From: Pearl Izumi
Pearl Izumi is the largest cycle clothing brand in the world and being owned by Shimano with their typical Japanese excellent quality control, is well made kit built to last. Traditionally with more of a bias towards road and commuter cycling, PI also has a range of well made MTB kit and the X-Alp Launch II shoes are aimed at trail riders and enduro racers…a category I definitely fit in to.
So, after a couple of early false starts with my Shimano M200 shoes I’ve been very happy with them since but only having one decent pair of shoes to cover my feet for daily commutes and MTB rides, sometimes meant damp or muddy rides to work if the previous day’s ride was a downpour or mudfest. So getting a second pair of shoes courtesy of the Pearl Izumi Champion programme was much appreciated.
Compared to the M200 shoes, the Alp X Launch shoe is lower cut and wider, and in Lime Green flavour…louder! Enduro by name, enduro by nature. A black version is also available of your shoe tastes are more stealthy in your preferences.
The highlight of the shoe is the BOA lace up system which consists of a wire lace connected to a dial. Rotate the indexed dial and it pulls the wire lace tight evenly across the foot. It’s really quick and easy and I really like it. Even easier, is undoing the lace…Pull the dial up and it pops the system open releasing all tension straight away. There is also a Velcro strap across the forefoot but for me, it has little effect in the shoe fit. I’ve got to be honest, I think I gave them the wrong shoe size (well that or I got the UK to Euro shoe size conversion slightly wrong) as the Alp X shoes are probably half a size to a size on the large size for me. Now, if I’d have been patient enough on the induction day, I could’ve swapped them for a different size but I was too eager to get out and ride bikes instead. Patience has never been my strong point, especially when it comes to new riding kit!
The shoes have a carbon fibre injected shank to improve power transfer when mashing on the pedals and whilst stiff enough, there is more noticeable flex compared to the M200. It’s not a huge amount and sometimes some flex is good for ‘feel’ and also when off the bike pushing. These would be best teamed up with a clipless pedal with a platform rather than XC spindle type pedals. Speaking of hike a bike, the tread is almost MTB tyre influenced in its appearance and whilst not too chunky, it grips enough on sloppy hikes and rocky walks.
The upper is not too thick and there’s a reasonable amount of ventilation however a sturdier toe box would be nice to protect the toes from getting jammed against rocks on tight trails. I’ve had a couple of instances of this on my local trails and once on a Dartmoor ride which cause some badass abrasion to the rubber bumper on the side of the shoe! The lack of significant toe protection isn’t exclusive to these though and my M200 shoes don’t have a more rigid toe box either, but for my local riding, I think this is something I might take into consideration a bit more down the line.
I’ve ridden the shoes almost exclusively for commutes over the last couple of months as well as local MTB rides and enduro races and despite being a little too large, they’ve been very comfortable with no hot spots or discomfort and have fended off granite rock encounters well so are tough enough! The insole is a basic one and as I’ve got used to the nice contoured one in my Shimanos, I think a good thicker aftermarket insole will help improve the fit for me and add a touch more comfort.
Very nice MTB shoes geared towards trail riding that might involved a bit of trail hike-a-biking as well. The BOA system is great and they seem to be a tough pair that’ll last some time. Not as stiff as some other shoes but comfy for all day riding.