EVA cushion in heel and flex in toe for comfortable hike-a-bike
Sticky rubber tips on lugs for excellent grip on smooth and/or wet rocks
Stiff carbon midsole adds efficiency
Barely heavier than most top-of-the-line racing shoes
Interchangeable arch inserts
High-volume fit may be too roomy for most feet
Bulky buckle, and no micro-release
Drainage could be improved in toe area
The Pearl Izumi X-Project 2.0 is an outstanding MTB or Cyclocross shoe, especially for serious riders who don’t want to sacrifice off-bike comfort and performance just to save some weight. Most riders won’t difference in weight or stiffness between this and a top-end shoe, but they’ll definitely notice it during hike-a-bike sections—and in their wallets. It is especially ideal for marathoners who may find themselves hiking a lot during a long ride or race. Even serious racers can appreciate this shoe as a day-to-day training shoe they can beat up without sacrificing performance—or doling out a fortune on their second pair.
The Pearl Izumi X-Project 2.0 is a lightweight, race-ready, SPD-compatible MTB or Cyclocross shoe with 1-buckle, 2-strap closure system. A patent-pending carbon outsole adds stiffness for power transfer, but a flexible area in the toe allows for more natural hiking/running. Plus EVA padding in heel and co-molded rubber tips on outsole lugs (and under arch) also add off-bike performance.
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. Only the most aggressive racers will notice any flex. But the plate is tapered in the toe area to allow more flexibility under the toes for more natural walking when necessary, with no effect on pedaling efficiency.
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 straps follow the foot’s contours well, so the front can be cranked without pinching. But there’s simply too much volume in the instep to get a snug fit—I have relatively high-volume instep, and the last “click” was still not quite tight enough. Narrow feet will have an especially tough time securing the upper sufficiently. But interchangeable arch inserts, in a substantial insole make up for some of this, especially with the high arch installed.
Closure System Two lower, Velcro straps offer solid security with easy use. The toe strap can easily be “set-and-forget.” But the upper buckle is a bit large overall, and a lower profile would mean less potential for hitting rocks. And while cranking down is easy with the ratchet buckle, there’s unfortunately no micro-release, so if you over-tighten, you’ll have to release it manually then tighten again: a big negative for this level shoe. The buckle offers two positions, but the strap is not adjustable.
*Editor’s note: Pearl Izumi has said the S15 model’s closure will switch to dual, bi-directional Boa dials.
Construction & Durability 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 bullet-proof 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 and slightly padded heel, this is undoubtedly the best combination of off-bike traction/comfort and pedaling efficiency/lightweight I’ve ever seen. You can literally run across rocks and roots—even when wet—with confidence and agility. Cross riders will especially love the flexible toe on dismounts and steep hike-a-bike sections. And all-day riders will really appreciate the padding in the heel—especially when walking into the pub at the end of the ride.