Quoc isn’t exactly a major player in cycling footwear when it comes to volume or brand recognition, but the company’s do-it-your-own-way attitude shines through in the Gran Tourer XC. It’s somewhat unconventional in ways, but it’s nevertheless proven to be an unusually comfortable and highly capable option for all-day road or cross-country rides overall while still offering excellent performance.
It may not be the first shoe you consider, but it still might end up being the one that stands above the rest on your list.
Most cycling shoe brands get their start on the performance side of things, trying to make a splash with some halo-level, ultra-premium model with cutting-edge technology, a lot of fancy-sounding buzzwords, and a price tag to match.
That is most definitely not where Quoc got started.
The brand is named after its founder, Quoc Pham, a fashion school graduate who set out in 2009 to provide a more stylish alternative for commuters who didn’t want to change their shoes once they got to work (think leather dress shoes built for pedaling). It was an unusual way into the industry, but it certainly got the job done, and by essentially creating its own category, Quoc was a strong player in that niche for years.
Fourteen years on, casual-looking, clipless-compatible cycling footwear is still a part of Quoc’s business, such as the Chelsea boot that seemingly draws inspiration from the classic Blundstone. However, most of the current lineup now comprises more conventional cycling footwear categories, including road, gravel, and cross-country.
I brought in for review the Gran Tourer XC model, which Quoc bills as “the ultimate, off-road adventure shoe.” [Yes, that random comma is theirs – Ed.] Its sleek profile certainly fits what you’d expect for something like that, and forming the foundation is a fiber-reinforced nylon sole for pedaling efficiency. Sitting on top of that sole is a one-piece microfiber upper secured with two dial-type closures. Down below is an unusually generous tread that covers the heel and toe in chunky TPU blocks for secure grip when ambling about. Most of the plate in between is also covered in TPU to prevent slipping if you miss a pedal, and optional toe spikes can be installed up front. Quoc offers them in three colors – black, charcoal, and a decidedly more daring “Dusty Pink” – and in whole sizes only from 38-47.
They’re not particularly light at 685 g for my pair of size 43 samples, nor is the Quoc Gran Tourer XC notably inexpensive at US$310 / AU$TBC / £240 / €275. But whatever doubts I had about these in terms of their specs steadily faded away the longer I wore them.
Through the wringer
It’s common knowledge that you shouldn’t switch up key pieces of equipment immediately before a big event – generally accepted advice that I ignored completely here. I did just two two-hour test rides in the Quoc Gran Tourer XC shoes before deciding to use them for the Breck Epic mountain bike stage race in August. Granted, I only did the three-day version instead of the full six-day, but with about six hours of pedaling time per day in demanding conditions, I figured there was no better way to see how well these would do than to jump in with both feet, so to speak.
Let’s just say that while my body felt pretty beaten-down afterward, my feet couldn’t have been much happier.
Quoc’s background perhaps pays direct dividends here. Think about it: even if someone only had a 30-minute commute in the brand’s pseudo-dress shoes, they’re still designed to be worn for eight or nine hours a day in total – maybe even more. It perhaps shouldn’t have surprised me, then, that the Gran Tourer XCs feel unusually comfortable, almost more like street shoes than something meant for pedaling. That synthetic upper material isn’t quite as soft and supple as what you’d find in a Sidi, but it offers more support to keep your feet from moving around under hard pedaling efforts, and there’s nevertheless a similar hint of stretchiness that gradually conforms to various peculiarities of your feet (I have Tailor’s bunions – a bony growth on the outside of the base of the little toe – on both of my feet, for example).
The shape is especially accommodating, too. I’d still describe the Quoc Gran Tourer XC as offering a performance-minded fit with a snug hold through the moderately narrow mid-section and heel to keep your foot in place. In contrast, the toebox is roomy, with a nicely squared-off profile and pleasantly upright edges, and the heel cup holds tight without being quite as narrow as some recent Specialized offerings. Even long hike-a-bike sections – as in 450 m / 1,500 ft of uninterrupted vertical gain on foot – didn’t result in the slightest hint of a blister or hot spot, and while the perforated upper can’t compete with more open mesh designs in terms of airflow, my feet still never felt uncomfortably warm despite being pounded with near-90°F/32°C temperatures and searing midday sun.
Arch support isn’t bad, either, particularly considering there’s only a little bit molded into the sole itself. Similar to Giro, Quoc uses foam insoles with interchangeable arch inserts to account for different foot shapes. But in this case, the foam is noticeable firmer and offers more support. I normally swap similar insoles for aftermarket ones to keep my flatter feet from pronating, but the included “medium” inserts surprisingly did the job just fine here.
The Quoc Gran Tourer XC scores high marks in more performance-oriented categories, too, although that’s also where it reveals some vulnerabilities.
The dual cable closures do a very good job overall with an impressively even hold that’s pleasantly free of pressure points. The ridged surface doesn’t provide as much grip as I’d like, though, and combined with the noticeable internal friction, I occasionally had a hard time getting the shoes as tight as I wanted. They also lack a two-way micro-adjustment feature, so even if you only want to loosen things up a tad, you’ve got no option but to release the tension entirely and start over. Quoc insists these own-brand dials both work better and are lighter than other options – namely, Boa – but having used those options myself on countless other shoes, it’s hard not to see these as a cost-saving measure. There’s a reason Boa dominates the market: its dials just work better.
“We tested a range of dials with our test riders and found that the simple action of twisting back to release was preferred; micro-adjusting often didn’t provide enough movement, and releasing-then-retightening set the foot better,” said Quoc marketing head Bonnie Cooke. “We also had feedback that the twist back to release was easier than the pull-up-to-release, and we are able to save some weight with the current dial, so we opted for this Quoc branded dial, which was developed in-house by our team, and it has been met with good feedback so far.”
Despite the premium cost, Quoc also doesn’t equip the Gran Tourer XC with a proper long-fiber carbon fiber composite plate. The fiber-reinforced nylon construction is admittedly quite rigid, but it’s still not as stiff as the real thing – and it’s heavier, too. Granted, that bit of additional flex might also be one of the reasons why the Gran Tourer XC performed so well while on foot, but it’s a little disappointing regardless to see this sort of penny-pinching at this end of the pricing spectrum.
“Long-fiber carbon does bring excellent stiffness-to-weight ratio, but lacks durability, which we believe to be vital when gravel can be so varied and often has hike-a-bike sections,” Cooke said. “So instead of using long-fiber carbon we looked at testing different structures of carbon composite to increase the stiffness but still be durable and long-lasting. We think the final product offers the perfect balance of stiffness and durability, offering comfort and speed for racing CX or local gravel loops.”
I’ve got mixed feelings on the tread, too. The full coverage is excellent, leaving virtually no exposed hard surfaces to potentially slip on a pedal or rock. And unlike too many high-end XC shoes that skimp on tread to save weight, it’s nice to see Quoc deliver a sole that’s far more accommodating for adventure-style events that demand more time on foot. The tread is surprisingly durable, too, offering what I’d anticipate would be many years of faithful service. That durability comes at a cost, though, as the relatively hard TPU material is a little more slippery than I’d prefer on rocks and roots.
And speaking of durability, while the upper material is excellent in terms of comfort, it doesn’t hold up as well to abrasion as I’d like. There’s a bit of armoring around the forward edge of the shoe from the wraparound tread, as well as some internal reinforcement to keep the toe box from collapsing (which also provides some impact protection), but anyone who expects to spend a lot of time on foot in rocky environments should prepare themselves for a decent amount of scuffing.
Finally, there’s the matter of sizing. My size 43 testers fit me spot-on, but had my feet been just a little bigger or smaller, I’m not sure I would have enjoyed quite the same experience since Quoc only sells the Gran Tourer XC in whole sizes. This practice isn’t entirely unheard of, mind you, but it’s usually limited to more entry-level models, not more premium offerings like the Gran Tourer XC.
“Once our brand grows we will definitely expand our range to include half sizes,” Cooke explained. “[We’re] not quite there yet.”
Comfort at a cost
I wasn’t sure what to expect having never worn Quoc shoes of any variety before, but I was pleasantly surprised by the Gran Tourer XC, particularly in terms of comfort. Whereas many higher-end shoes designed for off-road use can feel more like pieces of equipment strapped to your feet, these feel more like proper shoes that also happen to be really good for pedaling.
They’re not as light as most high-end offerings out there (the Specialized S-Works Recon Lace is 60 g lighter per shoe, for example), the so-so dial closures are a little disappointing, and the lack of half-sizes is a pretty big bummer.
But while much of the competition seems to be mostly chasing performance, it almost feels like Quoc made conscious decisions in various areas to trade low weight for more comfort, and while that makes for a less impressive offering initially on paper, the Gran Tourer XC turned out to be one of those shoes whose positive attributes grew only stronger with time, and that’s ultimately hard to argue with.
More information can be found at www.quoc.cc.
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