Louis Vuitton, Salvatore Ferragamo, Alexander McQueen. Quoc Pham is bringing high fashion to cycling with his shoe brand, self-named – like most of the leading designer brands are – Quoc. From the on-trend neutral tones and sleek aesthetic, to the classy “Q” signature that adorns the front of every pair, Quoc is making a name for itself as one of the hottest shoe brands in today’s market.
Founded in 2009 by Quoc Pham’s own desire to create cycling shoes that “appealed to the discerning cyclist,” the brand laid down its roots by making leather and suede footwear that took inspiration from the classic era of cycling. A far cry from race-oriented designs that were dominating the market, Quoc shoes were made to look good off the bike, as well as perform well on it.
Since then, the brand has come a long way, expanding its range while also staying true to its heritage of creating shoes that are suitable for the casual commuter. The range is concise, but offers something for everyone. The alternative “Chelsea” and “Weekend” models are designed with laid-back, city riding in mind, while the “Mono II” are Quoc’s foray into the high-performance, race road shoe. Finally, the “Gran Tourer II” and “Gran Tourer Lace” are made, according to the brand’s website “for performance on all-terrain”, most notably gravel riding and racing.
I put the Quoc Gran Tourer II shoes to the test in perhaps the most vigorous way possible: by heading to a UCI Gravel World Series race in Houffalize, Belgium. Rocky trails, steep descents and fast stretches of gravel meant that the Gran Tourer II shoes had to perform on whatever the terrain threw at us – plus, admittedly, survive a couple of panic moments where a quick unclip and dismount was required.
As soon as I took the Quoc Gran Tourer II shoes out of the box, it was clear that they had been created with aesthetics as a priority, perhaps more so than other off-road shoes I’ve tried. This is unsurprising due to Quoc Pham’s past in the world of high-fashion, and I was happy to see the sleek look that is sometimes reserved for road shoes transfer over to an off-road model. The branding is minimal yet still noticeable enough that it would be clear to a bystander that these are Quoc shoes, while the single boa and simple upper give the Gran Tourer II’s a clean look.
I was left wondering if performance and comfort would have suffered on the Quoc shoes with it being a brand that clearly has a focus on the ‘look’ of its footwear, but once I put the shoes on and headed out for a spin, it became clear that this wasn’t the case. The Gran Tourer II shoes felt comfortable for me pretty much straight away – I had ordered my usual size that I take in brands such as Sidi and Specialized, and I found the Quoc to be true to size. While I wouldn’t class myself as a rider who requires a wide fit, I do struggle with aggressive, narrow-fit cycling shoes, and I found that the Quoc shoes accomodated for this perfectly, hitting the sweet spot of being snug and protective without any restrictions.
The Gran Tourer II shoes feature Quoc’s own dial system which has been developed in-house – an interesting move in an industry largely dominated by BOA dials. Since the shoes feature one dial rather than two, I did find myself having to pull the wires at the bottom of the shoe with my hands and then tightening the dial to ensure a tight enough fit for racing. Once riding, the dial is easy to adjust on the move and seems durable – it came out unscathed from the three hours of gravel racing I put it through, but it’s also replaceable which means any mishaps wouldn’t have been too costly.
When it comes to the stiffness required on race day, the Gran Tourer II shoes didn’t let me down. I felt like I was transferring force efficiently from my foot, with the shoes giving me a precise connection to the pedals. This stiffness combined with the aforementioned comfortable fit make the Quoc Gran Tourer II shoes a perfect option for long, gravel events and I wouldn’t be against using them in the cyclo-cross season, either.
However, the stiffness does mean that the shoes aren’t the best choice for hike-a-bike, and I wouldn’t reach for them if I was taking part in an event where I expected to be doing lots of this. Despite the grippy sole and tread pattern, my heel did start to pull out of the rear of the shoe when walking for prolonged periods, especially uphill. For a quick dismount, run and remount, however, there are no problems with the Gran Tourer II shoes. When walking around at cafe stops or before the race they were comfortable too.
Photo: Alex McArthur
The upper of the shoe is made from a splashproof microfibre with small perforations on the front section. While these helped with breathability, I did find the shoes a little hot when I was doing intense sessions. I was advised to remove the small plastic cover underneath the cleat for further ventilation which was a big help, though this does sacrifice some of the waterproof quality of the Gran Tourer II shoes.
At £190, the Quoc’s Gran Tourer II are reasonably priced, especially compared with shoes like the Specialized S-Works Recon or the Shimano S-Phyre XC9. Even after a brutal gravel event and plenty of miles leading up to it, my Gran Tourer II shoes are still looking fresh and the stitching is strong and durable and I think they will stand the test of time. They clean extremely well and don’t hold on to any dirt even though I’ve only used soap and water to wash off dust and dirt.
Quoc is carving out a nice place for itself in the cycling shoe market as a brand with an interesting history and unique approach to creating shoes. If you are looking for a shoe that strikes a balance between performance and aesthetics, then I can see no fault with the Gran Tourer II. While they wouldn’t be my go-to for really relaxed bike-packing adventures, they are a great everyday shoe that can be used both for racing and fast gravel rides. They have a high-end, premium feel without an astronomical price tag and they are durable enough to get through whatever the terrain or elements may throw at them.