By the Dirt Rag staff
Pearl Izumi X-Project
Pearl Izumi is making a big push back into the mountain bike market with the flexible X-Project shoes. I say flexible because it’s designed to work for any use from Enduro racing to cyclocross, and because the slim carbon shank inside it is designed to flex much more than most high-end mountain bike shoes, allowing for a more comfortable ride and better walkability.
The upper is a bonded mesh with no seams and plenty of venting, while the layer of EVA foam adds some cushioning for walking. The sole is a durable polymer and the rubberized tread gives you more traction on slickrock. There will be three versions available at $280, $210, and $160, plus ladies’ versions.
After a lengthy hiatus from the US market, some rough financial times and a subsequent change of ownership, Lake Cycling will be back in the US market for 2013.
Fortunately for us, the current Lake company has changed very little. Shoe designer Chris “Hutch” is still at the helm designing functional footwear, which will continue to be produced in the same factory they’ve always utilized.
Lake’s MXZ301 and MXZ302 winter shoes have long been favorites around the Dirt Rag offices as they were some of the first widely available winter shoes. Not only that, but they’ve proven to hold up really well over the years, minus the occasional need for re-stitching one pesky seam. Fortunately for us, the MX303 has emerged as the next evolution of the Lake winter boot.
The new MXZ303 looks like it includes all of the great attributes of the MXZ302, while addressing some of the weaknesses. A simplified closure system utilizes a buckle that will not wear out like the hook and loop design of old. Pittards leather and the Vibram outsole remain.
Of course the MXZ303 is just one shoe in the Lake’s extensive lineup. Their MX331 is a full-bore race shoe; carbon sole, but with a nice rubber outsole. A high quality goat leather and a mesh upper wrap around a Thermaform heel cup to confirm to your feet. The MX331, like eleven other Lake shoe models is available in a women’s specific design.
Perhaps best known for its line of saddles, and then branching out into road shoes, Fizik is introducing two new mountain bike shoes for 2013, the M1 and the M5.
The top-model M1, above, is $400 and has similar sailcloth straps, heat-moldable insoles, carbon soles and offset tongue from the road shoes, but it gains a replaceable tread and kangaroo leather upper. Like Pearl Izumi did with its latest shoe, Fizik is dialing back some of the stiffness with an emphasis on walkability for the inevitable hike-a-bike or cyclocross use. The round item on the tread below is merely a magnet used to secure the shoe to the display rack.
The $200 M5 model, below, has a synthetic sole, non-replaceable tread, a simpler buckle, and standard insoles. It will be available in a women’s version as well.
Giro thought designing a skate-style shoe for flat pedals would be easy, but when it earned the services of one Aaron Gwin it became clear they had a lot to learn. Gwin was vital in helping to craft the new Jacket and Chamber shoes, designed for flat pedals or SPDs respectively. Both models feature a full Vibram rubber sole. Look for the Jackets ($120) to ship in November, the Chambers ($140) in January.
Giro was also displaying a new pair of commuter or trail shoes that combine riding performance with a light-hiking-style upper. They will retail for $80.
Famed Italian shoemaker Sidi continues to evolve its high-end racing shoes with the introduction of the Drako Carbon SRS. It does away with Velcro alltogether with the use of two Tecno cable-actuated buckles, similar to the Boa systems used by other brands. The carbon sole features the same replaceable tread blocks used on the Dragon shoes but the Drako weighs in at 100g less per pair. Available in shiny black and eye-catching yellow. They’ll set you back $450.