Cycling fashion is big business in every aspect of the sport. However, function and performance drive cycling fashion, so it is not purely fashion for the sake of style. I like fashion and appreciate style.
Quoc Pham is a shoe designer in London with a passion for cycling. He combines these passions to create beautiful, functional cycling shoes. In 2009 the Quoc Pham brand started with a shoe inspired by the road cycling shoes worn by the cycling legends riding with toe clips and straps. Beautifully crafted in leather with a flat rubberized sole called the Fixed, it appealed to fixed-gear cycling fashionistas. Alongside it was the Touring model with a lugged tread and provision for a 2-bolt cleat. I saw these in a San Francisco boutique cycling store and wanted them, but never pulled the trigger.
Limited distribution of Quoc Pham shoes in the United States makes them elusive until now. Re-branded Quoc Shoes, new designs with emphasis on fit and performance as well as construction and style are now available in North America with a new distribution network. I saw Quoc shoes at the Sea Otter Classic in April 2023 and had a chance to meet Quoc Pham and see the new shoe line.
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We review Ouoc’s newest shoe introduced this Spring at the Sea Otter Classic 2023, the top model in the offroad line, the Grand Tourer XC Shoe. Quoc Shoes has a lace shoe called the Grand Tourer Lace. A follow-up to that is the Grand Tourer II, which has a single dial closure in place of the laces. The new GT XC has 2 dials for better security and adjustability.
I asked for a pair of GT XC for review and Quoc Shoes graciously obliged. I tried on the GT XC for size while at the booth at the Sea Otter Classic. They wanted my honest opinion, and neither I nor Cyclocross Magazine have any obligations with Quoc Shoes.
The GT XC, along with all the Quoc cycling shoes, has a one-piece upper. The upper material is microfiber with a leather-like finish and a pattern of micro-perforations. One-piece uppers on a shoe require more precision design and manufacture. The result is a beautiful seamless upper that has more durability. This gives the Quoc shoes a somewhat unique look.
Ouoc Pham told me a shoe with a one-piece upper wastes less material. He also sought a material that has more durability than leather, especially when wet, but maintains some of the look, breathable and fit quality of leather. He also mentioned a lot of attention is paid to the fit of the shoe, considering the last on which the shoe is made. I later read an interview with Quoc posted on the Quoc website where he discusses the evolution of the fashion-focussed Fixed model of 2009 to the performance cycling shoes in the Quoc line today.
In the Quoc Box
The Quoc GT XC comes with a nice shoe bag, long and short toe cleats that thread into standard M5 holes, and different arch support inserts to attach beneath the removable footbed. The default arch insert is for low arch and that seems to be a comfortable starting point. You can easily put in your preferred insole.
The dial lace system is not the ubiquitous Boa™ System but a proprietary one. According to Quoc Shoes, this is to avoid the constraints of Boa™ lacing, is lighter, and easier to release. The operation is similar to the UTurn system though Quoc Shoes could not confirm that it is the same. Right shoe dials turn clockwise to tighten, and about 30 degrees counterclockwise to release the lace. The left shoe dials are the opposite. A click in the release direction does not loosen the lace at all, you have to release the lace entirely and re-tighten.
If you are familiar with Boa™, the most common iteration requires a pull up on the dial to release the laces. The dial must be pushed back down to re-engage the ratchet tightening system, sometimes cumbersome on the fly. In one version of the Boa™ system, small clicks opposite the tightening direction loosen the laces incrementally. Although the Quoc system cannot be incrementally loosened, the release and re-dial are easier and faster on the fly than the Boa™ since there is only the back-and-forth dial motion for release and re-engagement. I came to like this feature.
Spare parts are available for the ubiquitous Boa™ systems, should a dial fail. Sometimes this happens in a crash as it did to Matthieu van der Poel in his recent 2023 World Championship Road Race win.
Quoc assures me that replacement parts for its dial system are readily available should the same happen to you.
A thin rubberized coating accents the outer edge of the upper and acts as a rand for protection. The pattern across the big toe area makes the shoe appear more slender. The rubber lug sole has a good grip with rubber across the arch to offer purchase in case you have to ride unclipped. Construction is flawless, with perfect stitching and no glue visible at the seams.
The size 44 GT XC weighs 354 grams per shoe, 708 grams per pair.
If the Shoe Fits
I wear an American size 10, European 44.0, and have a medium width, medium volume foot, with an average arch height. The Quoc GT XC seems to fit my foot perfectly and is quite comfortable initially. I like the roomy toe box, both in width and height. Twin dials allow adjustment over the forefoot and instep separately. The microfiber upper has some stiffness that forms to the foot only slightly over time. It is supportive and not uncomfortable for me.
The lightly padded tongue is captured by the laces to keep it centered with pinking at the top edge so it won’t cut into your foot. The collar is lightly padded for a snug, comfortable fit.
I wore the Quoc GT XC exclusively while cycling in all conditions for the three-month review period. I also tried several different pedal systems. If you use the Time ATAC or Crank Brothers Egg Beater pedals, it is imperative to use Crank Brothers Shoe Shields. This is the case with any shoe to avoid crushing the sole at the point where the retention bails support the vast majority of the pedal force. This is especially true for the Quoc GT XC. A pedal system that relies on shoe lugs for support, like the obsolete Look Quartz, is not a good option. This is all because the Quoc GT XC lugs are spaced 50mm apart. Shimano shoes are 40mm apart and the pictured Lake shoes are 45mm apart. It may not seem like much, but the wide lug spacing yields some better mud clearance at the expense of support from some smaller pedal bodies.
For the 90% of users who use Shimano pedals or other pedals that use SPD-compatible cleats, this is not a big issue since the cleat itself supports the shoe against the pedal. The Quoc GT XC lugs rest solidly on the body of current Shimano XTR (m9100) and XT (m8000) pedals offering an excellent connection for power transfer and security on rough trails.
Quoc GT XC Performance
I rode the Quoc GT XC mostly with Shimano XTR M9100 and XT m8000 pedals after trying several other pedal systems. As I mentioned before, this combination has a solid pedal-shoe connection with the lugs of the Quoc GT XC resting on the pedal body. On a stiffness scale, the Quoc GT XC is not as stiff as race-oriented shoes such as the Shimano Sphyre or Specialized S-Works Recon. The sole is stiff enough to not feel the pedal beneath you, but on an over-geared climb, there is a minor amount of flex detectable. If the race shoe examples are 10 on a stiffness scale, the Quoc GT XC is an 8.
The sole lug position and the grip of the rubber is quite good for short hike-a-bike sections or when doing a run-up. The slight sole flex helps a bit to keep your heel from pulling up out of the shoe. Rubber across the arch area makes riding unclipped for shorter periods more secure.
I mentioned the upper is stiff, though it formed a bit around my foot after a month of riding. This stiffness fights the tension of the lace wires a bit. The dials of the Quoc lace system are hard, square-edged plastic. These two factors make dialing in the Quoc GT XC a bit finicky when the shoe is new. The rounded edge of a typical Boa™ knob with its slightly rubberized texture is a bit easier to turn for comparison. As the shoe formed on my foot, this became only slightly easier. Perhaps I just got used to it. The release is quite easy and I came to like it for its merits as I mentioned, but no more than Boa™ overall.
The shoe upper is not as soft as Sidi Lorica™, but more flexible and less plastic than a Shimano shoe as examples. In the hottest conditions, the Quoc GT XC is a bit steamy. The perforated upper is not as effective as mesh for a hot summer ride. However, in any other condition, the upper breaths well. In moist conditions such as wet grass, drizzle, splashes from creek crossings, or wet roads and trails, the upper keeps your foot a bit cleaner and drier. It is also relatively easy to clean.
Other shoes now use the one-piece upper design so the look of the Quoc shoes is becoming less unique. The Quoc fit is superb for me and is what makes this shoe stand out. The toe box has enough height and width compared to a lot of other cycling shoes. The heel fit me well too and did not need excessive shoe tightening to hold my heel in securely. The sole rocker seems right for cycling and the short off-bike walk or runs you might do on a typical ride or in a ‘cross race. The insole with the default low arch support is well-contoured for my foot. I tried the medium-height arch support and it felt a bit high for my average arch height. There is ample room for a custom footbed if the mildly customizable Quoc footbed does not work for you.
After countless miles (probably around 1000) in the past 3 months, with minimal hike-a-bike, the sole wears well and demonstrates excellent grip. The included plastic cleats did not fare as well. Granted, the hike-a-bike sections usually include a significant amount of rock scrambling that causes harder wear. The cleats are easily replaceable with standard soccer cleats, or toe spikes if you plan on mud run-ups.
Other Quoc shoe wearers seem quite enthusiastic about their Quoc shoes. I met several other riders wearing Quoc shoes who noticed mine and waxed lyrical about the fit and positive long-term durability of their Quoc shoes.
In the three months or so that I’ve ridden with the Quoc GT XC, it has become my favorite shoe. It is probably my best-fitting, most comfortable high-performance cycling shoe. Construction is excellent and it looks good in my opinion. The price is on the higher end which is fair considering other shoes in the same category, with excellent fit and construction.
Quoc GT XC
MSRP: $310 (USD)
Size Range: EU 38-47 full sizes only, one width only
Weight: 354 grams/shoe, 708/pair size 44
More info: Quoc. cc