DMT GK1 Gravel Shoes Review: Knit for Speed!

Knit construction stiff sole makes for a lightweight gravel racing shoe

DMT has been making a name for itself with pioneering knit construction for cycling shoes. I’ve been testing their GK1 gravel shoe over the Canadian spring and appreciating the great fit and performance.

Highlights:

  • Knit design and no-tongue construction provides glove-like fit.
  • Light weight.
  • Stiff sole.
  • Very resistant to mud suck!

Considerations:

  • No toe stud compatibility.
  • Stiff sole does not skew its use towards bikepacking or extended hike-a-bike adventures.
  • No shoe horn included with this model

Overall:

  • A beautifully fitting shoe that likely best serves dedicated gravel racing

 

Fit for Purpose
One’s idea for an ideal off-road shoe varies greatly depending on your intended use for the shoe.  Are you gunning for CX or MTB XC racing needing stiffness and the capability for toe studs?  Are you a bikepacker looking for all-day comfort and potentially a lot of hike-a-bike?  Are you a gravel racer wanting a combination of stiffness and comfort?

That’s not to say that one shoe can’t do it all, but it always helps to have an idea for your intended use before you go shopping, and to keep these uses in mind as you get bedazzled by all the shiny new kicks on the shelves or online.

I would characterize the DMT GK1 as ideally suited to the rider focused on gravel racing, or drier CX races where lots of mud or running doesn’t feature.

DMT GK1 Features

The GK1 follows the latest shoe trend of being lace ups. This is my first year of using lace up shoes in at least 30 years. I’ll admit that I’m neither an advocate nor a detractor of the move towards laces as a general philosophy, as I have a perfect fit with a dual-dial system on my road shoes. The fit on the GR2 is certainly more adjustable and nicer overall than the dual-velcro and ratchet mountain bike shoe that I’ve worn for the past few years, as the ratchet always seem to be either too loose or too tight rather than just right.

The GK1 has a beautiful knit construction for the upper. Knit shoes theoretically can be designed much like carbon fibre, in that the material and its placement can be customized across the upper compared to the uniformity of a natural or synthetic leather.

In the case of the GK1, more material is laid up across the top arch of the shoe. This includes channels for the grommets, which are woven into the knit construction rather than single perforations in the material. What this does is really distribute pressure and fit across the entire arch of the foot, rather than be localized over the laces or at the grommets.

The terrific fit is also aided by the no-tongue design, with the knit construction instead completely covering the upper. This also reduces weight from not requiring a typically thickly padded tongue that overlaps the upper.

The flip side of the no-tongue design is that the GK1 can be difficult to put on. And by that, it meant that my first order of business was to head out and buy myself a shoe horn to have any chance to put them on. Without this, you’re likely to quickly crush or wear down the heel cup.

The inside of the heel cup feature a wide distribution of soft and sticky rubber dots. Along with the no-tongue design, this also makes the GK1 very difficult to get off, which is also exactly what you want if you know you’re going to be stomping through deep shoe-eating mud.

The fit being nice and snug for me also means that it’s relatively narrow and low in volume. Beyond fit being a highly personal issue, I don’t ride with any orthotics, so it’s definitely worth trying them on with your orthotics to see if the fit is right.

The toe area features a high scuff cup that should help with longevity, though it’s not the toughest material nor the thickest.

The sole is on the very stiff side of the off-road shoe continuum. It features a Michelin outsole that has fairly minimal coverage towards the back and no compatibility with toe studs up front.

The SPD attachment has two fore-aft settings, enabling more versatility with cleat positioning.

Paris-Ancaster Race Notes
I used the GK1 during the famous Paris-Ancaster gravel race in late April here in southern Ontario, a 98 km race (4:30 finish time for me) with about 600 m of elevation that started at about 6°C and hit about 20°C by the end. The off-road segments featured a LOT of wheel-swallowing deep mud through farmer’s fields, multiple unavoidable mud bogs, and the two famous mud chutes near the finale before a final hard dirt climb to the line with 18% pitches.

Here are some of my notes from riding the GK1 that day:

  • The laces worked perfectly. I never had to readjust the laces and I had no hot spots or any pinch spots.
  • While my back was causing me issues all day, the stiff sole felt solid in transferring my meagre power to the pedals without causing any foot soreness over the long day.
  • Most importantly, the shoes did not get sucked off tramping through the deep mud bogs, nor did they develop any slop in fit requiring readjustment of the laces.
  • The GK1, despite being thoroughly coated with mud, washed off to looking brand new with a good hosing down.

So the race confirmed my notion that the GK1 work great for gravel racing, being comfortable for a long hard day.

Summary
The DMT GK1 is a really nicely fitting shoe (for me) thanks to the laces along with the no-tongue design and full knit construction upper. The tradeoff is a bit of hassle with usually needing a shoe horn to put them on. The stiff sole helps with power transfer, but may make it less suited for bike-packing adventures over rough terrain and extended hike-a-bikes. From my view, the GK1 is a great shoe for gravel racing and most North American style CX racing.

The retail price is $219.99.
Where to buy: https://www.alebikewear.com/product/dmt-gk1-gravel-cycling-shoes-bourdeax/

 

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