It's not often something that is designed to be flashy also end up working really well. The Giro Empires are an anomaly in the cycling retail world where you often end up sacrificing style for function or a reasonable price for low weight. I've put just about 2000 miles on my Empires so far and I'm happy to report positive things about them
"The Empire is a blast from the past". So says the Giro catalog for these made-for-Taylor-Phinney kicks. If you are buying these for the styling, stay away from the black. I went with the silver/green colorway as the all-black was just too boring looking in my opinion.
|The Tejin material is relatively easy to keep clean.
That's important with these attention getting shoes.
The laces, however, will probably not last the life of the shoe.
Inexpensive, near-identical replacements can be found
on the internet.
The Empires are light. I'm a sucker when it comes to rotational weight. I have personally weighed 8 or 9 pairs of shoes in the past year or so. The only shoes that were lighter than the Empires were the Mavic Huez's. The Empires fit my foot far better than the Mavic's. The Empires weigh 235 grams for my size 44. I can love em just for that reason... But there's more.
These shoes are a breeze to make tight! Or not-so-tight, depending on the day's ride. I find myself pulling out lots of lace from each eyelet before putting them on and taking the extra time ( 20 or so seconds max ) to pull each eyelet to just the right tightness. The "Tejin" faux leather grips the laces well and the shoe stays just like that. Tie em up and you are good to go! These have not once come untied during a ride. Even if they did somehow come untied, the laces don't release thru the eyelets easily. I tested... You can ride in these with just pulling them snug. The tongue has a elastic pull tab where you tuck the excess laces under. I'm sure the purists appreciate that look but it makes my feet feel a little less aero, having those laces on top there catching the wind. So I just tuck them into the shoe on the heel side. Again, not once have the laces come out from where I put them.
|The day-glo underside has kept up
appearances through the 2000 miles of use.
Another great thing about this Tejin material is that it doesn't loosen up when wet. This was an unexpected bonus about the Empires. I have never had a shoe that didn't feel "gushy" or soft when it got soaked by rain while out on a ride. Every shoe I've ever owned, when it got wet, I had to tighten it up to compensate for the slop. Not so with the Empire. They feel exactly the same while soaked as they do while dry. Sure it's a tiny detail but it makes me dread getting soaked a little less.
The not so good
Giro makes a their "SuperNatural Fit System" a big selling point on these. All it basically means is the insole has insert-able pads of varying thickness for the user to dial in arch support. I never touched them. I rode the shoes for 100 miles with the stock insoles and then put in the pair of Fi’zi:k heat mold-able ones from my previous shoes. The improvement was notable. Anyone who has a favorite brand of aftermarket insoles will tell you that the ones that come with most shoes these days are crap. While the Giro Fit System insoles are nice and on par with other shoe makers versions of the same, they will probably sit in my parts drawer for a long time. But I'm not holding that against the Empires because it's just the way it is these days. Want the best fitting shoe? Get a good insole.
The Empires boast the Easton EC90 brand unidirectional carbon fiber outsole. They are stiff. But they could be stiffer. I appreciate a shoe with nearly zero-flex. The Empires are not zero-flex. If you have spent time in other popular Giro shoes like the Factor for example and are ok with that level of stiffness, the Empires will be fine for you. I however, prefer more stiffness. Going back to the insoles, when I dropped in the Fizik heat-moldable ones, the perceived stiffness of the shoe when up a noticeable amount. There is a layer of carbon in the Fizik beds that adds a little weight sure, but makes this shoe go from feeling good, to great.
Those are really the only real "cons" I can put on the list for these shoes. They are reasonably priced at $275 or less. They are light. They fit great. They look cool. And they love the rain! Here's to hoping that Giro keeps them around for while, adds more awesome color choices, and perhaps beefs up the sole a bit.