It isn’t often that we get the chance to offer a long term review along side of a first look of a new product, but that’s exactly what has happened with the Pearl Izumi X-Project 1.0. We first got a chance to check out the shoes right around a year ago when we attended their launch in Laguna Beach. After returning home with an early sample of the neon green slippers, they were on my feet most of the Summer. While we were putting them through the paces, Pearl Izumi was busy working out the details with their ground breaking lightened outsole with a co-injected rubber tread from an Italian hiking boot manufacturer. As often happens in the manufacturing world, this took longer than expected which caused the delay in shipping.
Fast forward a year, and the production versions of the X-Project are shipping. Is the X-Project as good as they claim? Find out after the break.
After a number of miles in the sandstone of Laguna, red rock of Sedona, and the dirt and rocks of California, Ohio, and in between, one phrase comes to mind – comfortable performance. These certainly aren’t your average race shoes, but that’s the point. On the bike you’ll be hard pressed to tell that these shoes are comfortable to walk around in, but they are. They certainly don’t flex as much as a trail running shoe – think more of a stiff hiking boot, but the flex is noticeable. Especially when you get back into a race shoe.
And even after a lot of walking in the shoes, the rubber soles are still in great shape. A big part of the X-Project design is the Italian sourced proprietary rubber outsole which does indeed offer better grip than your average mountain bike shoe. As far as the wear, I should say that most of the miles in these shoes took place in terrain that wasn’t incredibly rocky so keep that in mind.
One improvement to the X-Projects since we first got a hold of them involved beefing up the carbon plate under the cleat for better durability. At the very end of testing (and not checking the bolts all summer) I did manage to get one cleat to slip – something the new carbon plate should improve.
While I can’t say it’s easy to notice the shock absorbing EVA foam heel pad doing its job, it certainly doesn’t seem to hamper performance.
Another big change to the shoe is the move from the low profile micro adjust buckle on the prototype to the Pro 1:1 Anatomic adjustable buckle. Apparently the micro adjust buckle ran into issues when used in the dirt which to Pearl was not acceptable. Looking closely at the teeth on the two buckles, the adjustment doesn’t look to be much different, and if it makes the shoes more durable we’re all for it. The buckle still attaches to the inside of the shoe with a 3 point anchor allowing you to fine tune the location of the compression strap. Which is really the only source of potential issue we came across – if you are prone to rubbing the inside of your shoe against the crank arm, you may run into issues clipping the buckle anchor on the crank. Personally I haven’t had any issue, though Marc mentioned it was bugging him.
Personally, the fit of the X-Projects is a step above of what Pearl has offered in the past. There is less bunching of the uppers (partly due to the 25° backswept straps I’m assuming), the fit is snug but not tight, and the shoes are comfortable on hours-long rides. Thanks to the tuneable PI 1:1 Insole System, you can easy fine tune the shoe to better fit your foot with the different Total Tune Performance Inserts. There are two different heights for the arch support and the varus wedge and of course you can run them completely flat as well.
Thanks to the fully bonded mesh upper and the vented insoles, the shoes drain and breath quite well. Keep in mind that this also makes the shoes pretty cold in when the temperature drops.
In spite of the changes to the shoe, weight is very close to our samples. Even closer if you think that the worn down tread shaved a few grams. At 393g without cleats, the X-Project 1.0 is pretty light considering the chunky outsole. However, the weight is pretty far from the claimed 320g listed on their site.
Overall, if the production version of the X-Project proves to be as comfortable, stiff-yet-flexible, and durable as our samples did, they come highly recommended. If there isn’t a category for a “trail” shoe, there is now.
X-Project 1.0 retail for $280 and are offered in unisex sizes 38-47 in 1/2 sizes, as well as 48 and 49.