Barely heavier than most top-of-the-line racing shoes
High-volume fit may be too roomy for most feet
Poor breathability and drainage in toe area
The Pearl Izumi X-Project 2.0 MTB shoe is for serious riders who don’t want to sacrifice off-bike comfort and performance just to save some weight. Serious racers should consider this shoe as a day-to-day training shoe they can beat up without sacrificing performance. Trail and ‘Cross riders will also appreciate the extra grip and tough exterior. The last runs wide, and drainage is a bit weak, although only in the toe area.
Stiffness/Power Transfer With a full-length carbon midsole the X-Project 2.0 is plenty stiff for most riders and racers, particularly Cyclocross, marathon, enduro and technical XC. Very aggressive or heavier racers may notice some flex under load, but at this price that’s to be expected, and it’s worth the tradeoff. But the plate tapers in the toe area which allows more flexibility under the toes for more natural walking when necessary, with no effect on pedaling efficiency (unless clips are placed far forward). The fit may allow some play, especially on smaller insteps, so that may mean a slight loss of efficiency especially when out of the saddle.
Fit/Comfort The shoe is extremely comfortable, on or off the bike, with mesh gel in the tongue, seamless toe box, and soft supple heel cup. The anatomical Velcro strap and Boa cables follow the foot’s contours well, and the centered, tongue-mounted Boa is quite clever and very effective. It closes evenly from instep to forefoot, and can be cranked tight without pinching, again, unless instep is on the smaller side. And since it’s bi-directional, micro adjustments are quick, precise, and intuitive, since both hands twist “forward” for tightening. Interchangeable arch inserts, in a substantial insole, round out the excellent fit. Unique in this group, and most MTB shoes, PI’s insoles offer interchangeable arch and 1.5mm and 3mm varus alignment support inserts. These are substantial and legitimately help dial the fit, unlike some of the more flimsy insoles and inserts out there that simply take up space.
Closure System This shoe is unique in the group with its centered dial, and this is almost entirely positive. The shoe is sleek and minimalist, especially on the sides, where bulkier buckles and straps can catch on – or worse, break – on trail obstacles. And unlike many buckles at this price point it’s micro-adjustable when loosening and tightening (many only allow this for tightening). Plus both sides tighten “forward” so users don’t have to reverse the twist with the left hand. And unlike PI’s road shoe with this buckle system, this one closes tightly and evenly without pinching, even when cranked. The cables pull equally from both sides, keeping pressure even all around. However, on the fly it’s a bit trickier than side-mounted dials, because of the hand angle.
Construction/Versatility Definitely built to last, the 2.0 offers seamless toe construction, and very few seams overall, plus a hard toe reinforcement and tough, almost rubbery synthetic outer. The outsole rubber tips (co-molded to bulletproof TPU) show no signs of wear and remained bonded securely. Some more aggressive riders may lament the lack of side reinforcements, but this would add considerable weight.
Off-Bike Performance With the flexible toe, slightly padded heel, and sticky rubber co-molded to the hollow TPU lugs, this is undoubtedly among the best combinations of off-bike traction/comfort and pedaling efficiency/lightweight we’ve ever seen. And because the lugs are hollow, the added weight of the sticky rubber is negated. Cross riders will especially love the flexible toe on dismounts and steep hike-a-bike sections, although there are more flexible options out there that may be better for this. And all-day riders will really appreciate the padding in the heel – especially when walking into the pub at the end of the ride!
Breathability/Drainage There’s not much room here for water to get in, only a small mesh vent over the toes, but if it does it’s not draining soon. Plus that small vent means less breathability. Combined with the relatively non-breathable upper and tongue, this is not the best hot- or wet-weather shoe.