Gaerne make shoes by hand in Italy. Inevitably, the price is higher than for those made in Asia, but the quality shows. You feel it when they’re new, but you appreciate it when they’re like these year-old G.Vipers; battle worn but still cleaning up like new, still giving a precision fit and still performing where less well-made shoes are ready for the bin.
Gaerne don’t skimp on materials. The manmade uppers have a patent-like finish for easy cleaning, and nylon mesh filling in the gaps. The mid-sole is full-length carbon fibre, which offers a flex-free push through the pedal stroke, while the toe has a little give designed to make walking/carrying easier. There’s provision for twin toe studs for more hiking grip if needed.
Though less pointy than other Gaernes, they’re still best on a long, narrow foot, although our square plates were okay after a few ‘getting to know you’ rides. The heel fit is good, though still overshadowed by that of Sidi and Shimano, and while the uppers are well vented – ideal in southern Europe – they’re not so good in the UK where wet is a year-round phenomenon. The Vipers take a while to dry out too, and chill winds make toes curl.
Other downers? The buckle release is easy to knock open while pedalling, and the outsole is hard plastic – while the lugs grip soft dirt, they’re as bad on anything hard and wet as most race shoes. Riders/racers who need durability will appreciate the G.Viper most.