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There has always been a buzz around the Quoc brand for many reasons. First, how do you say the name? I’m certain it has been said in 20 different ways but it’s safe to say that however you say it, it’s probably not correct. So move on or watch the short video below. Second, it’s one of those brands that you want to root for because it can’t be easy to start a shoe company and be successful when there are already a ton of them out there with bigger bank accounts and more resources. And finally, shoes are deeply personal and cyclists are both fickle and loyal, so how do you take a chance on a product that’s not necessarily part of the mainstream as we know it? With all this, Quoc has persevered and thrived. They aren’t giant but they aren’t necessarily a start-up either. They are in between and since 2009 they have carefully, systematically, and steadily evolved as a company that does branding well but more importantly makes damn good products.
Everything you need to know about its founder and designer Quoc Pham is on its website. From humble beginnings in Vietnam through the move to the United Kingdom at age five, to interest in design in secondary school to fashion design, a small clothing label, and finally shoe design. At the heart was the love of the bicycle that, like all of us starts as a tool for exploration and for some like Quoc turns into a lifestyle. With the love of shoes and a desire for something different than the typical high-tech, race-oriented designs, he studied shoe-making and its intricate, detailed processes eventually leading to the release of the “Fixed England” model in 2009. The first model with its old-school design, style, and sensibilities was an immediate hit. They were different, fashionable, and comfortable combined with craftsmanship that made them feel bespoke… the feeling that they were made for you!
Fast forward to today and the shoe lineup consists of road with the “Mono II” and “Night Laceup,” casual/alternative with the “Weekend” and the gravel line with the “Gran Tourer Lace” and now the new “Gran Tourer II.” The lace-up is where Quoc got its start and it seemed that anything other than lace on a Quoc shoe would seem odd, but companies evolve and choice and variety especially in shoe closures are necessary if you want to appeal to all especially if shoes are your main product!
Gran Tourer II
The new model maintains that distinctive Quoc shape and style/look like the “Gran Tourer Lace” but this time institutes a full micro-adjust system that was designed in-house. While it may look like the BOA system we have all come to know and what dominates the market, it isn’t. Quoc’s system has integrated a one-click release system that doesn’t require pulling up on the dial or turning one way or the other to loosen. Once you work your brain away from what we are all used to, it becomes intuitive and simple whether when making fine adjustments on the fly or off the bike to get out of them.
No downer for the upper
The upper is plush and forgiving. Its feel is soft and sublime but don’t let the suppleness fool you, this is where thoughtful design meets simplicity meets modern splashproof mircrofiber. This outer “package” while minimalist in construction and void of any unnecessary seams or add-ons is sturdy in all the right places like the toebox and heel. The last thing you want is a heel section that caves under pressure. The thoughtful placement of padding in the heel and shoe opening adds to the comfort.
The entire outer shoe outer is one piece with a small seam on the outside of the heal rather than the inside where there’s always the potential of rubbing you the wrong way… literally! The minimalist design, too, is also apparent in the small cable connection points for the closure system. They are embedded into the shoe (six in all) and spaced wide. We like this because it places the tightening away from the top of your foot and to the “edges” which seems to cradle the foot better. Across three-quarters of the shoe (including the tongue) are tiny, one-way ventilation holes for breathability. Despite using them in extreme Pacific Northwest weather of muck and rain we didn’t get wet. We’ll see how the summer months treat us and if they truly allow for air to flow.
Often, shoes with dial closure systems fix the tongue to one side or the other (and sometimes both sides) making it tougher to get in the shoe. Quoc decided against that and we thank them for it.
“What about me?” says Mr. Midsole
While the looks, closure, and tread get all the glory it’s the unsung midsole that should get serious recognition. Don’t overlook the area where your foot sits for hours on end and where it expands, contracts, gets sweaty, cold, uncomfortable, and everything in between. While the Nylon composite is stiff, it’s not two-by-four wooden stiff. Your body won’t go number 10 miles in, let’s just put it that way. There’s an immediate comfort when you step in and turn the dial. Most shoes come with throw-away insoles but these do not. Quoc calls it the “Natural fit insole” and adheres to the minimalist design here, too. They aren’t chunky, thick, or made of memory foam but instead just enough cushioning material in the right spots to keep your foot happy.
The sole of the shoe
While there’s a tendency to go minimal on the shoe for the sake of weight (it seems), Quoc didn’t shy away from making some serious treads for the new model. With a rough measurement, the tallest GravelGrip treads sit in the rear and range from approximately 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch. On the front, you’re looking at somewhere between 1/4 to 1/2 of an inch (approximately) for tread height. The compound was formulated by Quoc and has a much softer feel than most which translate into incredible walkability despite the overall stiffness. Clearance for cleats and pedal engagement is generous with 1-3/4 inches of opening. We had no issues with our usual Crankbrothers pedal system. The plate for which the cleat mounts is incredibly stiff and the multiple lines allow you to line up each perfectly.
On the bike, on the road, in the dirt
The initial entry to the shoe is easy despite what we think is a small opening for your foot. With the closure system open, and because the tongue is not sewn to the shoe, you can spread the shoe open a good amount and slide your foot in. It may sound like a trivial matter but you’d be surprised how hassle-free it is because of that design. When in, simply turn the dial clockwise to cinch and counterclockwise to release. It’s not complicated! Refine your fit with micro turns to tailor your fit a bit tighter and back off when you need some relief.
The fit in the toe box is comfortable as is the heel area. Our particular shoe was good for a wide or narrow foot. We received no complaints from either. Normally, shoes, unless they are designated wide will wreak havoc on a wide foot, but these tend to sit in the sweet spot. There is nothing worse than a too-narrow toe box. Equally, there’s is nothing worse than a mushy, structurally deficient heel section. As well, if the heel is too stiff your ride will suffer. As with most things, this is subjective and based on the individual and their level of comfort but for us, this shoe, once again, sits in the sweet spot!
Cinched down and ready to ride, the Gran Tourer II’s comfort is immediately evident. All the careful design and utilitarian bits come together as one. Comfort in the toe box and heel combined with the insole keeps the blood flowing. A slight tweak here and there on the dial levels you out and keeps things plush. Out of the saddle is where you truly feel the design. The heel structure combined with the solid outer structure, the fitted and dialed closure, and sturdy sole makes for an immediate surge of power to the pedals. You won’t encounter any slop or slosh when really going for it up a climb. In the sloppy, muddy sections that require dismount, the beefy treads do their job. There aren’t tight spaces for mud to get trapped especially at the front where the spacing is far enough apart that it’s highly unlikely your shoe will get “gummed” up.
Ultimately, they rule
Look, we get it there are a ton of shoe options on the market from the notable names who just make shoes to the heavy-hitters who make everything from the toes to the head and often we go with the name we know, the familiar, the one your friend recommended. Quoc is small compared to most of all of them, but because they focus on one product and have a lineup that is limited to a few models in a few categories, we think they should be someone to consider. The fit and finish are spectacular. The look and design are stylish, minimal, and tasteful and the technology and materials are modern. They meld all of this into the “Gran Tourer II” seamlessly. With a couple of hundred miles into them, we have yet to find any flaws or mishaps. They’re easy to clean and durable, and the sizing seems to be true in every respect. In terms of weight, our size 42 (9 U.S) with Crankbrothers cleats sits at 356 grams (each shoe).
When can I get them?
Available now for pre-order. $265 (U.S). Colors include pink (shown here), sand, black, black/gum. The size range is 38-47 (standard width). Estimated shipping begins April 27, 2022. Check out Quoc.cc