Pearl Izumi X-Project 2.0 Bike Shoe
- Fully Bonded upper eliminates uncomfortable seams and hotspots
- Bi-directional Closure: delivers a semi-custom fit by gathering equally from both sides for even foot retention, with the precision of a micro-adjustable Boa reel
- New BOA IP-1 reel offers two way micro-adjust to easily tighten and loosen the shoes while riding, plus pop-to-release for quick and easy shoe removal
- Run shoe EVA foam heel absorbs impact for off-the-bike comfort
- Full-length tapered carbon fiber plate (patent-pending) gives on-the bike power transfer and off-the-bike hike-ability
- Co-molded rubber tips on hollow TPU lugs provide traction on an extremely lightweight bottom unit
Size Tested: 44
Blister’s Measured Weight: 365 & 359 g (Size 44 with SPD cleat)
Test Locations: Moscow Mountain & Horseshoe Canyon, ID; Teton Canyon & Teton Pass, WY
Days Tested: 16
While Marti Bruce reviewed the more Enduro-oriented Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II last summer and found it to be an efficient option for trail riding, I’ve been spending time in the X-Project 2.0, which takes more cues from the XC / Cyclocross end of the spectrum. Pearl’s racing heritage is evident just by looking at the X-Project 2.0, and it is billed as a “perfect shoe for mountain bikers and cyclocross racers alike.”
I’m not a leg-shaving XCer, and I haven’t dabbled in ‘cross racing for a few seasons. But I was curious to see how one of Pearl’s more efficient shoes performed for all-around trail riding.
I wore the size 44 (US size 10) X-Project, which is a half size up from the 9.5 I usually wear in street shoes. I have a very high arch and instep with a pretty wide forefoot (Five Tens fit me well), and I was glad I sized up since I think my regular size in the X-Project would have been too narrow and low volume. The size 44 X-Project 2.0 fits me well, but as always, we recommend trying on footwear if you’re unsure about your sizing.
I didn’t run into any terrible hot spots or blisters wearing the X-Project 2.0, and I’d attribute a lot of that to the adjustable insole system Pearl includes with the shoes. They come with several footbeds with slots for the included spacers so that it’s easy to dial in the footbed for your particular feet. Of course, if you’re already using a custom footbed with your bike shoes this is irrelevant, but I ended up really liking Pearl’s semi-custom insoles, to the point that they now migrate between several different pairs of my shoes.
The X-Project uses a BOA system combined with a velcro strap over the toe to secure the shoe. I’m a pretty big fan of BOA systems. I know some people prefer laces so that they can more easily adjust pressure along the foot, but I’ve been fine with BOA systems, and find that they’re quicker to use, and don’t generally get as gummed up with crud as my laces do. (If you do happen to prefer regular laces, it looks like it should be pretty easy to swap them in, as long as you don’t mind sacrificing the knob on the tongue.)
At first glance, the BOA system, combined with what looks like a very thin tongue seems like it might be very uncomfortable. But the tongue is actually better padded than most other shoes (bike or otherwise) I’ve used, and the BOA cinches it down comfortably.
Stiffness and Pedaling
Given my more gravity-oriented background, I’ve spent most of my clipless time in softer shoes, with my most “XC” shoe being an old SixSixOne Expert. So it might not be surprising that I found the X-Project 2.0 to be very stiff and to transfer power very well, but even when pushing at my max, I never felt like I was overpowering the shoe. A/B-ing them in the shop against the Giro Terraduro, the X-Project 2.0 felt noticeably stiffer. They aren’t necessarily full-blown race shoes (Pearl has plenty of more expensive, stiffer, and lighter options), but they are still much more race-oriented than something like the X-Alp Launch II, and wouldn’t feel out of place for cyclocross racing or long rides where a premium is placed on efficiency.
All that performance you get when you’re hitting the gas pedal does, however, impact how well the X-Project 2.0 works during hike-a-bikes. They’re not comfortable to walk in for long distances, and I found myself slipping around on steeper, rockier sections. A lot of that is probably due to the very hard rubber Pearl uses on the sole, but Pearl does include sockets to install toe cleats if you want.
There’s also no clear hinge point in the carbon sole to aid walking, but Pearl says it is tapered to help with walking. Personally, I didn’t really notice any advantage from that taper.
That stiffness and lack of traction means that the X-Project 2.0 isn’t my top choice for long exploratory rides, or even everyday trail rides with much walking; they’re just not comfortable enough or grippy enough for me to want to walk for more than a few minutes in them. If you’re looking for something that pedals pretty well but is more comfortable to walk in, shoes like the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II, Five Ten Kestrel, or Giro Terraduro are all better options.
At first I was not optimistic about the breathability of the X-Project 2.0, but I was pleasantly surprised. The perforated venting sections do a very good job of dumping heat. It was interesting to find that unlike most other shoes I’ve worn, where it felt like either the whole shoe was or was not breathing, I actually noticed the vented sections of the X-Project 2.o. They were much cooler than the rest of the shoe, which had the overall effect of making them bearable, even on hot, longer rides.
So far, I have no issues to report. The synthetic upper is a little scuffed up, but the rubber soles are holding up very well, probably because they are so hard. I’ll report back if any durability issues come up.
While the Pearl Izumi X-Project 2.0 is not the best choice for riders looking for a shoe that performs equally well both on and off the bike, it is a very good choice for those who place more emphasis on pedaling efficiency. If your trail rides often include scouting on foot or extended hike-a-bikes, there are more comfortable, grippy options that don’t sacrifice too much efficiency. But if you’re looking for a shoe to simply crank out miles — or a trail shoe that won’t be out of place in the occasional XC or cyclocross race — the Pearl Izumi X-Project 2.0 is a great option.