QUOC Gran Tourer XC Review: Performance Pedaling
Released as part of the Lalashan Collection earlier this month, the new QUOC Gran Tourer XC further refines the London brand’s flagship shoe with an unabashedly performance-focused feature set. Lucas has been wearing a pair on rides around Colorado this spring, and he shares his full review here…
QUOC’s Gran Tourer first hit the market in 2018, and it’s been a broadly appealing shoe to a variety of cyclists for its durable construction, comfy fit that breaks in over time, and distinctive looks. Four years after its initial release, QUOC’s Gran Tourer II took center stage in the independent UK-based brand’s line-up. Maintaining the same silhouette as the original, it integrated a handful of new performance features and came with a slightly higher price tag to match. Joe and I shared a review of the Gran Tourer II around this time last year, which you can find linked in the Related Content grid at the bottom of this post.
Now, just 12 months after the release of the updated Gran Tourer II (GTII), QUOC is back with another—perhaps the final—iteration of their flagship shoe, the QUOC Gran Tourer XC, which pushes the more universally attractive Gran Tourer further into a highly specialized, performance-focused niche. It incorporates even more modern materials, doubles down on the control dial that replaced laces in the previous iteration, and ratchets up the price once again. I’ve spent around a month in them now, riding singletrack trails and gravel roads around Colorado, which has given me a good sense of how well they live up to QUOC’s claim of being the “ultimate off-road adventure shoe.”
Despite their similar aesthetics, there are some significant differences under the hood, err, tongue, relative to its predecessor. Where the Gran Tourer II has a nylon-composite midsole, the new Gran Tourer XC features a super stiff, high-end carbon midsole. The single in-house-developed dial on the GTIIs was replaced by a dual-dial design on the XC. The GTII’s proprietary GravelGrip rubber tread has been upgraded to a Thermoplastic Urethane (TPU) tread, and the built-in rubber toward the toe of the outsole now comes in the form of a replaceable TPU spike. All of these refinements—let’s just call them changes—add up to a shoe that’s more premium in features and price, and the Gran Tourer XC will set buyers back a considerable $310 (€275 EUR/£240 GBP). I’ll walk through each of these new changes and how they affect the shoe’s overall performance.
For many, a major draw of the Gran Tourer XC is its performance carbon midsole that, according to QUOC, provides “unrivaled stiffness and efficiency for racing.” I don’t doubt that claim, and the new sole indeed feels confident underfoot when pedaling. I don’t have the means to take objective measurements, but it at least feels like it’s providing better power transfer than probably any other shoe I’ve tried, despite how marginal those gains may be for a non-competitive rider like me.
If a mega-stiff carbon sole appeals to you, the XC delivers in this regard. However, the same stiffness that adds to your pedaling performance will likely take away from your walking enjoyment. I find them excessively stiff for comfortably walking around off the bike, but if your rides are more focused than mine and don’t involve multiple coffee stops or wandering around shooting photos, the increased stiffness may be a welcome update.
As with the carbon midsole, QUOC’s implementation of dual dials is another key aspect of the XC’s metamorphosis. Where the Gran Touer II relied on a single dial to tighten and loosen the shoe, the XC’s second dial helps create a more tuneable fit. The two dials and cables operate independently of each other, allowing wearers to adjust the tension on the upper and lower parts of the shoe.
I’m of two minds about this. Two dials indeed offer a higher level of precision, but they also add complexity and another point of failure. Riders who want to adjust the fit on the fly now need to adjust two dials instead of one, and it’s one more thing to worry about breaking in the backcountry. Sure, QUOC’s dials are replaceable ($26/piece), but not in the ubiquitous way laces are. I wrote in the GTII review that I’ve broken laces while touring across places such as rural Albania in the past, and I was easily able to find replacements. I wouldn’t pedal off on an extended trip through an unknown place in the Gran Tourer XCs without a replacement dial in my kit.
In real-world use, my experience with the dials has been mostly positive. They function as intended, speeding up the process of taking the shoes on and off and providing a good amount of adjustability on the upper and lower portions of the shoe. I generally like QUOC’s use of a simple clockwise/counterclockwise turning system to tighten and loosen the shoes, and the dials didn’t work their way loose on long rides. QUOC claims the dual-dial system makes for an “entirely hotspot-free experience,” and while I can’t verify that they’ll offer supreme comfort for anyone else’s feet, hotspots weren’t a problem for me. Overall, I’d say QUOC didn’t give anything up by developing their own dials instead of going with industry-standard BOAs. They work! Still, I’ll take the simplicity of laces over a dial system any day for adventures further afield, but I can see the appeal for fast rides closer to home.
Rather than GravelGrip rubber specced on the GTII and Gran Tourer Lace models, QUOC is now using a TPU tread on the sole of the XCs (as well as the newly released Escape Off-Road shoes, which Joe will share a review of soon). TPU, which is made of both plastic and rubber, is more hardwearing and durable than rubber alone, but I’m not convinced that it’s as comfortable or forgiving in its grip. It’s not a night and day difference, but it seems that what the TPU gains in robustness, it loses in traction on slick surfaces such as rocky inclines and even sloping pavement. Comparing the soles of my GTIIs and Gran Tourer XCs side-by-side, the TPU on the latter is noticeably less soft and squishy to the touch.
Having destroyed rubber soles in a single trip through the mountains before, I can appreciate the added durability of TPU. That said, I’ve found the performance of the GravelGrip on the GTIIs to be exceptional in the year I’ve been wearing them, and I have a slight preference for it over the new TPU tread. It’s worth noting that some of the perceived slipperiness may also result from the stiffer sole that makes walking feel less natural. Similarly, I’ve found the new TPU spikes a little less clingy than the built-in rubber tread on the GTIIs, though their replaceability is a worthwhile upgrade, as that area tends to be relatively quick to wear out for riders who end up on long walks with their bikes.
Since the beginning, QUOC’s shoes have had an unmistakably premium look and feel, and the Gran Touer XCs continue that tradition. They have a high-end appearance, considered colors, and use deluxe materials. Their award-winning microfiber is deceptively tough and abrasion-resistant. It cleans easily, too. Thanks to the XC’s organically positioned air holes, they also breathe impressively well, at least in the ~85°F (~30°C) temperatures I’ve been testing them in. QUOC claims the air holes are one-way perforations that don’t let the elements in, and while I’m a little skeptical about how that works, they’ve kept my feet dry and clean up to now. The included toe cap does a good job of offering some protection up front, and the fully recessed cleat mount keeps you from slipping around like a roadie.
Also included with the four replacement TPU spikes and installer are two sets of arch inserts to help dial in the fit with low (default), medium, or high arch support. I never swapped these out, as this wasn’t one of my concerns with the fit. On the subject of fit, though, “measure twice, buy once” is the best advice I can give with respect to QUOC’s sizing. In short, you are unlikely to be the size you think you are, and it’s best to consult their size guide or email them before ordering.
In my case, I’ve come to the unfortunate conclusion that they don’t quite make a size that’s big enough for me, as I can only get away with wearing an EU 47—their largest size—if I wear thin socks. QUOC’s own Extra Fine Merino Wool Socks remain my all-time favorites after a couple of years of use, but I can’t comfortably wear them with any of their shoes. Although I can make these work, one size up would be my ideal fit, especially for the cooler months. I know I’m not alone in wishing for bigger sizes.
As always, the latest Gran Tourers are available in a lovely assortment of colors. I think the Dusty Pink, Black, and Charcoal are all equally nice, and I’d be happy with any of them. All three feature reflective accents, this time in a nature-inspired pattern instead of a solid strip like on the GTIIs. They have a uniquely “QUOC” look and are among the best-looking cycling shoes on the market, in my opinion.
- Price: $310 USD/€275 EUR/£240 GBP
- Sizes Available: EU 38-47
- Colors Available: Black, Charcoal (pictured), Dusty Pink
- Actual Weight (Size 47): 390 grams (one shoe without cleat)
- Place of Manufacture: Vietnam
- More Details: Quoc.cc
- Upper is impressively abrasion-resistant
- Packs in several high-end touches and technologies
- Excellent power transfer
- Premium look and feel backed up by quality materials
- At $310, this is an undeniably costly shoe
- Verging on too stiff for many riders’ needs
- Sole traction could be improved for hike-a-bikes and overall surefootedness
- Somewhat limited size range (EU 38-47)
To conclude, I’ll offer some thoughts on who the new QUOC Gran Tourer XCs are for. In our review of the earlier Gran Tourer IIs, Joe wrote, “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.” With the release of the Gran Tourer XCs, QUOC has moved even further away from the “dirt touring and chill bikepacking” style of riding that many readers of this site prefer, myself included. If you count yourself among this group, your $310 would be better spent on something other than these ultra-high-performance cycling shoes. No doubt, many of their touted benefits might ultimately be hindrances for you.
Rather than weekend ramblers, the Gran Tourer XCs are better suited to results-minded riders who like to ride fast, whether that means gravel racing or true cross-country endeavors such as the Atlas Mountain Race in Morocco or Badlands in Spain. That’s to say: on the bike for hours on end, pedaling hard, and stopping infrequently. If you find yourself at the pointy end of the pack while racing off-road, the Gran Tourer XCs could make an excellent addition to your fast-and-light kit.
QUOC has implemented ultramodern touches such as the performance carbon midsole and dual-dial design extremely well for the right rider, but I think it’s worth giving some thought to whether or not you fall into that niche within a niche before shelling out a few hundred bucks to replace your existing shoes that, in all likelihood, could last you another season.
The Gran Tourer XCs are available now in all sizes and colors, and QUOC recently announced that they’ve launched wholesale operations in the United States. Buyers in the US can now purchase the brand’s full range of shoes through a growing number of stockists. All QUOC shoes include a one-year limited warranty. You can learn more or buy a pair over at QUOC.cc.
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