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QUOC Escape Gravel & MTB Shoe Review

Earlier this year, QUOC released the new Lalashan Collection, which included a pair of off-road shoes called the Escape. Gerald has been testing these shoes for the past few weeks on the gravel roads of rural Austria. So, grab a coffee and get ready for his thoughts on these new gravel and mountain-specific shoes.

QUOC Escape Gravel & MTB Shoe Review

When it comes to cycling shoes the most common types are flat-pedal and SPD compatible. SPD was introduced by Shimano in 1990 and stands for Shimano Pedaling Dynamics. Be aware that there are 2 system standards: SPD and SPD-SL. The first system is used for mountain, trekking and gravel bikes and the necessary cleats are mounted to your shoe's sole via 2 bolts. The SL system is Shimano's road system with cleats mounted via 3 bolts. SPD and SPD-SL are not interchangeable. There are a ton of clipless variants out there from companies like Crankbrothers, Look, Time and Speedplay among others. They are generally not cross-compatible, but the Look cleats do surprisingly fit the SPD system. Keep this in mind and (if in doubt ) check the companies websites to avoid compatibility issues as it can be frustrating when you are sporting the wrong cleats.

I have never used any road system so my experience covers flat, SPD and Crankbrothers pedals only, because unlike many people, I have never been a “roadie” and always preferred riding “off-road” be it gravel roads, double tracks or trails. When I started riding bikes as a kid and even later when mountain bikes came around, I continued to wear sneakers. It was only years later that the first pair of SPDs found their way onto my feet. It took me a while to realize that this kind of shoe improves performance and comfort only when set up correctly—which means carefully positioning the cleats. You might wonder why use clipless at all? Well, clipless shoes come with stiffer soles and allow for pulling up on the pedals which can reduce the workload on the quads during big climbs. And lastly, personally, I feel clipless provides a better connection to the bike and somehow on long days my feet feel less fatigued.

I have been wearing a pair of Giro Rumble VRs for years and now the soles are worn out which reduces their off-road grip noticeably. They are somehow still comfy but nevertheless I felt it was time for a replacement. I am not a fan of shoes with a pronounced technical look, so a lot of options were no option for me. A few models stood out and one of those was the QUOC Gran Tourer. When I reached out to QUOC, unfortunately the Gran Tourer was out of stock but QUOC had just released their new collection, I was curious and chose the Escape Off-Road.

Who is QUOC?

QUOC is an independent British cycling brand founded by Vietnamese-born designer and cyclist Quoc Pham in 2009. Back then, most cycling shoes had techy designs and Quoc wanted to create an alternative timeless, classic look—something he would wear himself. It all started with the Fixed England, a cycling shoe with a more traditional look inspired by classic British leather shoes. 14 years and 17 styles later the newest collection has been launched: The Lalashan Collection which is named after and inspired by the fungi and mushrooms found in the Lalashan mountain range in Taiwan. I was lucky enough to get my hands on one model out of this collection, the Escape Off-Road

Sizing & Installation

The Escape Off-Road is marketed as a comfortable, racing oriented shoe at a more affordable price than its big brother, the Gran Tourer XC. Compared to my beloved Giro’s it is noticeably stiffer... maybe stiffer than I expected. They initially also felt a little bit narrow but the size was spot on; since I was already owner of QUOC’s Weekend cycling sneaker I assumed it to be the same size, bingo! If you don’t own one of QUOC’s shoes, no problem: On their website simply scroll down to the footer of the page, select “sizing” and find a perfect instruction for choosing the right size.

The next step was to install the cleats. For this, I tried using Ergon’s SPD cleat tool that did speed up the process. Side note: Ergon offer different tools for SPDs and Crankbrothers! Basically, the tool is a plate with a big grid on the surface that helps you fine tune the position of the cleats. To get started, feel the joints of your big toes and put a marker on the corresponding spot on your shoes—generally the ball of the foot should be inline with the axle of the pedal. Then put the shoes on the plate which comes with a fixed position for the cleats and follow Ergon’s instructions to further adjust the position. If you already own a pair that fits you perfectly it’s very convenient to just take the parameters from these shoes and adapt them to your new ones!

One surprise when putting on the Escapes is learning that QUOC invented their own dial tightening system instead using the usually found Boa system. It works differently but very intuitive: turn left to close the left shoe and turn right for the right one. To open it one turn in the opposite direction, super simple.

Time to Escape

As often the case with new shoes and cleats, clipping in was initially a bit of a challenge but improved with every ride as the outsole started to wear. This was more of a pedal-shoe interface issue though. Shoes come with different sole heights so the distance between the cleats and the pedal contact surface varies. In this case I got something like a press fit which will change to a transition fit with increased wear of the outsoles. In case the fit is too loose there are ways to mitigate the gap: Crankbrothers offer traction pads for their pedals or one could use a spacer plate for the shoes. Surprisingly the shoes felt rather comfortable despite their tighter fit and continued to improve with every ride.

After 2 or 3 short rides it was time for an extended ride—a 80km tour with lots of climbing and technical sections. When testing shoes I opt for routes with longer ascents since climbing requires more pressure on the pedal and this way I can feel spots of discomfort rather fast. It also gives me a sense of the support level the shoes offer. Even after hours of riding, no complaints here, well done QUOC! The soles are really stiff for my tastes but in a positive way. Pedaling out of the saddle feels more efficient and the power transfer in general seems to be good. I am not a racer and very often ride in my FiveTens, but compared to the Giro Ramble VR the Escape Off-Road is a real racing shoe.

Off The Bike

As long as you avoid rocks and roots the Escape’s offer great traction off the bike. The grip on aforementioned surfaces including other hard surfaces could be better. This is partly an issue of the included spikes that work great on softer surfaces but degrease grip on hard surfaces. One could remove them but this would leave the threads open which, I assume, would fill up with dirt rather fast, so not an option. Some sort of pseudo spikes would be nice to fill that gap. As for the outsole, QUOC said they changed the rubber sole found on older models like the Gran Tourer II to increase durability.

Another issue when off the bike is that my heels tend to slip out of the shoe during hike-a-bikes, a common issue with “stiffer” shoes. This can be mitigated by turning the dial closure but this also means the shoes are getting tighter. To be fair, I never slipped out of the shoes and it isn’t much of an issue during normal walking or when riding. One thing I was skeptical about is the dial closure since I have heard from other people that the cables snatched, but my trust in this system has grown with every kilometer.

For the upper material QUOC chose some sort of polyurethane for its resilient, easy-to-clean properties. After about 500-600 km of riding through dust, grass and rocks I can attest to the upper quality: I “cleaned” them one time only with a wet cleaning cloth, simple. I also tested the Escape’s weather-resistance but without any rain in our region, a spray bottle did the trick to simulate a light drizzle: my feet remained dry. Next step was to test how fast they dry up and how comfortable they are to wear when getting soaking wet. I jumped into a puddle and did my best to not worry about wet feet and enjoy the moment like I did as a child. The shoes dried up rather fast and riding them wet didn’t feel uncomfortable.

Depending on the color of the Escape’s many tiny holes are more or less visible—these are venting holes and work quite well. The Escape Off-Road does not offer the best breathability I have ever experienced but the shoes that were more “airy” didn’t offer that level of weather protection. You can’t have it all!

Wrapping Up

To sum it up, I really enjoyed my time with the Escape Off-Road. There are a few things that could be improved or changed but overall I am impressed by their performance and comfort. Speaking of comfort, it is completely surprising how comfortable the Escape’s feel after the breaking in. I have rather wide feet and the shoes seem rather narrow, but somehow it all works. I will happily continue to wear them for more off-road oriented touring and keep you updated on their longevity.

Get them here for £150.00 GBP

✓ Pros
Great power transfer
Easy to clean & fast drying
Quick, easy adjustments thanks to the dial closure
No rubbing or hotspots even after hours of riding
✕ Cons
Slight tendency to heel slip while walking uphill
Not the best walking shoes
Spikes reduce grip on hard surfaces
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