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Hands-on Gear Review

Giro Privateer R Review

Giro Privateer R
Best Buy Award
Price:   $150 List | $134.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 4 resellers
Pros:  Lightweight, durable, stiff sole, comfortable, affordable
Cons:  Not good for walking or running, hard rubber outsole is slippery on rocks
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Giro

Our Verdict

The Privateer moniker is used in the mountain bike racing world to delineate a racer who lacks sponsorship and is self-funded. Giro created the Privateer R with this type of racer in mind. It is not the cheapest shoe, but it is much more affordable than many shoes we tested. The blend of high-performance features with a reasonable price make the Privateer a worthy winner of our Best Buy Award. If you are on a budget and need one shoe that can do everything, the Privateer is the shoe for you. This is a great choice for trail riding, cross-country, and they could even do double duty as a road shoe if necessary. It pairs well with nearly any type of pedal, and is stiff enough to be used with clipless pedals that have no platform such as the Shimano M520 or the Crankbrothers Eggbeater 2.

New Version of the Privateer - March 2017
Giro released a new version of the Privateer with some notable updates. This most recent model, pictured above, is now known as the Privateer R and comes equipped with a new co-molded nylon and rubber sole. The upper material and vent layout have also been changed. Scroll down for more detailed comparison of the new Privateer R vs. the older version.

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Score Product Price Size Tested Weight Upper Material
Editors' Choice Award
44.5 1lb 10.8oz Synthetic seamless
Top Pick Award
44 2lb 1oz Microfiber
44 1lb 10oz Microfiber
Best Buy Award
44.5 1lb 11oz Microfiber
10.5 2lbs 9.3oz Synthetic Leather
10.5 2lb 2.65oz Polyester Synthetic Textile
44 1lb 8oz Synthetic Leather

Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Curtis Smith
Senior Review Editor

Last Updated:
March 21, 2017


Privateer R vs. The Old Version (2015)

Giro updated the Privateer for 2017 with the release of the new Privateer R. A new co-molded nylon and rubber sole is the most notable change. The sole material in now softer and said to offer better grip as compared to the hard nylon lug sole of the old model. The tread pattern remains aggressive so the shoe should still maintain good traction in mud and grass. Also of note is the extension of the nylon/rubber sole material up onto the toe box. This feature should enhance durability as the interface between the hard midsole and the upper of the shoe is now better protected. In addition, the upper sees updates with scuff guards in key areas, and the elimination of the mesh vents near the toe box. Ventilation is now achieved with micro perforations in the upper itself. The list price remains $150.

Check out a side-by-side comparison, with the new Privateer R on the left and the older version on the right.
Giro Privateer R
Giro Privateer in black  gum sole.

Here is a summary of the key differences between the (new) Giro Privateer R and the previous version:
  • New Rubber Sole--The Privateer R has a rubber lugged sole vs. the nylon sole of the old version.
  • Micro-Perforated Upper-- The upper now has micro-perforations for ventilation as opposed to the mesh panels found on the old version.
  • Scuff Guards--Rubberized scuff guards are now found in key areas to protect the upper from abrasion.
  • Extended Rubber Toe Cap-- The toe are of the shoe now has rubber that extends from the sole for greater durability.

We feel that Giro has made some key upgrades to the Privateer that should go a long way towards enhancing both durability and performance. We look forward to testing the new Privateer R in our upcoming Mountain Bike Shoe review. Until then, the rest of this review continues to reflect the Privateer.

Hands on Review of the Privateer

The Giro Privateer is a versatile cross-country style clipless mountain bike shoe that will suit the needs of a broad range of riders. Whether you like long trail rides, XC racing, cyclocross, or a mix of the three, this shoe covers all the bases. If you are on a budget and only intend to have one pair of shoes for a range of different types of riding, this is the shoe for you.

Trail riding with the Giro Privateer.
Trail riding with the Giro Privateer.


The Giro Privateer is a comfortable shoe, the fit is similar to the Giro Terraduro, winner of our Top Pick Award, but it feels a bit more sleek and racy. The insole is identical to the one used by the Terraduro, and offers decent support and padding. Giro offers the Supernatural Fit Kit (sold separately) with adjustable arch support if you find the stock insoles to be lacking in support. The upper is very similar to the Terraduro, but lacks the heavy abrasion resistant sections, which makes the overall feel a bit suppler with more of a form fit.
The upper on the Giro Privateer is similar to the Giro Terraduro  but it has a bit more ventilation  and more of a performance fit.
The upper on the Giro Privateer is similar to the Giro Terraduro, but it has a bit more ventilation, and more of a performance fit.
The ankle cuff and tongue are both well padded and comfortable. A ratcheting upper strap and dual lower Velcro straps take care of retention and offer a fair amount of adjustability, even on the fly while riding. Overall we found the Privateer to be one of the more comfortable shoes we tested, it did not require any break-in period and never gave us a hot spot or blister, even on the longest rides.


The Giro Privateer is XC race light! The only shoes that weighed in lighter were the Shimano XC31 and the Sidi Dominator 5 Fit, and they are only an ounce or two less in weight. Comparatively, the Shimano XC31 is a very stripped down shoe, and does not have a ratcheting buckle or a sole that is anywhere close to as stiff as the Privateer. The Dominator is a comparable shoe to the Privateer in performance, but is in a whole different spectrum when it comes to price. So when taking everything into account, the Privateer is in a league of its own.

Power Transfer

Excellent! When you stomp on the pedals, there is no noticeable flex. We were able to detect a negligible amount of flex, but only after switching to this shoe after wearing some of our tester's personal carbon soled XC wonder shoes. For a nylon sole, these shoes pedal exceptionally well and are well suited to use with a clipless pedal with no platform, but they will work with any clipless pedal. We would even endorse these shoes for occasional use on a road bike, if you were looking to eliminate the need for two different shoe types.

You will not notice any flex when pushing down on the pedals with the Giro Privateer.
You will not notice any flex when pushing down on the pedals with the Giro Privateer.

Traction, Walking, Running

Product design is often a give and take affair, especially at the price point where you find the Giro Privateer. The Privateer has a very stiff sole, and the stiffness inhibits a natural walking and running motion. It was not so long ago that almost all mountain biking shoes suffered from being too stiff to walk in, but new designs such as the variable thickness carbon sole found in the Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro have changed the game and what we can expect from a high-end shoe. In addition to the stiff sole, the outsole on the Privateer is very hard rubber, which makes getting traction on smooth rock or wet surfaces challenging.
The Giro Privateer has minimal flex when walking  and is not the most confidence inspiring shoe on smooth rock.
The Giro Privateer has minimal flex when walking, and is not the most confidence inspiring shoe on smooth rock.
The lug sole is quite aggressive, so the shoes do well in mud and wet grass, where the stickiness of the rubber has less to do with traction than tread shape. They also are compatible with toe spikes for the exceptionally wet and sloppy days. These are not the best shoes when it comes walking and hiking on the trail, but they are functional for cyclocross use where the time off the bike is generally short, and running often takes place in soft grass.

Nothing tests a shoes durability like the rigors of cyclocross.
Nothing tests a shoes durability like the rigors of cyclocross.


The hard rubber outsole of the Privateer does not provide much traction on rock, but it is durable. It will take a lot of walking, and running to wear out these shoes. The upper is also very tough, but it does not have the abrasion resistant panels and reinforced toecap of the Giro Terraduro, our highest rated shoe for durability. The ratchet strap is identical to the one used on the Terraduro, and proved to be problem free during testing. It is located on the lateral portion of the shoe making it prone to rock strikes, but this is an issue that almost all shoes using ratcheting buckles suffer from. Overall this is a tough shoe that will put up with daily use no matter what type of riding you prefer.

Best Applications

The Privateer is well suited to cross-country riding and general trail use. It is also a capable cyclocross shoe. The sole might be a bit stiff for bike park use, but it would get the job done on the occasional visit.


The Privateer is a great value. With a retail price of $150 you will be hard pressed to find a shoe that offers as much bang for the buck with quality construction, light weight, durability, and excellent power transfer. This is the shoe we would recommend to a friend on a budget who does not want to compromise on performance.


The Giro Privateer is a top quality clipless mountain bike shoe at a competitive price. It has a classic cross-country race shoe design but is capable and at home being used for any type of riding, from laps on your local trails to a weekend cyclocross race. We would recommend this shoe to anyone looking for a high performance shoe but is not willing to pay the premium price for a carbon soled model.

Other Versions and Accessories

Giro also offers the Privateer HV; it offers a better fit for those with wider feet. Giro also has a new Privateer R model at the same price that features a co-molded rubber sole that is said to offer better traction on roots and rocks.
Curtis Smith

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