REINFORCED - REIMAGINED - REINVENTED
Throughout history, cycling has always been innovative and obsessed with new ways of optimising the sport or making the ride more comfortable and pleasurable. Cycling is continuously evolving, and new, exciting products are presented each season. While some have taken years to develop, others are stable classics that are updated, tweaked, and remixed into newer versions:
faster, better, stronger.
Some might say that there isn’t much you can do to improve the humble cover sock, but the good folks at GripGrab, who are always striving to master wet weather products, beg to differ.
The term “If it ain’t broke, why fix it” rings hollow in the Research & Development Department at GripGrab. But before we get to the re-invention of the cover sock, it is essential to ask; what is a cover sock?
The cover sock – or “over socks” as they are also called – are a sure sign that spring is upon us. It is the strange cousin of the winter overshoe and appears at the party when it becomes too hot for winter overshoes while still being too cold to ride without anything over your toes and feet. But why a sock over your shoes?
To understand, we need to look to Belgium and to football. Cover socks in cycling originated back in the 1980s. Then, apparel was not as advanced as what you will find today, but the weather and conditions were the same. Harsh, wet, muddy, and brutal, as you see in Paris-Roubaix, Tour of Flanders, and all other Belgian Classics.
To keep their shoes and toes protected on the muddy cobbles, riders started to wear thick football socks and pull them over their shoes.
This is partly why cover socks are also referred to as “Belgian Booties”.
In order for riders to clip into their pedals, they would cut a long hole over their cleats, and one over their heel, to better position the socks over the shoes. Today, these holes are often pre-manufactured and stitched.
"When we see an existing innovation gap in our product line, we start working on a project like this."
A NEW FOCUS
Optimising is a significant word in cycling, and although the term “marginal gains” is a recent addition to cycling vocabulary, optimising has existed as long as cycling has. It is why riders in the 1980s started choosing socks instead of shoe covers, which are heavier and become even more so when wet. Although socks were lighter they would also get wet, until now, that is.
Chief Product Officer in Research & Development and GripGrab Founder Kristian Krøyer set about reviving the classic cover sock and shaping it into something far better able to withstand the hardship of wet, muddy and cold conditions, no matter which surface you choose to ride on. We caught up with Kristian on the first day of production of the Waterproof Knitted Road Shoe Covers.
Gripster Mag (GM):
How did you get the idea to create a waterproof cover sock?
Kristian Krøyer (KK):
The idea originated during the testing phase of the Aqua Shield High Cut Road Shoe Cover. The general feedback on this product was extremely positive, due to its highly water-resistant properties that shield the rider’s feet in heavy rain. However, according to our rider feedback, when the temperature drops, it does not offer enough insulation. Additionally, while the material used for the Aqua Shield, with its smooth and delicate surface, effectively deflects water and optimises aerodynamic performance, it comes at the cost of durability, making this product less than ideal for all riders. Our main purpose as a brand is to enrich peoples’ cycling lives. So when we see an existing innovation gap in our product line, we start working on a project like this. At the same time, we saw the success of our waterproof knitted gloves and socks. These products consist of a three-layer construction which offers more opportunities to increase performance in terms of insulation and durability. So while the knitted gloves and socks provide waterproof protection for your hands and feet respectively, we thought, why not make a waterproof knitted solution for the entire cycling shoe?
Under which conditions and on what surfaces have you tested the Waterproof Knitted Road Shoe Covers?
We started developing the product last autumn and have tested a series of prototypes throughout the winter season. We tested them on a wide range of surfaces and conditions, and gave them a good beating to test how they held up in extreme conditions. For instance, as a rider you normally try to avoid puddles on the road when it has rained, but in this case we deliberately aimed for all of them, the larger the better. It felt a bit like being a kid again, when you jump into puddles in your wellies! To fully test if a product is waterproof over a longer ride, you need to consistently hit water, so this was actually a fun thing to do. The product has been waterproof from the initial prototype, so the main developmental challenge has been to improve durability and fitting, and we we have worked quite intensely with this. From our experience there is nothing worse than cover socks that slip back and forth over the nose of your shoe when you stop and start. So, fitting-wise we wanted a cover sock which remained in place, but still had the durability to survive repeated stops and starts without getting frayed, which is the downfall of most cover socks. We have worked with different solutions to enhance durability and have come up with a good compromise between strength and flexibility that retains a very good fit, but at the same time makes it easy to get the shoe on.
Can you elaborate on the unique features the Waterproof Knitted Road Shoe Covers have? What sets them apart from all other cover socks?
Two things. First and foremost, being waterproof. In our research, we have not come across a waterproof cover sock like this before. There is a virtual sea of cover socks available on the market, but in the end they are simply just socks and they are not waterproof. Secondly, the choice of material and specifically the coating has made this product significantly more durable than normal cover socks. Due to these two unique factors, I believe the Waterproof Knitted Road Shoe Covers are a unique product, set ahead of the competition, and ready to enrich your cycling life well beyond what you expected from a product of this kind. Essentially you can say that it is a much more lightweight waterproof shoe cover, as it is technically a cover sock. It is the best of both worlds.
It seems that with the latest products GripGrab has released, there is a trend towards minimal product branding. Can you tell us a bit more about this transformation in product appearance?
Over the past year we have reflected on the purpose behind the brand. It has become clear that our fire comes from a dedication, deep within, to enrich lives through cycling. Our mission is to inspire cyclists to explore their cycling potential, and to create products that enable them to live it out. We strive to make the best cycling essentials that will have you covered on all surfaces and in all conditions. At the same time, we want to be the leading brand in cycling essentials that riders can combine with any apparel brand out there. This position calls for simplicity in product appearance and explains the new, more subtle product design line that you are seeing.
More than it appears.
Cycling fashions may come and go, but considering its obscurity and strange heritage, the classic cover sock remains a true, stable classic in the cycling apparel hall of fame. They say you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, and you may well believe it is just a normal cover sock once you see GripGrab’s new Waterproof Knitted Road Shoe Cover. Only this time, you can battle through all conditions as it is fully waterproof.
Now take me to the river!