Saturday, April 30, 2016

First impressions: Giro Rumble VR, a casual, vegan bike shoe

Update 2017-05-06: There is now a one-year follow up to these initial impression.

Winter was coming to a end, meaning that I'd switch from my Lake MXZ-302 boots—with cleats that no longer allow me to clip in—to my Mavic Rush MTB shoes—with a sole worn enough to make them a safety hazard. It was time for a new pair of shoes. This time around I wanted something that didn't outright look like a bike shoe but would still allow me to use clipless pedals. The non-bike bike shoe market segment has grown quite a bit over the years with companies such as DZR, Mission Workshop, or Chrome, and now also more mainstream bike clothing brands.


I'm vegan and have pretty big feet (size 14 US/48 Euro), though, constraining my options a lot. After some searching and reading reviews, I found the Giro Rumble VR, which checked all boxed: No leather, not looking bikey, available in size 48, generally good reviews, and pretty affordable. I ordered the blue/gum model (the other option is black/red) for $80 from REI, thinking that if they didn't work out I could easily return them.

I've worn the shoes for a few weeks now and am generally happy. They look great, sort of retro sneaker style (and matching our living room rug...), and I can even wear them to work. They're definitely large and wide enough for my feet. The laces are slightly short when you lace them through all the holes. Since that made them too tight for my liking anyway, I just leave out the uppermost hole, resulting in just the right length of the laces. For cycling shoes, laces can be problematic, but the Giros have a little elastic tab in the middle of the shoe's tongue that allows you to safely tuck away the laces. I have the suspicion that the elastic will eventually wear out, but we'll see. The outsole is made by Vibram and features a removable panel under which the four screws for installing SPD cleats are hidden. In contrast to many other cycling shoes, the panel is secured with screws and therefore you could theoretically go back from cleat to no-cleat. As you can see below (even though it's difficult to capture in a photo), the cleats are recessed, but not very far. This makes me concerned about the longevity of the shoes. But again, we will have to see.

What about comfort? On the bike I initially experienced some numbness even on relatively short rides (25-40 km/15-25 mi). Part of that was probably due to lacing the shoes too tight, and the fact that it was pretty cold on those rides possibly contributed as well. The numbness improved with looser lacing and warmer temperatures, but some of it remains, as well as hot spot issues. I will experiment with cleat placement and see if that helps. Even when laced not particularly tightly and mashing or spinning on my fixed gear bike, they securely stay on my feet. Off the bike the shoes are fairly comfortable—but not quite as comfortable as they look. The sole is very stiff. Walking or standing in the shoes for extended periods is not that great, even compared to my Mavics. After all, the Giro Rumble is very much a bike shoe.
In conclusion, I really like the looks of the Giro Rumble VR, as well as the fact that they're made from synthetic materials. What remains to be seen is if I can improve the on-bike comfort and if the shoes turn out to be durable. To be revisited later.

Update 2016-05-03
A couple additions from things I forgot and feedback I received:

  • A friend who also tried the Rumble VR says that they did not work out for him because of the foot bed: "I owned a pair for a week. They killed my arches. It's possible that I just have really high arches, but I've never had a cycling shoe mess with me this way..." Giro offers adjustable inserts to vary the arch support, but they are rather expensive.
  • I forgot to mention that because of the snug fit and the lack of a loop at the rear, I use a shoehorn to put them on. Without that, you'd have to loosen the lacing quite a bit to comfortably get into the shoe and/or possibly destroy the heel cup prematurely.

4 comments:

  1. hi i see that you install shimano spd cleats. i was wondering does the cleats contact the ground when you walk on the pavement?

    i have a pair of dzr mechanic and the cleats do make noises when walking on pavement, i hated that!

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    1. It depends. On level ground, the cleats don't touch and the shoes don't make noises. But as soon as the pavement is rougher or there are pieces of gravel etc., they do start making crunchy noises. And as I said above, the cleats are not recessed very far, so that when the sole starts to wear, the crunching is probably going to get worse.

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  2. Great review - thanks for taking the time to write it. Out of interest, what are your impressions, one year on? Did they wear quite quickly, or still good to ride?

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    1. Funny enough, I have been thinking about writing an update. Without giving too much away: The durability concerns proved to be well founded: The sole has worn enough that the cleat is now touching the ground. On-bike comfort turned out to be fine. More to come in a separate post.

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