Gaerne Carbon G. STL road shoes review
A performance shoe that’s easy to live with, although with a premium price tag
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Gaerne’s G. STL road shoes provide a secure fit and a super stiff pedalling platform, making them excellent for hard efforts. They’re also one of the easiest performance shoes to live with, utilising a straightforward construction which can be just wiped clean. However, they are at the upper end of the price band while also being a little heavier than the competition.
Very stiff sole
Li2 Boa dials
Easy to clean
No half sizes
A little narrow
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The Gaerne G. STL road shoes sit right at the top of the Italian brand’s range. Indeed, with an RRP of £379.90, they’re more expensive than the top tier offerings from either Shimano (opens in new tab)or Sidi (opens in new tab), so they have set a high bar to measure themselves by.
Construction: Gaerne Carbon G. STL road shoes
Starting with the sole, this earns a stiffness rating of 12/12 on Gaerne’s own scale – so you at least know that you’re getting the most rigid platform the brand will offer. To increase the airflow, there are a few few cut-out vents around the fore- and midfoot and the heel block is replaceable, although the rubber bumper at the front is not.
The markings for setting your cleat position aren’t anything flashy but they do the job, while the cleat nuts themselves have 9mm of fore/aft adjustment, which helps if you favour having your cleats in quite an extreme position.
The upper has many tiny perforations for breathability, but no mesh panels. On the one hand, this makes the surface very easy to wipe down after a mucky ride, but on the other, it is a warmer than a design with many cutouts or a knitted construction. Which trade off is best to take very much depends on the climatic conditions where you live.
The heel cup has quite an extreme shaping to it, intended to lock you in place and minimise any lifting of the heel. Further to that end, there’s a ‘cat’s tongue’ fabric on the inside of the heel – smooth in one direction to make it easy to slip into the shoes, but really grippy in the other. As a little nod to visibility, there’s a reflective 'G' for Gaerne logo on the back.
The closure system utilises the excellent Boa Li2 dials which are used by a great many brands and allow you to both tighten and loosen the shoes in millimetre increments – which does make it super easy to get the pressure just right. The route the cables take is quite circuitous and helps to spread the pressure a bit more evenly.
At 592g for the pair in a size 43, they are 28g heavier than the Specialized Ares in the same size – which themselves are billed as sprinter’s shoe, rather than as anything especially feathery.
For sprinting and longer hard efforts, I can’t detect a difference in flex between these and other top-end shoes such as the specialized Ares or the Sidi Shot 2. Sure, I am very far off being able to hit 2,000w in a sprint, and at those levels you might come away with something different. But for holding over 1,000w for around 15s, there’s nothing in it for me.
Although personally, I find the stiffness of the sole is less important than how securely your foot is kept in place. Sure, some of very cheapest shoes are incredibly flexy, but you don’t have to go far up the tiers before the potential for your foot to move around within the shoe is far greater than the extent to which the soles could ever flex.
It’s always a tough balance between holding tight and not pinching or causing hotspots, however these shoes do pull this off pretty well. My feet are a little on the wide side, but quite low volume, so sometimes I can struggle to get shoes sufficiently tight so that my foot isn’t rattling about vertically, without pinching the sides of my feet too badly.
With the G. STL shoes though, it’s pretty close to being spot on. They still pinch a bit at the sides when cranked down all the way, but that’s fine for even up to two hours of hard riding. On rides longer than that, there tend to be quieter moments when you’re not pushing so hard and so can loosen the binding a little bit – which is dead easy to do with the Li2 boa dials.
Although the shaping of the heel might look extreme, it was actually incredibly comfortable and didn’t cause me any trouble. With the grippy fabric on the inside as well, I didn’t experience any heel lifting at all – Gaerne has really nailed that part of the shoe.
Value and conclusion
At £379.90, the Gaerne G. STL are just under £5 more expensive than the Specialized Ares (opens in new tab). The G. STLs are easier to keep clean and take on and off, but they do pinch a little bit at the side of the foot when cranked all the way down – unlike the Ares.
However, the Shimano S-Phyre RC902 (opens in new tab) road shoes are around £60 less at £319.99 and are similarly high performance, although we did find that it was difficult to get the wrapped upper in the right place.
Gaerne’s G. STL road shoes are excellently stiff with a heel cup and retention system which can lock you securely in place – although they are a tiny bit on the narrow side.
Their simple construction, without any mesh panels or inner liners, makes them dead easy to slip in and out of, as well as making cleaning very straight forward. For a performance shoe, these are one of the easiest to live with day to day.
However, they are quite expensive and a little heavier compared to the competition. They’re also a tiny bit on the narrow side and half sizes aren’t available, so do make sure to check the fit before you commit. Ventilation is a little lower than on most race oriented shoes, but that could actually be a positive, depending on where you live.
|Weight||592g (pair in size 43, measured)|
|Sizes||39, 40, 41, 41.5, 42, 42.5, 43, 43.5, 44, 44.5, 45, 45.5, 46, 47,|
|Colours||Matt Light Blue, Matt Iridium, Matt Black, Matt White, Matt Grey|
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After winning the 2019 National Single-Speed Cross-Country Mountain Biking Championships and claiming the plushie unicorn (true story), Stefan swapped the flat-bars for drop-bars and has never looked back.
Since then, he’s earnt his 2ⁿᵈ cat racing licence in his first season racing as a third, completed the South Downs Double in under 20 hours and Everested in under 12.
But his favourite rides are multiday bikepacking trips, with all the huge amount of cycling tech and long days spent exploring new roads and trails - as well as histories and cultures. Most recently, he’s spent two weeks riding from Budapest into the mountains of Slovakia.
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