Words: John Stevenson
With a flexible, grippy sole and soft, comfy uppers, the Gaerne G.Etnas are great SPD shoes for rides where you sometimes need to hoof it.
Back in the Bronze age of UK mountain biking some ramblers were implacably opposed to young people having fun on bikes in their countryside. It was even worse that we were wearing Lycra; it was the 80s, we didn’t know any better. Magazine editor Tym Manley coined the term ‘Vibram fascists’ for them.
But they did have one thing right. As anyone who’s gone yomping around the moors without a bike will know, Vibram makes great, durable, grippy soles for walking boots and the like. For long days out in the Dales, we dreamed of mountain bike shoes with Vibram soles.
And that’s exactly what we have here. Vibram now makes a range of mountain bike soles. The MTBike sole on the Gaerne G.Etna shoes is found in many shoemakers’ ranges because it gives a good combination of flexibility and grip for walking with SPD compatibility and pedalling support.
It’s mated to a suede and mesh upper, closed with laces and a Velcro strap to cover them. The uppers are soft and comfy and the use of laces means you can snug them perfectly round your feet. Ratchet buckles and BOA closures might let you reef a shoe down hard round your foot for climbing power, but nothing beats laces for fine-tuning the fit.
The Gaerne G.Etnas aren’t about ultimate power transmission anyway. The sole is soft enough that you can feel small-bodied pedals through them; they work best with pedals that have some sort of platform to support the area around the cleat. That flex makes them plenty comfy for extended spells of walking, though cleats tend to wear quickly if you walk on them a lot.
Even in the mud and crud, the sole grips well and doesn’t clog up until the going gets utterly claggy. Side channels are intended to let mud squish out sideways and they seem to work.
The use of mesh and suede for the uppers is very Italian. When you live in a country where it doesn’t rain much in the summer, you can afford to build shoes that let in water. It’s a bit less practical for the UK, and in winter testing we used SealSkinz socks. Roll on summer.
If you do need to keep out the wet, Gaerne’s got you covered with its G.Artix waterproof SPD boots.
Comfy to ride and walk in, the Gaerne G.Etna shoes are worth considering for good-weather riding and even for wet conditions if you bung in some Sealskinz.
Who are they for?
The Gaerne G.Etna shoes are for old-school cross-country riders who don’t mind getting off and walking now and then to get deep into the countryside. Clipped-in enduro riders and all-mountain plummet puppies will also appreciate the ankle padding, grip for walking back to the top of runs and snug comfort.
What Gaerne says about the G.Etna shoes
• Outsole: developed with the makers of vibram, it guarantees excellent grip for walking and cycling. Lateral reinforced lugs for traction and stability, a removable patch covers the binding system. The thin sole is ideal for active mountain biking. The sole is compatible with the most available quick-release pedals.
• Fitting: fitting system developed in close co-operation with specialized technicians and professional athletes to ensure high level performance and perfect comfort. UPPER: made of natural nabuk and mesh with reinforcement in key areas. On the rear we have inserted a reflective safety strip. Inside microfiber lining.
• Closure System: laces and velcro strap.
• Heel: special heel cup that provides more stability, preventing the foot from rising away from the sole thereby reducing the risk of tendonitis.
• Inner Sole: removable, anatomic and lined.