Time to get re-acquainted with a childhood favourite brand, and discover a new favourite road shoe in the form of the Gaerne G.Stilo.
I raced motocross as a kid in the 80s and all of my heroes, the pro racers, used SiDi motocross boots. However, I had matt red leather Gaerne boots. I may have wanted SiDi boots to be like the pros but my Gaerne’s were cool, not just because they were different to what all the other teenage wannabees had, but also because they were incredibly comfortable.
Later on in life, having switched to bicycle road racing, I was winning in SiDi cycling shoes similar to those worn by many of my new pro-cycling heroes, with little thought to those motocross days, until that is a certain Gerald Chiolek won Milan San Remo in Gaerne’s shoes. Ever since then I’ve had to restrain this urge to get a pair of Gaernes…
The restraint was in part due to my foot shape. I naturally assumed that, as Gaerne are an Italian brand, they’d be narrow like SiDi’s, in which I was never totally comfortable; they are very narrow and my feet are not.
In the 90s my SiDi’s were always too small in the crazy belief that tight shoes afforded better power transfer. My latest pair of SiDis were purposefully acquired too long but even then don’t give me the width I needed; far from ideal.
I have tried other brand’s but whilst the fit was better with Shimano, Northwave, Bont, etc, none were able to match the comfort of a pair of slipper like SiDis, until that is I tried this pair of Gaerne G.Stilos. They are comfortable to the point where I thought there was no way they’d be able to put any power through the pedals.
Sidi are often touted as the most comfortable shoes you can get but I would challenge anyone to find a more comfortable offering from any brand; Gaerne have done a superb job with this shoe. Just like my motocross boots of old they are comfortable and different; I only know one other person who has a pair locally, and he’s a journalist.
They are more commonly seen in the pro peloton; the MTN Qhubeka and Lotto teams use them, and Gaerne sponsor a few big names. A good time to point out that this is the Gaerne G.Stilo, as used by Nordic sprint star Alexander Kristoff, is a wider shoe than its stablemate, the Gaerne G.Chrono that fellow sprinter, Andre Greipel prefers.
This extra width is a significant reason as to why I find them so comfy. Whilst at first glance the Stilo seems to be narrower than my wide fit Bonts, the lack of a bath tub sole means the actual sole width is comparable – and the resultant package so much more comfortable.
This is because it’s a traditional Italian shoe with a separate sole and upper, that allows the foot more freedom to find the ideal position on the sole. There’s no rigid bathtub of carbon corralling your foot into place. There is, however, a neat carbon heel cup which works well to set the rear of the foot and eliminate heel lift, something I always disliked about the older low heeled Bonts, among others.
The full carbon sole is very stiff, comparing favourably to every other top flight racing shoe I can think of. The version we have is the Speedplay sole. Some riders have complained about Speedplay specific soles lacking stiffness compared to standard soles but that is certainly not the case here. It is very stiff. It’s a good mix: a stiff sole and all day comfort.
There is also no heat moulding with these shoes but the comfort is so good that you will not miss it. If you are like me and have been through the process of vacuum fitting the upper or cooking your shoes in the oven multiple times, to mould and remould the carbon, the straightforward Gaerne’s will be a breath of fresh air.
Put them on and, just like my old motocross boots, they are so comfortable. The upper is soft and flexible, cosseting your foot reassuringly, the toe box roomy, the padded tongue like a cushion – though it does move about a bit – and the carbon heel cup is very secure.
Keeping all this in check and making sure the force goes in the right direction, is the BOA fastening; granted nothing new nowadays but Gaerne’s is one of the best I have used. It features micro adjustment in both directions allowing you to tighten or loosen on the fly. Occasionally it can be popped up into the open ‘taking-your-shoes-off’ position a bit too easily but this is rare and usually involves excessive fiddling or overshoes, never the friend of adjusting shoes.
The standard insole does not afford a lot of arch support. You may need to replace this with Gaerne’s high arch insole or you could get a heat mouldable version. I did the latter.
As mentioned the padded tongue does move around a bit. It’s another minor issue, moving to the outside slightly with my feet a matter of a few millimetres, enough to notice aesthetically rather than annoy, and not an issue in terms of comfort.
Naturally for a top of the pops road shoe, these are super light weight. Even in the larger sizes they should come in well below 600g – our size 9s were 560g.
If you have normal to wider than average feet and want a comfortable yet stiff racing shoe, you need look no further. Highly recommended.
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