QUOC Gran Tourer II Review: A Refined Shoe for Fast Dirt Rides
In a dozen years, QUOC shoes have made a name for themselves by attending to fit and function with a clean, distinctive styling. The Gran Tourer II is the evolution of an earlier model that was exemplary in everything from spirited gravel rides to drop-bar bikepacking. Does the update exceed the high standard set by the original? Read on to find out why Joe thinks it’s only a qualified success…
With additional photos and input from Lucas Winzenburg
Released in 2018, the original QUOC Gran Tourers are my favorite shoes for dirt riding and fast-and-light drop-bar bikepacking trips. I bought them retail a couple of years ago, and to me, they flat out set the standard for a clip-in shoe. It does everything well, and the fit for me is perfection. In fact, I wear the GTs these days even on skinny tire road rides (remember those?). It took me too many decades to make the switch away from roadie pedals and the non-functional footwear—non-functional for, you know, walking—they require. So, yeah, now I’m the guy who shows up to the Tuesday Night World Championship with gravel shoes.
I was therefore excited to receive the updated top-of-the-line Gran Tourer II. QUOC claims that the GTIIs have a more durable and weather-resistant upper and a stiffer sole. They also newly feature a dial-type closure system. Think of the BOA mechanism, but developed in-house by QUOC. All this comes with the promise of the same comfort as that original lace version, which, again, for me, has no rival in the fit and all-day foot happiness department.
After spending the last month with the Gran Tourer II, I can report that they are definitely stiffer and all-around more structured feeling than the first model. My feet feel notably surrounded by a stout shoe, if that makes sense. Alas, even after this significant break-in period, I find the GTII less comfortable than the GT.
REFINEMENT AND EVOLUTION
I’m certainly not prepared to say that it’s a worse shoe than its predecessor. On the contrary, the new GTIIs have many virtues: firstly, they yield an especially planted, precise, purposeful connection with the pedals. These are the opposite of a sloppy, vague feel.
The uppers are made from an all-weather microfiber. The materials and finish are top-notch and consistent with or perhaps even exceeding the original version. You’d think that would be a given for a US$265 pair of shoes, but I’ve been disappointed before in that price range, especially by shoes made by a brand the name of which rhymes with “hero.” The front portion of the shoes has tiny perforations, which QUOC claims are one-way. Okay, I’d grade that a “maybe.” At any rate, they breathe reasonably well while also remaining comfortable in chillier weather and warding off hefty splashes.
Fit-wise, there’s a nice amount of room in the forefoot and overall. My foot is moderately high-volume and I often dread pulling on a new model of cycling shoes for the first time, since so many of the lasts seem designed for a narrower, high-arch foot. There is decidedly no such problem with the QUOCs. The GTII feels snug and protective without crushing or pinching anywhere. I use my usual aftermarket shoe insert and still have plenty of room.
Finally, my pair are showing nary a sign of the abuse I put them through during a multi-week riding trip in Europe. And I appreciate the styling, which strikes a nice balance between a racer aesthetic and something more utilitarian.
QUOC’s new offering has a lot going for it.
A TRADEOFF BETWEEN RIGIDITY AND COMFORT
What you will make of the GTII depends on how you’re going to use them. We here at BIKEPACKING.com aren’t exactly booster members of the “stiffer sole is better” club. I’m probably on the far end of our crew’s tolerance and enthusiasm for that sort of thing (does Logan even have clipless pedals or shave his legs anymore?). I really do appreciate how the new GTIIs give a feeling of confident power transfer under hard pedaling. They harken back to the days when I happily wore stiff SIDI racing shoes on most trail rides. I expect that people looking for a gravel shoe to enter long competitive events will be very pleased with the QUOCs. I can even imagine them earning a following for cyclocross season. They are race-ready and will rise to meet fast-riding aspirations. They can then serve admirably but secondarily as an all-around gravel riding shoe, and I can’t imagine many complaints about them when conceived of that way.
When one’s goals tend more in the direction of dirt touring and chill bikepacking, the GTII’s weaknesses are more apparent. For my taste, they have moved too much in the direction of a race feel, with the familiar limitations that implies. For instance, these aren’t my favorite for hike-a-biking. The rubber of the sole is admirably grippy, the tread pattern is aggressive and trail-ready, and, as I’ve said, they’ve warded off scuffs and scratches like champions. Those aren’t the problem. But they do suffer from the common problem of stiff shoes where one’s heel tends to pull out of the heel cup when climbing an incline. It’s possible to cinch the shoe tight enough to mitigate this, but then I find that my feet get tired and my gait is mildly altered.
I should note, too—though this is something about my foot and not necessarily yours—that there is a hot spot for me on the top of the big joint at the base of my left big toe. The internet tells me this is called the MTP joint. This absolutely doesn’t happen and never did with the laced earlier version of the shoe, and it is easy to get to the bottom of the cause. The cord from the cinching system passes through a series of eyelets along the perimeter of the top of the shoe. The bases of those eyelets are embedded in the fabric of the shoe, and the part under the surface has rigid edges. One of those small rigidities lands right above my MTP, thus a persistent minor discomfort there. Like such small things usually do, it mostly disappears during a ride and it’s hardly debilitating in any way. But it’s there enough irritation for it to sometimes intrude on my attention and it leaves a mark when I take the shoe off.
To put things in the proper perspective, I want to insist that the GTII remains an overall comfortable shoe, and I’d choose them over many competitors and certainly over any other racing shoe. However, in deciding to optimize slightly for more competitive riding, QUOC has had to descend from the stratospheric standard of comfort that they themselves set.
A DIAL AND A CORD
What about that dial closure system? I didn’t have a problem with it, and it functioned about on a par with the BOA shoes I’ve tried. QUOC claims that their version affords greater micro-adjustment and that seems right, though the difference is marginal.
To loosen the cinching cable, the dial is turned backward in relation to the toe of the shoe about an eighth of a full rotation. This creates slack in the cable and moving one’s foot around then dispenses more cable. Turning the dial forward incurs a series of ratchet clicks as the cord is tensioned. The dial was reliable in mud, is easy to grip, and is replaceable.
Ultimately, I’m not persuaded that a dial closure is the best way to cinch a shoe. I acknowledge the advantages: there’s a secure all-around feeling when the cord is tightened, and, importantly for some, it’s really easy to loosen or tighten the shoes while riding. Reaching down and twisting the dial allows adapting to conditions or swelling feet.
Shallow me, I like the styling of laces better. Functionally, I find that laces enable me to loosen or tighten different areas of the top of the shoe, and these may change over the course of a day or trip. The dial system allows considerable adjustment, but it’s adjustment of a tension that’s consistently applied all around the shoe. With laces, some sections of the shoe can be tight and others loose. I’ve never broken a lace on a cycling shoe and, at any rate, a solution would be easy to improvise. I don’t have the same confidence about a plastic wheel that hangs off the side of my foot right where I’m going to drag it against rocks.
Some Thoughts from Lucas
QUOC’s original Gran Tourers were always right near the top of my list of clipless shoes to try, but I never managed to check out a pair in person. As such, unlike Joe, I received the Gran Tourer IIs without any preconceived notions about how they should feel or perform.
Aesthetically, I find the Pink/Gum model I tested to be among the best-looking cycling shoes available today, though all four color combinations are highly considered, and I’d have been happy with any of them. It’s not surprising that my pink shoes are already starting to show some stains and discoloration after a just few weeks of riding, whereas Joe’s black and blue kicks expectedly do a better job of hiding the dirt inherent to off-road riding. I mention this not as a critique but as a factor to keep in mind when deciding between QUOC’s lighter/flashier and darker/more utilitarian offerings.
As for overall comfort, I think I’d rank the Gran Tourer IIs as slightly above average when compared to the other clipless-compatible shoes I’ve worn in recent years. Specifically, for my feet, they’re not quite as comfy as the Bontrager GR2s ($144.99) and about as comfortable as Rapha’s Explore Powerweave Explore Gravel Shoes ($355). I don’t have the same MTP joint discomfort Joe describes above, but I’d note that the Gran Tourer II’s stiff collar rubs the area below my ankle in a slightly unpleasant way that’s been slower than expected to break in. Relative to the other shoes I currently have in the same size (EU 47), I find the GTIIs a smidge undersized, and thicker socks (such as QUOC’s excellent Extra Fine Merino Tech Wool Socks) make them feel a bit too tight.
The GTII’s stiff sole feels great on the bike, and the shoes almost seem to disappear once I get into the rhythm of pedaling. Off the bike, I don’t forget I’m wearing cycling-specific shoes, mostly due to that same stiffness that gives them a great feel when clipped in. That’s not to say they’re uncomfortable for walking around, but the noticeable lack of give in the sole makes itself more apparent over uneven or steep terrain. Put simply, I wouldn’t want to spend a day scrambling up rocky trails in the Gran Tourer IIs, but I’d gladly wear them for an all-day ride spent mostly on the bike with occasional stops for meals and coffee.
Given the choice between laces or a dial for tightening my shoes, I’ll always choose laces, at least for my non-performance-minded style of riding. I prefer them for their tried-and-true simplicity, adjustability at each set of eyelets, and more casual look. I’ve broken laces while bikepacking before, and sourcing replacements has never been an issue. It’s worth noting that QUOC’s single-dial system is replaceable ($27), but I don’t imagine I’d have happened upon one in the same off-grid corner shop where I last found a set of laces in a pinch while touring through the Balkans. Using the dial system on the GTIIs, I find it a little more difficult than usual to get enough slack in the cable to get my foot in and out, though Joe hasn’t had this same experience, and the folks at QUOC said it might be a faulty cable and they’d happily send a replacement.
In all, the Gran Tourer IIs have a brawny construction that makes me believe they’re going to last a long time and will hold up to the rigors of bikepacking better than many competitors. And they’ll look mighty good doing so, too. I’m less convinced by the need to add a dial system in place of laces, but riders who’ve adopted such complexity and value making adjustments on the go will likely be pleased by the solution QUOC has developed.
- Race-ready, performance-oriented shoe
- Relatively roomy and sensible fit
- Luxe materials, premium feel
- Ably sheds the elements and shrugs off knocks
- Too stout and stiff for “just gravel riding along” or chill bikepacking
- Rigid plastic cable eyelets may produce hot spots
- The dial system seems inferior to laces unless you’re racing
- Price: $265/€255/£190 (cheaper than the original GTs)
- Sizes Available: EU 38-47
- Colors Available: Classic Black, Black Gum (shown), Pink (shown), and Sand
- Actual Weight (size 47): 399 grams/shoe
- Place of Manufacture: Vietnam
- Details: Quoc.cc
The Gran Tourer II follows up on QUOC’s earlier GT shoe by turning up the race-worthiness and all-around durability and adding a dial closure. I can easily see the appeal of this shoe, and there was once a time when I would have declared it an excellent and desirable advance over the earlier offering with laces. But race bonafides are nowadays less central to me. Whereas the earlier shoe was an unambiguous 10 for me for comfort and fit, I’d say that the changes to this new shoe knock it down to an 8 or 7 on my foot. QUOC has announced that an updated version of the laced shoes, presumably without the stiffness upgrade, is coming, and that’s likely where my tastes will remain.
This shoe, the GTII, remains very much in the running for someone who will use them to patrol the business end of a gravel event and who is used to (and expects) the performance of a competition road shoe. With its excellent tread and sole durometer, getting off the bike—at least in the scenarios that fast drop-bar rides are likely to generate—will be natural and productive, assuming you’re about to get back on and speed off.
The QUOC Gran Tourer II shoes are available for pre-order now and are expected to begin shipping in late April. You can head over to QUOC.cc to find additional details or order a pair.
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