Made from a single Synchwire upper joined by a single heel seam, the Imperial is a fantastic-looking shoe. Synchwire is a three-layer composite material, made of a breathable mesh reinforced with Tejin TPU, that allows Giro to pinpoint where it wants ventilation, structure and strength. Synchwire also eliminates the need for internal reinforcements, contributing to a low weight. Our pair tipped the scales at 219 grams per shoe (size 42.5), not the lightest on the market—Giro has produced a 150-gram shoe before—but it’s still quite slim. While low weight is important, it shouldn’t come at the expense of durability. You should be able to train and race in the same shoe day in and day out, not have to buy another pair specifically for racing. Nods to this design ethos include a replaceable heel pad secured by two bolts rather than glued on; using Easton’s stiff EC90 SLX carbon outsole; and not sacrificing support in the upper in pursuit of shaving grams. Tying together the fit is a dual-zone Boa dial-lacing pattern with soft lace guides to eliminate pressure points.
The Synchwire upper combined with the dual Boa dials creates a secure fit that tightens evenly and conforms comfortably to the foot. Set the shoes before a ride and expect the same fit at the end. But, if needed, a midride adjustment is just a click of a Boa dial away. Some might find slight pressure from the upper Boa dial, but it’s very minimal and quickly becomes unnoticeable. The Tejin TPU-coated tongue provides just a touch of padding, while staying malleable enough not to poke into the ankle. Coupled with the padded heel, this is a very comfortable shoe throughout.
Thanks to the mesh in the Synchwire upper, ventilation is superb. One thing to note on the upper is that it is so transparent in parts that any sock color (other than black or white) will bleed through. Completing the package, the Easton EC90 SLX outsole is an extremely stiff companion for any effort, sprint or climb. And while the upper is less structured than other choices, it feels substantial enough to hold up to the rigors of daily training and racing…for a while. This shoe likely won’t provide multiple seasons of hard riding, but then again no shoe in this category will. The Imperial makes a solid case for being the high-end, lightweight shoe of choice. $425; 438g/pair (size 42.5); giro.com
This review originally appeared in issue 88.