too far off my customs and certainly not giving me any real issues, only proving not perfect on day-long rides when I did get a little discomfort. I have been wearing custom footbeds for six years, though, so it shows they did well in the interim and if you currently just use whatever your shoes came with then they are likely to be a bigger benefit.
Wearing them in general was a pleasure and in no time they became my favourite shoes. They are remarkably comfortable, slipper-like in comfort when putting them on, and when quickly and easily adjusted they feel just great. The lack of weight is very apparent too, especially so when walking around.
On the bike, they are stiff at the sole as expected, but the malleable upper allows a little movement and my feet never felt restricted. If you are after the ultimate in a 'clamped in' fit these may not be to your liking.
In warm weather the under-toe vent along with that paper-thin outer skin is a blessing, keeping temperatures and sweating down a treat. I did wear them on occasions when I was caught out in wet weather and although they still felt light on the foot when wet – let's face it, there isn't much to soak any water up – the summer temperature was not cold enough to feel a chill. They certainly wouldn't work to your benefit in the colder months, although to be honest I'd be more concerned about ruining an expensive, classy looking pair of shoes – these would be kept for summer best.
There are a couple of niggles in amongst all this praise though. The biggest issue was the cleat fitment. Giro has used fixed mounting holes with no adjustability, and they're set further back towards the heel than any of my other shoes. This meant that although I could get the angle right owing to the actual cleat's adjustability, I couldn't quite get them as far forward under the ball of my foot as I would like. It hasn't caused any issues even after a few hundred miles, but it does feel odd for a short time as you transition between pairs of shoes.
Make and model: Giro Prolight Techlace Cycling Shoes
Size tested: 46
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
Giro says: "At 150 grams (size 42.5) these shoes completely change the game for any rider looking for the maximum advantage out of their gear. The Prolight Techlace™ is the ultimate expression of a pure performance shoe. The shoe balances ultralight construction with best in class pedaling performance using a stiff TeXtreme® Advanced Composite outsole and Techmesh™ constructed upper. When coupled with Giro's award winning Techlace™ closure system, you have the ultimate lightweight, performance and comfort cycling shoe."
They're superlight and comfortable summer shoes, but the cost is likely to be prohibitive for all but the most extreme weight savers.
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
Giro has used some of the latest technical materials to produce the Prolight Techlace, with the unusual (and in parts see-though) uppers made from Ultralight Techmesh™ with Teijin TPU skeletal overlay, the sole built from eXtreme Advanced Concepts composite carbon - the carbon fibre is woven in flat sheets instead of threads, producing a carbon fibre that's ultra-stiff, yet lighter because it requires less resin. The cleat mounting threads are titanium too, saving a little more weight and they won't rust either.
Also included is Giro's Ultralight SuperNatural Fit Kit, comprising a pair of Ultralight footbeds with adjustable arch supports (three different heights), made with X-Static® anti-microbial fibre.
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed? The man-made mesh constructed upper did get oil and dirt on it occasionally, but a damp cloth was all it took to wipe them clean again, with no faint marks left afterwards like leather materials can pick up. The laces however did soak up muddy water and grime and need to be carefully washed; no detrimental effect though.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose? Road cycling shoes are designed to be comfortable and consistently transfer power to the pedals over any length of ride and these fit the bill on both counts. The easily adjustable techlace straps make changes on the move a doddle and the lack of weight made a difference, albeit a small one, to my rides. Comfort lasted all day long and the unusual uppers kept my feet cool for the duration, even in high 20s temperatures.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product The fit, low weight and comfort were big highlights and made them my go-to shoes.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score: The materials used, construction, comfort and fit are superb, the only downside is that price tag.
Overall rating: /10