High end mountain bike shoes can get pretty pricey these days, and you can easily spend upwards of $300-400 on a pair of the latest carbon wonder soles. Spending top dollar for a high-zoot carbon wonder sole is cool if you need the best to compliment your $10k carbon XC Race rig. However, if they don’t actually weigh less than models with nylon lugs, and if you don’t need (or want) the stiffest shoe, why pay more?
Giro’s Privateer XC mountain bike shoe was designed with this in mind. It maintains most of the features and many of the materials from their flagship models in a more reasonable price point. At $150, the shoe is perfect for weekend XC or Cross Racers that looking for a light weight shoe that is competition worthy and high performance without hitting hard in the wallet.
The upper portion of the shoe is constructed with breathable microfiber, and features a rubber toe cap for a bit of protection against trail debris. Two hook and loop straps and a ratcheting buckle closure make putting the shoe on a quick affair. I often find myself grabbing for these shoes first for my commute, as they take mere seconds to pull on and off. On the trail, ratcheting them to adjust the fit only takes a second.
The outsole uses nylon lugs for traction that work well on soft, moist soil and the front of the shoe can accommodate steel toe spikes for additional traction in sloppy conditions. Traction off the bike is great, provided the ground is soft enough for the lugs to dig in. Rocky terrain however, is a completely different proposition, as is pavement. The cleat is recessed enough for walking, but the hard lugs can be a bit slippery if you’re accustomed to walking in sticky rubber soles.
The footbed offers medium arch support, and I’ve been happy with the stock insole. Due to issues with foot numbness, AKA ‘hotfoot’, I run my cleats at the rearmost position. I’m happy to report I don’t have issues with the shoes in this regard that can’t be addressed by loosening the buckle a notch or two. I prefer a cleat position that’s further back for a number of reasons, and I was able to address the numbness issue without having to modify the shoes. (you could easily lengthen this with a drumel if needed as well if you need a few more millimeters)
What about that color?
The orange color of the “glowing red” colorway is definitely a love it or leave it proposition. (Inga, our resident style icon has shoe envy over them) Honestly, I would have purchased the shoe in black, but as they were generously furnished for this review, (thank you very much) I didn’t have a choice in the color. That said, there’s something about the bold color I find myself digging quite a bit. (the downside is I don’t own a single piece that matches the orange.) I pair them with either a black or neutral colored kit and they look sharp if you manage to pair them well. I’ve also taken to wearing them on my fixed gear around town in jeans, and think it looks kind of badass. They also pair well with the colors of the Giro New Road kit I’ve been trying out.
XC or Trail? Definitely XC
First a disclaimer: it’s been a while since I’ve spent serious time in an XC shoe. I started with Sidi shoes in college and rocked them and their hideous blue and yellow color way for years before wearing them out and replacing them with black ones. In fact, I probably have them packed away somewhere, scuffed and beat up looking. (I find the fit of the Privateer to be inline with Sidi and Specialized XC shoes, as I’m a 42.5 in both) When skate-style DH shoes came out, I jumped on board and never looked back. I loved the aesthetic, and they fit the style of bikes I was riding the most back then.
For the last year though, I’ve been periodically rolling the local hills of SF and Oakland on a carbon 29er hardtail, and have a few 16-25 mile loops I hit without having to drive to a trail head. Getting to good dirt requires some pedaling on asphalt, and I was ready to shed the weight of the overbuilt shoes I’ve been wearing. I’ve enjoyed the fit of Giro’s DH specific shoe that Chamber so much the Privateer was the first shoe that came to mind when I decided it was time to try something more efficient.
The irony of it was that my first ride with the Privateer was less than ideal. Nothing against the shoes, it was simply the wrong trail and wrong day to wear them. It’s been a while since I’ve shuttled all mountain bikes, and we had traveled to Humboldt County a few weekends ago to sample some of the best trail we could find. Although the shoes fit great out of the box, the hard plastic lugs didn’t help one bit when it came to trying to clip back in on rough terrain, and the frequent foot-out, flat-out drifts over the leafy loose turns. I was cursing myself for not packing the Giro Chambers — a shoe tailor-made for this type of riding.
The hard plastic lugs don’t find it’s way back into the pedal the way a DH shoe does, and for aggressive trail rides where you unclip a lot, you’re better suited choosing a trail oriented shoe with a softer rubber sole. If you’re a trail rider looking to ditch heavy DH clip in shoes for a more efficient pedaling footwear, this isn’t the shoe— you’d be better served with the new Terraduro model and it’s rubber Vibram sole. The downside is that you’ll gain weight with the heavier sole.
The Privateer is a great shoe aimed at XC rides and racing at a decent price. At a listed 350 grams, the shoes are light, and after cranking around with my overbuilt DH style skate shoes for so long, it’s awesome to have a shoe for days where I want to haul ass for long rides on tame to moderate terrain. Weekend cross, short track, or XC race? Yes. Riding that same ol’ loop and working on shaving seconds off the personal best? Definitely.
Check it out: Giro Privateer Mountain Bike Shoe