Cycling shoes, whether they be designed for road or mountain, are a tough item for manufacturers to get right – especially on their first attempt. Giro’s Code is surely an exception, as the respected helmet company seem to have got most of the details sorted on their first top-level mountain bike shoe.
In a blind test, there's no way you'd guess that Code is a debut product. Furthermore, many of the new shoe’s features – such as the Easton EC90 carbon sole and the well padded tongue, which stays central rather than sliding off to one side or the other – come close to setting new benchmarks within the category.
Unlocking the Code for comfort
In terms of the overall package, Giro have done an excellent job with the Code. The tread, carbon sole, upper, closures and insole are all solid and need just a few small tweaks to be considered among the best we’ve ever ridden.
We rode the shoe with Shimano SPD pedals as well as CrankBrothers Eggbeaters (both old and new style), which are notoriously finicky when it comes to the shoes they interact with, and it performed well with both systems. The spans of tread connecting the toe and heel lugs offered a good catch when a clip was missed, even with the slippery Eggbeaters.
The tread is affixed to an ultra-thin Easton manufactured EC90 carbon shank, which provides almost optimal stiffness for a mountain bike shoe. It’s somewhere in between Shimano’s stiff 310 sole and Sidi’s softer carbon interpretation that does well when a rider is forced to run or walk. The sole is also very thin, which produces a low stack height and the feeling of being well connected to the bike.
Easton's EC90 carbon shank provides a good mix of on-the-bike efficiency and off-the-bike walking comfort
The supple Teijin microfibre upper provides a very good fit, which is aided by a tongue that’s generously padded with foam that stays put, making the shoe’s overall comfort really good. We had no issues with heel slip or hot spots. We did, however, have to work with Giro’s SuperNatural Fit system – with three levels of interchangeable arch support, dubbed ‘arch cookies’ – to get to that good fit.
We started with the middle level of arch support, which led us to believe that our size 42 test set was too small. A change to the highest level of support, which was the result of describing our issues to Giro reps, offered more support and stopped our toes getting jammed into the front of the toe box. Ultimately the high arches produced an almost perfect fit.
The Code features Giro's SuperNatural Fit system
The fact that all of the above features are packed into a 350g, per shoe, package makes the Code all the more impressive. It isn't perfect but there was no deal breaker and we were continually impressed by its out-of-the-gate prowess on the trail or cyclo-cross course. As for our gripes, read on...
One problem we experienced with the Code was that the buckle had a propensity to open when lightly bumped on cyclo-cross remounts or get-offs, or even just when bashing through thick brush or other hazards along the side of the trail.
Secondly, after little more than two months of heavy use, the toes of our test shoes sport appalling scuffs. The damage is superficial and limited only to the polyurethane armoring and not the underlying microfiber and wear on the sole and tread is average.The latter is holding up much better than the standard tread found on a Sidi and it doesn’t offer the ‘deer on ice’ effect that Shimano’s 310 produces on rocks or asphalt.
Our two month test period consisted mainly of cyclo-cross racing and training, which is unusually tough on shoes for a given time period relative to most mountain bike situations. Riders that prize long-term durability over outright performance can feel free to knock a star or two off our overall rating.
Finally, we're disappointed by the amount of compression our high ‘arch cookies’ now display; there's been a noticeable change in support.
We were disappointed that the toes of the shoes shredded so easily