Product Test: Giro Imperial

The new high-handed leader

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The Giro Imperial, does it rule them all?

When it comes to high-end cycling footwear, Giro has been one of the leading brands that is willing to push the limits and try new technologies. They produce shoes that not only experiment with unique materials but also maintain a focus on performance. Back in July of 2017, Giro launched the Prolight Techlace, and it pushed the limit of possibilities for the ultra-light performance category. 

Now, almost two years later, Giro has taken the feedback and knowledge from that shoe to their newest offering, the Imperial.

THE TECH

The Imperial uses what Giro is calling Synchwire for its shoe upper, which is a combination of three layers of high-tech fabrics and materials that are all molded together into a single seamless piece. The main portion of this material is a mesh fabric for ventilation. It is thermo-bonded to a Teijin thermoplastic polyurethane film on the outside, and selective locations get a non-woven composite layer for reinforcement. 

This process and three-layer combination offer a thin material that ventilates well with no need for additional reinforcement and offers no stretch. Attached to the outside of the upper are two BOA IP1 dials with micro adjustments in both directions, as well as a full-release feature. 

Each BOA cable is then laced through three fabric guides for a total of six per shoe. There is a slim tongue that has a dense foam, but tapers towards the outer edges. 

For the outsole, Giro has gone back to their in-house carbon composite partner Easton and their EC90 SLX2 high-modulus carbon. There is only one small opening with metal mesh to exhaust heat from beneath, and it is near the toes. The sole has a replaceable heel pad that uses two fasteners that keep it from rotating under pressure and extend the life of the shoe. 

The innersole is coined as the Supernatural fit kit and comes with three different arch-support insert sets. The inserts are easily interchanged, thanks to their fabric-backed hook-and-loop retention. The top section of the inner sole is anti-microbial as well. Our size-44.5 shoes weighed in at 471 grams for the pair, making each shoe 235.5 grams, and we think the lightest dual BOA shoe we have ever tested.

Giro has three colorways available, red, white and black.

THE RIDE

The first step to testing any shoe is attaching cleats, and the Imperial comes with its own bolts. When comparing them to the bolts supplied by pedal manufacturers, we noticed that the Giro versions were much shorter. Two things come to mind—weight and interference. We opted for the bolts that Giro supplied just to ensure we didn’t have long bolts protruding into the inner sole of the shoe. The outer sole also has cleat placement markings, making it easy to get the position just right.

The shoe opens wide, allowing for easy entry, but you will need two hands to part the opening, as there is a bit of added friction as the fabric cable guides contour to the cable before allowing it to slide freely. When tightening, things seem to move smoothly, but we did notice that after a few pedal strokes things set in, and they needed a few extra dial clicks to get our optimum tension. 

Both retention wires are laced in a standard figure-eight pattern that offered very even and consistent tension. The dual-zone placement combined with the contouring upper fabric holds the foot secure with no hot spots. The upper lacks any additional internal supports other than a heel-cup support that extends about halfway up the heel and tapers down to the back of the arch support. The semi-customizable innersole is the perfect match to the stiff and unforgiving Easton carbon outsole.

Out-of-the-saddle efforts are no problem for the stiff but light and thin carbon, which allows the foot to stay relaxed. This should mean more miles with less foot fatigue. Additional aid in keeping the foot happy is the ample amount of airflow that can pass through the mesh portion of the Synchwire material. The shoe has what we would describe as a neutral fit with ample room for toes. Our testers with wide feet and narrow feet both enjoyed the fit. 

The upper material seems to have little stretch, but we did notice that if the shoe is not the proper size and there is too much shoe volume, then the foot can shift from side to side. For this reason, make sure you try them on in a few different sizes to ensure you have the correct fit.

THE VERDICT

Many of the shoes that play in this weight category are either hook-and-loop straps or a single dial design, the Imperial offers the convenience of two BOA dials on a shoe that does not compromise in performance. The outer sole’s stiffness and rigidity will without a doubt efficiently transfer power. The shoe upper ventilates incredibly well, and the thin material embodies the foot perfectly. The upper also only has two hard plastic parts, and those are the base pieces that attach the BOA dials to the upper material. 

The fabric cable guides are a nice touch, but when you open the BOA for a full release, we had to use both hands to pull the shoe open. This is not a big deal, but after a hard ride, sometimes you just need to kick your shoes off, and these require that one last effort. The overall build quality and finish are good, with no excess glue or flaws in the unidirectional carbon sole on all the pairs we tested, as well as the ones we have seen in shops and at events. 

Available in white, red or black, the Imperial closes that gap between lightweight compromise and dual-dial convenience.

PUNCH LINES

• Proper arch support at no extra cost

• Lots of ventilation and no hot spots

• Two hands needed

STATS

Price: $425

Weight: 471 grams (size 44.5)

Sizes: 39–48, half sizes from 42.5–45.5

www.giro.com

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