It’s an enduro centric world out there and for 2016 Pearl Izumi has catered to this rapidly growing segment of the cycling industry. When this almost annoyingly non traditional segment of rider resurfaced on the scene only couple of years ago we were mesmerized with the fanny pack revival. With some research and observation under their belt Pearl Izumi has identified this crowds need for dynamic, multi-purpose gear that is comfortable and durable. With these needs in mind the brand team developed the X-Alp Launch which pleased many but lacked the design cues to make them irresistible. For Spring 2016 Pearl Izumi is launching the X-Alp Launch II (Coming Soon) with significantly different aesthetics and impressive comfort. With the growth of trail riding we have also seen the introduction of gravel bikes. Similar to the endure community, the gravel grinding crown demanded all day comfort that was overlooked for so long. With so many trails and so little time in our daily routine I have been collecting a few big tire road bikes myself. The new X-Alp Launch II only taunted me into riding them with the gravel bike to see how versatile they really are.
Dynamic in nature, the new Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II’s are built to take on any trail that nature throws at you. Out of the gate we noticed a beefed up toe box that felt pleasantly light. With this style of riding there is always action to be expected so protection on the forefoot is of most importance. The rubber used on the outsole and toe box is undoubtedly rock resistant. Sure, it will slowly break in over time and depending on how hard you ride it’s not impenetrable but it truly offers a blissfully comfortable feel on the pedal compared to standard lugged shoes. Most importantly in our eyes is the clean integration between the rubber outsole and main shoe. In the past shoes of his nature were prone to splitting up front and we don’t see any signs of this after a month of hard rides.
It’s no secret that my new cross rig doesn’t have suspension and this is exactly why I find myself hobbling to the couch after I ride my traditional mtb shoes. Both riding categories of enduro and gravel have a common denominator that entail long periods of time on the saddle in less than smooth conditions. Where the track and planned rock gardens end a rutted out steep descent or muddy climb begins. The new X-Alp II Launch is built to excel in conditions such as these with more comfort that any other shoe that you have in your arsenal.
After a long ride on my local trails with the cross bike I asked myself why my feet weren’t throbbing as usual? It’s not that my current shoes don’t fit well but rather sacrifice cushioning for power transfer and appeal. When you finally see the new design in your local shops you will find that they fit more like a beefy trail running shoe than anything else. Sure they may not have a raced out sleek look but Pearl Izumi did add a bit of love where it counts. Thats right, high impact EVA foam AND a carbon fiber shank AND Carbon rubber lugged outsole. This combo makes the Launch II incredibly comfortable both on and off of the bike. I can clearly remember jumping off of the saddle after a bone rattling descent and jumping up and down a few times looking for that arch and heel pain that normally rides alongside me. Simply stated, there wasn’t any to be felt this time. When placed in the right areas EVA cushioning simply works for all day riding. Paired with the carbon infused outsole and power shank this damping material makes Pearl Izumi’s new Launch II’s a possible replacement for all of out dirt shoes.Insane comfort and plenty of performance are what we value most when looking for a true do-it-all piece of gear.
The BOA closure system has become a standard in both the snow and bike industries for a custom tuned fit on a wide array of feet. With the dynamic and rugged X-Alp Launch II’s, Pearl Izumi integrated a single BOA closure on the tongue that pulls on the shoe equally from both sides for a truly comfortable and snug fit. This system works so well for a cycling shoe as your feet naturally swell during a ride. With a quick “pop” of the BOA dial we were able to quickly adjust the fit whenever needed. After a month of riding these I have yet to experience any pressure points whatsoever. You most definitely won’t find the to be true in all BOA shoes the market. Pearl Izumi strategically cut these shoes with a low profile below the ankle to make this possible. It’s amazing what a some quality rider feedback will do in the development process. I think you can see that we are believers in the new X-ALP II’s for mountain and gravel riding shoes. On the bike they perform and off of the bike they are easy and comfortable to walk in. For the first time those around you won’t know that your wearing cycling shoes.
* Similar to running shoes we recommend sizing this a half size up for riding fit. They are a mid-wide shoe from the heel to arch and more narrow up front.