Giro’s Privateer: price, performance, durability

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Value shoe outshines pricier options

A few loose threads, but otherwise sound
A few loose threads, but otherwise sound

With so much high-end kit competing for our attention on the Interwebs and in shop display cases, it’s easy to forget just how good mid-range gear has become.  As the top end continually moves from next big thing to next next big thing, the meat of the range is tweaked and massaged until it works quietly and reliably.  That’s the theory, anyhow- and one that sometimes even works in practice.

Despite sitting alongside far flashier and lighter shoes in my Marcos-esque closet, twenty months into my time with Giro’s £100/$150 Privateer I still regularly reach for bright white shoes.  During a period when shoes costing more than twice as much have landed with a splash and worked their way to the bottom of the pile, the Privateers have remained at or near the top, doing their job as unassumingly as anything that looks to have been inspired by a Star Wars Storm Trooper uniform can.

Privateer stands alone
The Privateer stands alone

Part of the Privateers’ attraction surely comes from the fit.  Shared with their higher-end shoes, Giro’s last simply works for my fairly average feet.  Not nearly as narrow through the midfoot as many European brands, Giro’s fit is more “American” in shape, leaving plenty of room for supportive insoles as needed.  For the elephants in the crowd, a separate high volume Privateer HV is also available. No longer available in the white shown, for 2014 the Privateer is only sold in the UK in a conservative black/tan- with a striking red/black added in larger markets.  The offset hook-and-loop forefoot straps aren’t groundbreaking but have held up well and Giro’s ratcheting buckle is not only oddly satisfying to use but also less prone to mud fouling than many.

Black goes with everything
Black goes with everything

Slight weight penalty aside, it’s difficult to tell the shoes’ DuPont Zytel midsoles from pricier carbon plates.  While my light weight may be a factor, the Giros have proved suitable for both long mid-paced days and more intense singlespeed sessions, without any unpleasant flex or hot spots developing… ever.  Those who spend a lot of time walking may want for a bit more engineered flex in the forefoot, but the Privateers are plenty comfortable off the bike and the heel cup keeps the foot firmly in place.

As nice as the midsole is, the most remarkable thing about the Privateers is their microfiber upper.  While it may look plastic-y, it is not only comfortable but remarkably durable, remaining in excellent condition over two seasons and despite countless rock strikes.  After twenty months, a quick trip through the wash has the uppers looking nearly new- remarkable for white shoes (and the black should hold up even better).  The toe bumper is starting to show a bit of wear and the inside is showing the effects of two years’ worth of duck-footed pedaling, but at this point the fact that the shoes overall remain sound is remarkable.

Worn but not worn out
Worn but not worn out

The Privateers’ only weakness is their dual-compound treads’ lack of traction.  The moderately aggressive lugs simply don’t have enough purchase for emergency dabs on even dry rocks.  As with tyres, a balance must be struck between wear and traction- but Giro seems to have played it a bit too safe in this case.  On the upside, the tread does clear muck well and is showing little wear.

Without being unduly heavy, Giro’s Privateers come agonizingly close to matching far more expensive shoes in terms of performance and trump anything else in terms of durability.  Given their twenty months’ hard labour (and counting), the Privateers have become some of my favourite shoes- and the ones that I most recommend to others.  If care is taken with off-bike foot placement, than these could be all the shoe that anyone really needs.  Women can find a strikingly similar shoe with a ladies’ fit and colours in the Giro’s Manta.

Review Info

Tested:by Marc B for 20 months

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