It takes 109 pieces to make Gaerne’s top-end G.Stilo+ cycling shoe. Here’s how its shoes are assembled.
Based near Asolo in northern Italy, Gaerne prides itself in its all-Italian production and quality. Founded in 1962, the company still makes mountain footwear, its original product. But it’s been making cycling shoes since the 1980s and also makes a wide range of motorcycle boots.
It’s a family business, with founder Ernesto Gazzola in his 80s still in the factory every day and his children Gianna, Gianni and Marta running different parts of the business. Its 55 employees produce 79,000 pairs of cycling shoes and 116,000 pairs of motorcycle boots every year.
The company says it takes up to two years to design a new shoe and bring it to market. During that time, it works closely with companies such as Boa to ensure that its closures are used optimally. It worked with Speedplay on its four-bolt sole for its G.Stilo+, which is the only one approved by Speedplay.
Gaerne buys the microfibre for its shoes’ uppers in bulk, then cuts the rolls up into blanks that are laser cut and perforated off site. Gaerne sews the component pieces together to assemble the shoe uppers and add the closures – in this case for a tri shoe.
The next step is to glue the upper to the inner side of the sole. This is a two-part process that uses two different machines: first the toe box is assembled around the last, then the sides are stretched and glued into place. The glue is heated to 250C to ensure an effective bond.
The glued edges of the fabric are then sanded down to make them flatter before the carbon outer sole is glued in place and pressure is applied to bond the two pieces.
Finally the last is removed, the insole fitted and the shoes boxed for shipment. There’s a large warehouse of shoes awaiting shipment to shops and distributors, with bulk sea freight usually used to the USA and Australia.
Gaerne has racks of lasts for different foot sizes. There are also different male and female lasts and wider ones for Asian feet. Since the last is left in the shoe for up to a day after it’s been made, there’s a need for a lot of them.
There are lasts for some famous names, with most having some fine tuning to fit the wearer as well as custom insoles. Beside André Greipel, there are lasts for Fabian Cancellara, Alexander Kristoff and, poignantly, for Michele Scarponi.
There’s a long list of other famous pros who have raced in Gaerne shoes in the past too.