Review: Lake’s No Holds Barred CX401 Road Shoes
What happens when one of the most experienced names in cycling footwear decides to build a no-holds-barred racing shoe? With over 30 years’ experience in building cycling shoes, Dutch company Lake certainly know a thing or two about what works and doesn’t. Combine this desire and background and you get the CX401.
The CX401 makes use of all four premium cycling footwear elements: carbon fiber (bathtub sole), metal (steel BOA cable closure), synthetic (Outlast thermoregulating liner), and–of course–hide (kangaroo leather uppers). Throw in a heat-moldable carbon heel cup and the option for custom color combinations (ours are a special all-white edition), and the Lakes can be modified as much as most anything this side of a full-custom shoe. But how do they ride?
In order of impression, the CX401s are stiff, light, and comfortable. The three-dimensional carbon fiber sole is as deep as that from any volume producer and make for a fantastic foundation. Initially a bit narrow and pinch-y in places, a quick session with the oven and some heavy gloves had heel cup molded to securely (but comfortably) hold my medium-width feet. That deep heel cup does make tapping the foot back a part of my pre-ride ritual. Once in place, the Lakes certainly stay put.
Sizing-wise, the Lakes are consistent with Shimano road shoes, if slightly narrower at midfoot. The pronounced shaping of the carbon fiber sole still makes itself known at the outside of the arch- but it’s more unusual than uncomfortable and is quickly forgotten when riding. Our size 43.5 samples hit the scales at just shy of 300g apiece- light, but not frighteningly so. At 140lb, I’m not going to be able to discern the small stiffness differences between top-end shoes, but the Lakes are easily equal to the stiffest I’ve worn.
Wearing kangaroo shoes is (mentally) odd at first, but the leather is said to be one of the strongest available- especially when cut into extremely thin layers. Its use in motorcycle gear points to the material’s durability. The thin leather certainly is soft and does keep feet securely in place during long rides. Our time together has been in cooler weather, but the mesh areas are reasonably sized, the Outlast liner used in the heel and tongue is a proven thermoregulator, and both are aided by a number of vents in the sole.
I worried early on that the single Boa closue would lead to hot spots- but this hasn’t been the case, even in lightweight socks. The single Velcro strap isn’t intended to add retention so much as logo room, but it does keep the shoes in place when the Boa closure is released, making small on-bike adjustments that much easier. The strap also exposes some slightly unfinished materials when pulled back- not a functional issue, but a slightly off note at the top end of the price and performance spectrum.
In contrast to the Boa 2 closures used on Specialized’s S-Works Evo shoes, the push/pull model used here completely releases tension when pulled away from the shoe, making entry and exit quick and easy. A reverse-winding left closure would be a nice improvement for future models, but after early skepticism, I have had great experiences with he reel closures over the past couple of years.
Nits? In the interest of weight, the combination of a narrow (replaceable) heel pad and a rounded carbon heel require care on mid-ride convenience store Linoleum- but these are race shoes. Rather than providing a board-flat base and relying on the rider to provide supportive insoles, Lake have built a good deal of support into the shoes. I find the arches comfortable, but their shape might be too much for some.
And then there’s the price. At $499, Lake are asking about as much as anyone can for an off-the-peg shoe ($525 for the limited edition white and black released last fall- the standard white/red is shown above). For the money, Lake can’t afford to overlook anything in the shoes’ construction or performance. Fit is an inherently personal thing (and more so for feet than anything else), but if the CX401s are in your price range they deserve consideration. They’re light, stiff, and seem set to last a good long time. If the fit works for you, the CX401s shouldn’t let you down.