The Garneau Course Air Lite is a premium shoe that is comfortable enough for long rides, and light and stiff enough to race with. The closure system is especially well done, and the upper positively encases the foot for an almost luxurious feel. A low stack height makes the Garneau Course Air Lite a natural choice for racers or others chasing comfort and efficiency.
The Garneau Course Air Lite is a stiff soled shoe that uses titanium inserts to increase power transfer and stiffness from the sole to the cleats (while also reducing weight). The shoe is fabulously stiff in the sprint and climb, and the lightweight nature of it makes that rigidity even more appreciable. The upper is not nearly as stiff (rigid) as other shoes we tested and is comfortable throughout, which may cost a bit in terms of the power transfer. Made of one piece of material, there are few seams, and there are substantial air holes which can also impact the power transfer, however the movement was subtle at best, and the air movement and drainage much appreciated. The Carbon Composite HM Air-Lite outsole is exceptionally stiff, and low profile (stack height), which may or may not suit your needs. Some prefer a low profile sole, but they are not fun to walk in.
The two dial BOA system allows precision tension of the Course Air Lite which enables the single piece upper to absolutely hug the foot. A narrow foot may find some movement in the Garneau, whereas testers with standard width feet felt right at home.
The interior of the Garneau Course Air Lite is without seams, just a transition at midfoot from a more plush material to the unlined upper. Testers didn’t report feeling that transition at all. The heel cup is snug and stable. Two sets of Coolmax insoles maximize airflow through the shoe. The contour on the Garneau Course Air Lite was called out by testers, which unlike other shoes we tested really accommodated the foot in a comfortable way, versus “encouraging” the foot to accept the shoe’s rigid structure. Sometimes you need to try several shoes to see what feels best on your foot.
We considered the Garneau Course Air Lite as the most enjoyable closure system across the 6 shoes we reviewed that were a combination of dial closures coupled with Velcro fasteners. The Boa IP1 micro-adjustment dials provide small adjustments with each “click” and operate forwards and backwards, with the ability to pull up for quick release. The toe lacing is served by the lower of the two Boas, and it provides excellent closure along the forefoot. The HRS-400 anti-slip membrane in the heel provides additional support and secures the heel, which is truly activated when the Boas are tightened down. When the Boas are fully opened, the laces unfurl, which allows them to catch on things.
With only a small amount of time with each shoe, we can only make judgments based on observation, and modest wear and tear. The shoe’s upper is made of a “light and breathable microfiber” which did show marks very clearly, but was not easily abraded or scratched. There are several firm mesh panels on each shoe for breathability and should wear well over time. The stitching on the Garneau Course Air Lite is consistent with other shoes in the class and appears high quality, and the glue lines are nicer than most.
A strength of the Garneau Course Air Lite is the intentional airflow and breathability. The patented Air Channel System allows air to be naturally driven through the front of the shoe by way of your forward momentum. The Garneau Course Air Lite also has perforations along both sides and along the tongue to work in concert with the large vents in the front. This makes the shoe a wonderful hot weather option, though less enjoyable in marginal temps where the feet can get cold. The drainage was well tested in several torrential storms, and the drainage is better than most due to the large mesh component of the outsole.
Louis Garneau’s Course Air Lite feels like a good value considering the prices we see in the category. More comfortable and light, at a price ($360) that is lower than most. This is an impressive shoe that has plenty of comfort, while offering all the stiffness required for a race or a long ride.
Seth Portner has been riding and racing mountain bikes since the late 1990s, specializing in XC, marathon and ultra-marathon events. He also enjoys regular multi-day road tours, and is an accomplished ultrarunner and XC skier. Seth, his wife and their daughter all split their time between Lyons and Winter Park.