by Marc Basiliere
May 12, 2014
One shoe to rule them all?
One shoe to rule them all?
Looking for all the world like full-blown race slippers, Pearl Izumi’s X-Project 2.0 shoes are unique in that they are designed to work nearly as well off the bike as on. With a tapered carbon fibre sole plate, usefully-sized lugs, and even a cushioned heel, the pride of the Pearl stable aims not to add injury to the insult of walking in cycling shoes.
The middle model of three, the 2.0s combine a usefully durable upper with the lighter and stiffer of two available X-Project sole plates. The candy-coloured translucent outsoles proudly display the underlying carbon fibre, with grippy rubber tips providing traction. The usual two straps and a ratchet arrangement is designed to hold the shoe firmly to the foot, with a back-swept arrangement to better follow the top of the arch.
While unlikely to be anyone’s first choice for a daylong ramble, the X-Project 2.0s really do deliver when off the bike. The flexible forefoot approaches less-supportive ‘enduro’ shoes’ ability to find stability and purchase on uneven ground. Having drawn the short straw in a recent 24-hour race, it can even be said that the cushioned heels make running Le Mans-style starts (more) bearable. For those of us whose adventures trend toward misadventure, the ability to push comfortably and confidently is a godsend.
On the bike, the picture is every bit as good: there’s plenty of stiffness and support to go around (…and around, and around). Ventilation is good, thanks to the perforated uppers, but can’t match that of more mesh-intensive shoes (for that, there’s the X-Project 1.0). In exchange – and in keeping with their on bike/off bike mission – the 2.0s’ microfibre uppers have done a great job shrugging off the usual scuffs and scrapes, suggesting a long life ahead.
Included with the X-Project 2.0s are Pearl Izumi’s 1:1 insoles, which have pockets for forefoot wedges and arch inserts of varying thicknesses. A welcome no-cost addition, the inserts do take up more volume than other cycling insoles- be sure to check fit both with and without before committing to a size. Also on the subject of fit: your reviewer’s low-volume feet mean that the ratchet often bottoms against its stop, even with high-arch insoles fitted. Those with more normal feet shouldn’t have any issue, but do try with summer-weight socks before buying.
All in all, the X-Project seems like just the shoe for adventure- or cyclocross-inclined riders. The company has delivered on its promise of pedaling stiffness and off-bike capability, and – six months in – the materials have been more than up to the task. If the fit works, there honestly seems little reason for anything else in the closet.