Gravel dudes using Giro Empire SLX w/ MTB pedals

Anybody know how all these gravel dudes seem to be setting up white, lace up Giro Empire SLX for use with MTB pedals like crankbrothers or SPD? Keegan, Zach Calton, Dylan Johnson, and more all use white Giro lace up road shoes with MTB pedals. Do they use drill custom holes and install their own inserts? Do they use cleat adapters?

I don’t use Empires, but I do use my old Giro Techlaces……I just use the Shimano SPD adapter.

The only downside to these is that you have limited fore / aft positioning options and the cleat needs to be pretty centered across the board. You have a few MM of lateral cleat movement available.

Thanks. Yeah, I recently started using a fizik road and mtb shoes bc they’re almost as narrow/low volume as giros (although they have a nice, wider toe box) and they have more cleat adjustment. Trying to go rearward. So if people are modifying Empires I’m curious.

And for CB pedals, there are 3-bolt cleats available. They’re called Quattros.

aaaahhhh. Interesting. Thanks.

Yeah, there is a 3-bolt cleat from Wellgo that is supposed to work with SPD’s, but I never felt like I had good engagement.

If anyone wants to try them and see if they work for you, let me know…I missed my return window so they are just gathering dust.

I believe in one of Dylan’s videos he said he uses the crank brothers adapter with egg beaters.

and stack height does tend to pile up…

Low stack height is THE reason I use XTR SPD’s IMHO they don’t perform better than Deore or XT, but the stack height is notable, and I can tell there’s something different when I switch from the Deore bike to the XTR pedaled bike.

I was really more curious to know if they’re installing their own inserts because I am starting to move my cleats rearward and the cleat position on giro empire road shoes is fixed. I don’t want to add stack height with cleat adapters because my saddle height is already so high. I’m not super interested in running MTB cleats on road shoes although I do like my Empire SLX enough that I’m a little curious to try it for gravel racing at least.

I did try a pair of VR90 altough honestly I found them to be brutal. cleat position was too far forward so I had to jack my saddle up, and something about the rigid upper, narrow fit and stiff sole made for a shoe I really wanted to take off.

Yeah I avoid adding stack at almost all costs. I do use XTR pedals on the gravel bike although I stopped using XT and XTR on the MTB because of pedal strike breakage. As I said below I was really more curious to know if these guys were installing their own inserts, mostly because I’m curious about creating a more rearward three bolt position on my own pair of empires, which have a fixed position.

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Yeah, I think you have mutually exclusive goals here….

Back in the day (late 90’s), I had a pair of Shimano SPD-R shoes adapted to accept 4-bolt Speedplay cleats directly (foregoing the 3-bolt base plate). But Speedplay did this directly for me as a favor as a professional courtesy.

But you should be able to do something similar….you would need to bore a oversize hole into the sole and then sink some helicoils in the holes. You will obviously void any warranty on the shoes and you better be sure you know where you want the cleats.

Yeah thanks, I’m mostly just curious. I went ahead and got some Fizik shoes which are also pretty narrow but which have cleat adjustment and a bigger toe box so I can size down a half size. They are not quite as glove like and supple as the giros, and they do add a little bit of stack. Maybe I will still try experimenting with the Giros and cleat adapters for MTB or bust out the drill press…

Worth noting that not all of these riders are using adapters. Not uncommon for pros to have custom shoes made per their specs.

Would be sweet to be able to pick you upper and pick your sole!


Vaguely related, but also really not, there’s some sweet Adidas indoor shoes that look super comfortable and have a very sleek sole that has two and three bolt mounting.

It’s not something I’ve considered heavily as all my racing is technical XC, but for those that want aero and two bolt. They’d be something to consider.

ETA: maybe I dreamt it. I just tried to find them to link but they’re all 3-bolt :man_facepalming:.

the Adidas shoes are definitely tempting. If they make something sleek with a stiff sole, esp a laceup, I will be powerless to resist.

Also note, many MTB shoes have more toe protection for rocks and branches than a road shoe. Both shoes carbon sole do a lot here, but the XC shoe might add a stiffer wall in front of your toes.

Keegan ran road pedals at Leadville. He posted bike photos before the race. I don’t know about the others.

Yes seemingly lots of road pedals at Leadville and many gravel races although it seemed like fewer road pedals at Unbound this year. I can see using road pedals at leadville and many gravel races although for general use it seems like being able to walk out or assist an injured partner in MTB shoes is a no-brainer. The crazy thing is that Keegan used road shoes and pedals at last year’s Park City Point to Point, a 75 mile/10K’ route that is mostly singletrack.

I use the empire sl for road with my assioma pedals. For cyclocross I’ve just got some giro empire vr90 spd shoes.
Very similar to the road version… Obviously heavier. One thg to note is they come up smaller.
Empire slx size 47 = vr90 size 48

If anyone else is wondering about running road pedals on their gravel bike, I exclusively run road bike pedals on my gravel bike - Giro Empires + old Shimano 105 5610 SPD-SL’s with the metal body. I’ve bashed the pedals on rocks before and done technical single track without any issue
My backup plan is putting my phone and other jersey pocket essentials in a pair of cheap water shoes like these - just slip phone etc into one bootie, then nest it inside the other bootie slipped into my jersey pocket. My plan if I ever have a serious mechanical and need to hike out is to take off my road shoes, slip their insoles into these booties, and wear the booties to walk out relatively unscathed without destroying my road shoes. Knock on wood, never used those booties