Tuesday, June 18, 2019

VITTORIA...as in shoes

VITTORIA...as in shoes

Zio Lorenzo's been a fan of Vittoria shoes since his first visit to an Italian bicycle shop, probably three decades ago. He hated the free shoes provided by a sponsor of "those other guys" though their SPD pedals were a hit.

This shop had every brand of Italian cycling shoe you could think of and then some....including Vittoria. They'd had a lot of success back with Stephen Roche but Lorenzo hadn't heard much about them for years, but after trying all the brands he bought the best-fitting shoes (isn't that what's most important with shoes?) for his feet, which were Vittoria.

A few years later his old friend "Chairman Bill" of Torelli signed up as importer/distributor for the USA. What luck!!! Now Lorenzo could help promote his favorite shoe brand and maybe even score some on the "bro deal"!

Of course the next time we were in Italy we headed over to visit Vittoria as they're barely an hour away from Piedmont Cycling Resort. We became friends with the family and made visits now and then and also saw them at industry shows and at a few races.

They recently introduced a new shoe - the Tierra. I know, "gravel" is the hot thing now, but if you like the ease of walking of the SPD (two-bolt, MTB style) pedal this shoe has a lot to offer beyond its gravel designation.

Zio Lorenzo with Edoardo Vercelli (son of the founder, Celestino a pro back in the day) at Vittoria HQ. Over the years they've sponsored many of the greats of Italian (and other) cycling though these days the costs of this are astronomical. More about that later.

Here's the shoe. It also comes in a sort of purple color but Zio Lorenzo thinks shoes should be black with rare exception. Laces have come back into style recently and these lace up nicely, making you wonder why they went away. Only time will tell if mid-ride adjustments become an issue, but the shoes fit like....well.....the proverbial glove.

Note the SPD bottom. Two-bolt MTB style cleats only with minimal knobby bits to keep 'em from contact with the ground so you can walk, drive the support car and even climb a ladder to load bikes in a pinch. With a carbon-reinforced sole and the reasonable contact area on modern SPD-style pedals, why anyone other than pros who get paid use three-bolt, slippery plastic cleats that wear out when you walk on them and then fail at the worst possible moment as a result is a good question!

Note the tricolore lace eyelets. These are the kind of details Italians put into their products. These shoes are 100% Made in Italy and each pair still faces final inspection by Edoardo's mamma before they go in the box.

Update: After using these shoes in one of the hottest summers on record, I can report they vent pretty well. I'm one of those who doesn't much notice the air flow characteristics of a shoe until it's cold and you wish they DIDN'T vent so well, but in direct comparison from one day to the next with MTB shoes that sport mesh and larger vents, these are just fine. The tiny, laser-drilled holes don't look like they'd offer much airflow, but they work.

These daze it seems there's a new shoe brand coming out every day, many with Italian-sounding names on them. Just like the rest of the bike business these days, most of 'em come from....China.

Of course the importer/distributors of these Asian shoes often claim they have their products manufactured in the best possible place on earth...but they're not so vocal when it comes to a question of where this might be. Zio Lorenzo asked this very question to a reviewer of a high-end pair of shoes priced at close to $500. The answer? "Not in Italy" Yep, he wouldn't tell me. Laws require labels to indicate country-of-origin so the reviewer could easily have looked at the tag sewn inside, but for some reason didn't want to divulge this. Why?

The most likely reason is MONEY...profit. Getting $500 for a pair of shoes made in China results in a far larger profit-margin compared to shoes made in Italy. What can you do with this much larger profit margin?

Other than get rich if your shoes sell well, you can spend a lot of money sponsoring pro teams and riders along with other marketing efforts. If your shoe brand is part of a big bike brand or other group of products that are in-demand, you can even go as far as suggesting your dealers (the bike shops) stop carrying competing products that might actually be superior so yours don't suffer in comparison. 

Who benefits from this? It's not YOU!

Case-in-point: Zio Lorenzo heard from a long time bike shop employee a few years ago. This fellow spent his entire racing career using whatever shoes the shop stocked, which were pretty much always made in China. He'd laugh when Zio Lorenzo would go on about the fit and quality of Italian-made cycling shoes, figuring it was just him being an unabashed Italo-phile.

Until one race day. He forgot his racing shoes! Luckily for him another competitor had a spare pair in his size with the same type of cleat bolted on to 'em. What luck?! He strapped 'em on and raced.

The next time Zio was in the store, the guy told him the story of discovering the superior fit of ITALIAN cycling shoes as the shoes he'd borrowed were the best fitting cycling shoes he'd ever worn. The shop soon became a stocking dealer despite the protestations of the sales rep from the big-brand bike company!

As Vittoria says: "Italians do it better!" Try 'em yourself and see if you don't agree. I've never met anyone who went back to cheap Chinese shoes after they've worn shoes Made-in-Italy.

My final question for the shoe reviewer should have been: "Why not tell everyone where the shoes are made? Are you (they) afraid customers will be less enthusiastic about paying $500 if they know the shoes are made in China?"

No comments:

Post a Comment