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Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch Flat Mountain Bike Shoe ReviewBest Flat Mountain Bike Shoe Review

  • Grip 40% 40%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Protection 80% 80%
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Wet Weather Performance 30% 30%

Rubber Type: Vibram Megagrip

Rubber Pattern: Full Dot

Weight: 406g

Upper Material: Bonded, Seamless

Price: 150.00

What We Like: Durable, Stiff, Great Foot Protection

What We Don’t: Vibram rubber lacks grip

Pearl Izumi is a top-notch cycling apparel manufacturer well known for its clipless shoes. With the X-Alp Launch, Pearl Izumi is stepping into the arena of flat mountain bike shoes for the first time. We are happy to see more and more manufacturers challenging the old guard, which consisted of this Five Ten shoe and that Five Ten shoe. However, we shouldn’t expect companies to knock it out of the park on their first try, which is a good thing for Pearl Izumi. The X-Alp Launch is a serviceable flat mountain bike shoe but it lacks the grip that we wanted to see from it.

Compare to Similar Products

See Our Best Flat Mountain Bike Shoe Review!

Shimano GR9

  • Grip 90% 90%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 80% 80%
  • Protection 80% 80%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Wet Weather Performance 100% 100%

Pros

Comfortable

Amazing Grip

Great in Wet Weather

Cons

Difficult to readjust on the pedals

Rubber Type: Michelin

Rubber Pattern: Full Tread

Weight: 365g

Upper Material: Synthetic Leather

Five Ten Freerider Pro

  • Grip 90% 90%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Protection 80% 80%
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Breathability 50% 50%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Wet Weather Performance 90% 90%

Pros

Amazing grip without making it difficult to readjust foot position

Cons

Sole is too stiff for some riders

Rubber Type: Stealth S1

Rubber Pattern: Full Dot

Weight: 396.89g

Upper Material: Synthetic Leather

Shimano GR7

  • Grip 90% 90%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 80% 80%
  • Protection 80% 80%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Breathability 90% 90%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Wet Weather Performance 90% 90%

Pros

Comfortable

Amazing Grip

Great in Wet Weather

Very Breathable

Cons

Difficult to readjust on the pedals

Rubber Type: Michelin

Rubber Pattern: Full Tread

Weight: 396.9g

Upper Material: Perforated Synthetic with Mesh

Five Ten Freerider Contact

  • Grip 100% 100%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 80% 80%
  • Protection 70% 70%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Durability 30% 30%
  • Wet Weather Performance 50% 50%

Pros

Unbeatable Grip

Easy to adjust feat

Comfortable

Cons

Worst in review durability

Rubber Type: Stealth Mi6

Rubber Pattern: Half Dot

Weight: 389.8g

Upper Material: Textile/Synthetic Leather

Five Ten Freerider

  • Grip 90% 90%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 50% 50%
  • Protection 50% 50%
  • Comfort 80% 80%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Wet Weather Performance 80% 80%

Pros

Amazing grip without making it difficult to readjust foot position

Cons

Not as durable as Freerider Pro

Sole lacks rigidity for maximum power transfer

Rubber Type: Stealth S1

Rubber Pattern: Full Dot

Weight: 418.15g

Upper Material: Suede/Mesh

Afton Keegan

  • Grip 70% 70%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 60% 60%
  • Protection 70% 70%
  • Comfort 90% 90%
  • Breathability 50% 50%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Wet Weather Performance 80% 80%

Pros

Mono-directional shank makes for unbeatable rigidity on the bike and comfort off of it

Cons

Less grippy than top picks

Rubber Type: Intact Rubber

Rubber Pattern: Skate Style

Weight: 396.89g

Upper Material: Synthetic Leather

Five Ten Impact Pro

  • Grip 90% 90%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Protection 90% 90%
  • Comfort 60% 60%
  • Breathability 30% 30%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Wet Weather Performance 90% 90%

Pros

Unbeatable power transfer and foot protection

Great grip on and off the bike

Cons

Sole is too stiff for some riders

Rubber Type: Stealth S1

Rubber Pattern: Multi Dot

Weight: 550g

Upper Material: Synthetic

Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch

  • Grip 40% 40%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Protection 80% 80%
  • Comfort 70% 70%
  • Breathability 70% 70%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Wet Weather Performance 30% 30%

Pros

Durable, Stiff

Great Foot Protection

Cons

Vibram rubber lacks grip

Rubber Type: Vibram Megagrip

Rubber Pattern: Full Dot

Weight: 406g

Upper Material: Bonded, Seamless

Giro Riddance

  • Grip 50% 50%
  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Protection 80% 80%
  • Comfort 60% 60%
  • Breathability 80% 80%
  • Durability 80% 80%
  • Wet Weather Performance 30% 30%

Pros

Durable and Breathable

Cons

Vibram sole lacks grip

Rubber Type: Megagrip ISR

Rubber Pattern: Full Dot

Weight: 430g

Upper Material: Microfiber

Grip

The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch uses a Vibram dual compound outsole, with harder more durable Vibram Idrogrip rubber at the toe and heel, and Vibram Megagrip rubber in the pedal zone. The X-Alp Launch also uses two different tread patterns, with an open chevron design on the toe and heel, and a smoother siped rubber tread in the pedal zone.

While that all sounds high tech and very impressive, the real question is how does it perform on the bike? And the answer is not that well. 

Like the Giro Riddance, which also used a Vibram Megagrip outsole. The Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch is not a terribly grippy shoe. In fact, it might be the least grippy shoe in our entire flat mountain bike shoe review. The Vibram Megagrip is a harder compound and just does not stack up to the Five Ten Stealth rubber or even Shimano’s Michelin outsoles. On top of this, there is really no tread pattern to speak of in the pedal zone for your traction pins to sink into. This slick design worked great on the climbing shoe tacky Mi6 rubber of the Five Ten Freerider Contact, but it is a liability with the harder rubber compound of the X-Alp Launch.

Off the bike, however, the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch actually offers above-average traction. The open Chevrons help your footing in the dirt, if not on slick rock.

Rigidity and Protection

With a reference to the Alps in its name, it is no surprise that the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch is an all mountain focused shoe aimed at big days in big mountains. As such, it features a stiff sole. Like all stiff soled shoes, this is great for long days of pedaling, but the X-Alp Pro is not so stiff that it makes hike a bikes terribly uncomfortable.

The X-Alp Launch also shows its big mountain aspirations with its protective capabilities. A reinforced toe cap protects you from bashing your toes into rocks, while the Vibram Idrogrip toe and heel soak up vibrations from big hits, as does the midsole, which is made specifically for such a task. And while the X-Alp Launch does soak up impacts from big hits, it also deadens trail feedback as much as any flat mountain bike shoe that we reviewed. 

Comfort and Breathability

More narrow fitting than most, the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch does a good job of conforming to most feet, though riders with exceptionally high volume feet might want to size up. It is an extremely stiff shoe out of the box and retains its rigidity for power transfer as it breaks in. However, it seems to become more comfortable after a few rides.

The X-Alp Launch is a fairly breathable shoe, with water-resistant fabric. While its vents let water in, the shoe doesn’t absorb too much water, which makes it fairly quick to dry. All of this goes well with a shoe with a sole that offers below average grip, because you would not want to use it in bad weather conditions anyway.

Durability

Durability is a high point for the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch. The hard Vibram sole that offers little in the way of grip lasts forever, and the upper feels like it was made to last just as long as the sole.

Additional Features

There are not too many fancy features for the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch, outside of the dual rubber compound and dual tread pattern of its outsole.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line on the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch is more of a bottom line on the Vibram Megagrip outsole. Two shoes in our review featured the Megagrip outsole and they were the two shoes that offered the least grip. This is too bad, because all of the parts of the X-Alp Launch that Pearl Izumi actually made were spot on for the type of big mountain shoe that they set out to create.

If grip isn’t important to you, and you want an exceptionally durable shoe that offers solid performance in all other categories, then the Pearl Izumi X-Alp Launch might be the flat mountain bike shoe for you. However, at $150, it is in the same price range as the Five Ten Freerider Pro and Shimano GR9, both of which offer all of the things that the X-Alp Launch offers, with tons of grip to boot.

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