Stiffness / Power Transfer
The carbon sole on the Code is similar to the one found on the top-of-the-line Empire shoe. The Empire VR90 has a stiffer EC90 sole, while the Code VR70 gets the EC70 sole, which is a touch heavier and not quite as stiff. However the Code is still very stiff. When you hand flex them, the sole yields a tiny bit, but not much.
On the bike, it’s obvious that there’s a stiff sole in these shoes. On the downstroke, power transfer is as good as any other shoe I’ve ridden.
On the upstroke, the fit issue noted above initially reared its head–I couldn’t really generate the power I wanted, simply because I was having a tough time keeping my heel planted in the back of the shoe. As the shoe broke in, this got better and better. I’m now at the point where I feel like I’m getting as much power out of the Codes as I would with any other high end, stiff shoe.
I should also note that at no point in my cycling career has anyone ever been impressed by my power output. All fit issues aside, I am 100% positive that I am not taxing the power transfer capabilities of this shoe. That said, given my rather meager leg strength, I want every bit of power that I do manage to generate to go into the pedals. I’m pretty confident that if these shoes fit you correctly, they’ll do just fine on the power transfer front.
Comfort On & Off the bike
On the bike, there’s no question that these shoes are designed with performance in mind. They’re not particularly cushy, and I found that on longer rides, my feet would start to get sore. Nothing horrendous, but they’d get that ache that comes with standing on a very rigid platform for an extended period of time.
When it came time to walk around in these shoes, they did a bit better than I’d expect. The Vibram soles offer decent grip, and there’s lugged rubber covers more of the sole than you’ll find on some other performance oriented shoes. The lugs also stick out enough to mostly keep the cleats off the ground, which is good for those of us who failed out of tap dancing school.
While walking, there’s enough of a rocker to the Vibram lugs that you can maintain a fairly natural stride. Don’t get me wrong–these aren’t shoes that I’d want to walk a long distance in, but if you have to scramble around a little bit, the Code does just fine.
Both style and comfort wise, these are cross country shoes. In case it wasn’t apparent from the picture, these aren’t shoes that you’ll want to keep on your feet for a post ride stop at the bar.
At 760 grams per pair, the Code is fairly light. They’re not the absolute lightest shoes on the market, but they’re right there in contention with lightweight offerings from Sidi, Pearl Izumi, etc. I can’t say that shoe weight is ultimately the deciding factor for me, but these certainly aren’t holding me back.
I don’t have enough time in the Code to really assess long term durability, but so far they’re holding up reasonably well. While Marshal had some issues with the Terraduro, on my Code’s, all of the seams and stitching are holding up without any signs of distress. The carbon sole is mostly protected by Vibram rubber, but the few exposed parts of the carbon, while scratched up, aren’t noticeably deteriorating.
The only potential issue I see is with the actual Vibram lugs–a few of them are chunking out a little quicker than I would have hoped for. It’s nothing major at this point, but given that I haven’t had these for all that long, I’d suspect they’ll be showing considerable wear after a year or so.
The entirety of my time in these shoes has been early season in Montana, and while it’s been fairly warm this spring, that still means highs in the 70’s (at most). In other words, I didn’t test these shoes in any conditions that would really emphasize their breathability. That caveat aside, these aren’t the most breathable shoes I’ve ever worn. While the Evofiber material is heavily perforated, there aren’t any real vents of any sort. My feet never overheated to the point of being uncomfortable, but I did notice that these shoes seem to run a bit hot.
The Code VR70 is certainly a performance-oriented shoe, and it has the capability to hold its own against other similar competitors. The fit on shoes like these is crucial, and between the swappable arch supports, a high-volume option, and the fit guarantee, Giro does what it can to make the Code work for a wide range of riders. That said, it took quite a few miles before these broke in to the point where I felt good about the fit, so keep that in mind.
All in all, the Code is an excellent option if you’re looking for a shoe to lay down the power. While it doesn’t come cheap, it’s actually a fairly reasonably priced option compared to its carbon-soled competitors. But if extra stiffness, carbon, and the price that goes with that upgrade aren’t on your meal plan, Giro makes shoes (like the Privateer) with more traditional soles that are substantially less expensive.