Matthew Pavlik, a Tennessee native and Colorado transplant, is a NOLS New Zealand semester graduate and corporate wellness professional living in the Fort Collins, Colorado. When not working, Matthew can be found backcountry skiing, mountain biking, backpacking, or taking advantage of all the trail access the Front Range has to offer. He also writes for the Try Hard Club, an online journal that focuses on community, inspiration, & intention. Follow them on Instagram: @try.hard.club. Photos taken by Doug Liedle @dougliedle.
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After years of using Pearl Izumi running shoes, bike shorts and gloves, I was excited to try the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II mountain biking shoes because of their advertised all day comfort and versatility.
While taking in my first impressions of the X-Alp Launch II’s, two features stood out:
- The micro-adjustable BOA closure system: it allows for a uniformly snug fit at the start of a ride, as well as easy adjustment if your feet swell throughout a long ride.
- Their sleek, low-profile design: they almost look like a rugged trail running shoe, so they look as good off the bike as they do on it.
On my first ride in the Launch II’s, I decided to try and keep it a little more mellow with around thirty miles on primarily gravel and dirt roads. I knew this would be enough time to get a good initial impression, but not enough to get punished if the shoes didn’t work out. About midway through the ride I ended up on a washboard style dirt road. After twenty minutes of getting thoroughly rattled and constantly reminded of the complete lack of suspension on my cyclocross bike, I hopped off to stop and take a break.
While the rest of my body ached, I noticed my feet weren’t throbbing like normal, so I knew the EVA cushioning and the carbon shank in the sole were keeping my feet happy in rough conditions. I also noticed the BOA system stayed firm and secure without needing any adjustment during the ride, something that I think will continue to hold true during all-day rides.
Spring riding in Northern Colorado can be strange. Long spells of warm, dry heat make it feel like summer is here to stay, but a surprise snow storm will teach you (and your gear!) to be ready for anything. The Launch II’s have held up well in the variety of conditions we’ve had, from the hot and dry days to getting splashed and doused in the spring creeks from the snow runoff. Still, through it all, the shoes are no worse for the wear in looks or function. After a couple hundred miles of gravel and single track, the shoes still look and feel fantastic, so I have no concerns so far about durability. Regarding fit, my street shoe size is an 8.5/9 so I went with a 42 and found the fit to be exceptional.
- Comfortable fit on all-day gravel rides.
- Bi-directional closure allows for a snug fit which eliminates hot spots.
- Low, below-the-ankle construction for a light-and-fast feel.
- Efficient power transfer due to the carbon shank.
- The carbon rubber sole provides secure traction when tossing my cross bike over my shoulder to scamper up rock.
- Breathability could be an issue on long summer days
- Not the lightest shoe on the market. It’s 400g per size 42 shoe (including SPD cleat), which matches up with the advertised 380g weight without cleat, but considering the comfort level of the shoes I don’t mind the extra weight.
The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch II MTB shoes are as good as advertised. They have really become a true quiver killer as I foresee myself using these as my go-to shoes for any ride regardless of trail condition: whether it be a several hour cross-country ride on technical mountain trails, or just a fun day out grinding on the gravel rounds with my friends. If you are looking for a pair of mountain bike shoes to handle mixed terrain with solid power transfer and all-day comfort, make sure to check these out, you won’t regret it.