In professional mountain bike racing, the term Privateer refers to an unsponsored racer who pays their own way. With this type of racer in mind, Giro created the Privateer, R an affordable clipless mountain bike shoe that has been packed with features and performance. While it is far from the least expensive shoe on the market, the Privateer R falls at the bottom of the price range of the shoes in our test selection. An impressive value considering the style, performance, and features. Budget-conscious riders will find everything they need in this versatile, lightweight shoe that fits great, pedals well and performs better off the bike than the previous version with an updated rubber outsole for 2017. We found the Privateer R to be ideal for XC, trail, and gravel grinding, although more gravity oriented riders seeking more foot protection may want to look elsewhere.
Giro Privateer R Review
Cons: Minimal foot protection, not the stiffest sole
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Giro Privateer R is a versatile performance-oriented clipless mountain bike shoe at an affordable price. We found this shoe to meet the demands of cross country, trail and gravel grinding style rides, although enduro and gravity oriented riders may be left wanting for a bit more foot protection and walkability. That said, riders on a budget will be satisfied with the Privateer R's fit, comfort, power transfer, and improved outsole traction. The Privateer R works well with all clipless pedal types but we'd recommend them for use with small platform and no-platform models. Of course, there are less expensive shoes on the market, but you would be hard-pressed to find a better shoe at a lower price than the Privateer R.
Giro's Privateer R is a comfortable shoe, and the fit is similar to the other Giro models we tested such as the Giro Empire VR90, winner of the Editors' Choice award, and the Giro Cylinder.
The fit of all the Giro models is slightly smaller than other brands, but this results in a very snug and precise fit, especially once you break them in. The medium arch support footbed is quite thin and doesn't offer much in the way of cushioning, although it cradles the arch and heel perfectly in a comfortable position. The Microfiber uppers feel and look a lot like leather and are soft and supple, conforming to your foot's shape over the course of the first ride or two. Lots of small holes perforated in the uppers provide some ventilation, through the mesh panels from the previous version have been done away with. There is minimal cushioning throughout the shoe, except around the ankle cuff, and overall the shoe provides little protection to the feet, especially when compared to more enduro oriented shoes like our Top Pick for Enduro Racers, the Five Ten Kestrel Pro Boa. The shoe is tightened around the foot by two wide Velcro straps over the lower and middle of the shoe, with a ratchet strap finishing the task at the top of the tongue. The closures do an excellent job of securing the shoe and do so quite comfortably as well. The cleat mount area offers a relatively small range of adjustability but is situated such that most riders will likely find their ideal position.
The Privateer R is competitively lightweight compared to other models in our test selection, being edged out by the Editors' Choice award-winning Giro Empire VR90 and the Giro Cylinder
The Privateer R, however, is half the price of the Empire and offers lightweight performance at a much more affordable price. Sure it lacks the carbon fiber bling factor, but that's why it's so affordable.
The Privateer R offers excellent power transfer to the pedals, especially when you consider the price. The flex of the sole is negligible, but noticeable when compared to a shoe with a carbon sole like the Giro Empire VR90.
That said, most riders would likely be satisfied with the stiffness of the Privateer R, although hardcore XC racers might want to look for a stiffer sole on a shoe like the Sidi Cape, the Shimano S-Phyre XC9, of the Giro Empire VR90.
The updated outsole rubber on the Privateer R has significantly improved this shoe's traction and overall grip when walking on virtually any surface.
The new rubber outsole is softer and therefore grips better than the old harder rubber used on the previous version, providing you with more comfort and confidence during dismounts and hike-a-bikes. The tread pattern features nearly full coverage of the nylon sole with large lugs under the heel and the ball of the foot on both sides of the cleat which clear mud easily. The toe and heel of the sole also offer a slight amount of give while walking. The shoe also accepts toe cleats, which are sold separately.
It stands to reason that the softer rubber of the outsole would be more likely to wear out than the harder rubber of the previous version — we have not, however, found that to be an issue.
Other updates to the Privateer R include a thick rubber rand that protects the majority of the toe of the shoe and a rubberized coating on the pinky toe and the heel of the shoe to protect the upper material. The rubber rand is quite thick and does a great job of preventing wear in that area while also adding some protection for the toes from rock strikes. The rubberized coating on the pinky toe and heel of the shoe is very thin and helps to prevent light abrasion in those areas, but one hard scrape on a rock will wear right through it. That said, the pinky toe area of the Privateer R is the only place that the shoes are showing any wear, as the rest of the uppers, soles and closures look almost brand new after hundreds of miles of abuse. The placement of the ratchet on the outside of the shoe is susceptible to damage although we have had no issues with it thus far and it is replaceable just in case.
The Privateer R is a lightweight and relatively stiff shoe that offers minimal foot protection, making it best suited for cross country and general trail riding. It is comfortable and light on the feet, making it great for rides of any length from a quick backyard lap to an all-day epic. We also found it to be sleek and light enough for use on the road bike and gravel grinding.
The Privateer R is a fantastic value, at only $120. The Privateer R delivers quality construction, durability, and performance in a comfortable package. We would recommend this shoe to anyone with limited cash to spare but who doesn't want to compromise on performance.
The Privateer R is a quality, high-performance clipless mountain bike shoe at a price that is hard to beat. It has classic cross-country race shoe styling and delivers excellent power transfer and comfort for all types of riding. Recent updates to the Privateer R have improved durability slightly while making the shoe's traction, and walkability has improved dramatically. We would recommend this shoe for budget-conscious performance-minded riders who are unwilling to shell out the cash for more expensive models.
Other Versions and Accessories
Giro also offers the Privateer R HV, a higher volume model of the Privateer R for the same price. A toe spike kit is also available for $15.
— Jeremy Benson