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Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe ReviewBest Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe Review

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Best Application: XC, All-Mountain

Closure: Two BOA IP1 dials

Sole: Carbon Composite

Outsole: Molded Carbon Rubber Tips on TPU Lugs

Weight: 419g (size 44)

Upper Material: Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite

What We Like: Great Pedaling Efficiency, Comfortable and Grippy off the Bike

What We Don’t: Expensive, Least Durable Shoe in Review

Price: $350.00

The Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro is a shoe designed to do it all. While most high-end clipless mountain bike shoes specialize in one discipline, the Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro aspires to be your go-to shoe for everything from gravel biking to downhill. Does it live up to its aspirations? Yes and no, but for the price, you could buy two pair of clipless mountain bike shoes, one for each end of the spectrum.

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See Our Best Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe Review!

Shimano ME7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 80% 80%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

Comfortable

Versatile

Great Power Transfer

Great Off the Bike Traction

Cons

Not the Cheapest Nor the Lightest Clipless Mountain Bike Shoe

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Speed Lace System and Upper Ratchet Strap, Large Velcro Panel Over Laces

Sole: Carbon Fiber Composite

Outsole: Michelin Rubber

Weight: 425g (size 44)

Upper Material: Synthetic

Giro Empire VR90

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 60% 60%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 60% 60%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Ultra-Lightweight

Amazing Power Transfer

Cons

Too Narrow for Many

Questionable Durability

Best Applicaton: XC

Closure: Laces

Sole: Easton EC90 Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Vibram Mont Molded Rubber High Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 338g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Shimano S-Phyre XC9

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 100% 100%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 40% 40%
  • Comfort and Fit 90% 90%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Dual Boa Closure

Amazing Power Transfer

Cons

Expensive

Lack of Durability

Poor Off Bike Performance

Best Application: Cross Country Racing

Closure: Dual Boa IP1

Sole: Dynalast Carbon Fiber

Outsole: Dual-density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 390g (size 45)

Upper Material: Teijin Synthetic Leather

Giro Terraduro

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 100% 100%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 90% 90%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Well Rounded

Great On and Off the Bike

Great Value

Cons

Fairly Heavy

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Vibram High-Traction Lugged Outsole

Weight: 458g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Giro Privateer R

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 70% 70%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 90% 90%

Pros

Durable for XC Shoes

Lightweight

Good Power Transfer

Great Value

Cons

Narrow Fit

Less Durable Than Terraduros

Best Application: XC, Trail

Closure: Replaceable N1 Ratcheting Buckle Closure at Ankle, Two D-ring Velcro Straps at Midfoot

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: Co-molded Nylon and High Traction Rubber

Weight: 386g (size 43.5)

Upper Material: Microfiber

Giro Chamber 2

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 80% 80%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 50% 50%

Pros

Well Protected

Durable

Wide Range of Cleat Adjustment

Cons

Heavy

Narrow for Riders with Wide Feet

Best Application: Enduro, Downhill, All-mountain

Closure: Laces Plus Power Strap

Sole: Tri-molded SPD Compatible

Outsole: Vibram Megagrip

Weight: 525g (size 44)

Upper Material: Water Resistant Microfiber

Shimano XC7

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 70% 70%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 70% 70%
  • Weight 100% 100%

Pros

Top of the Line XC Performance at Half the Price

Cons

Still a Pricy Shoe for Marginal Gains Over the Giro Privateer R

Best Application: XC

Closure: Boa IP1

Sole: Carbon-Reinforced Nylon

Outsole: Dual-Density Michelin Rubber

Weight: 365g (size 45)

Upper Material: Perforated Upper

Five Ten Kestral Lace

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 70% 70%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 60% 60%
  • Durability 100% 100%
  • Weight 60% 60%

Pros

Patented Five Ten Grip and Durability

Cons

Heavy

Comfort Issues

Best Application: Enduro/All-Mountain  

Closure: Lace-Up with Hook and Loop Ankle Strap

Sole: Nylon

Outsole: C4 Stealth

Weight: 484g (size 43)

Upper Material: Polyurethane-coated synthetic

Pearl Izumi X-Project P.R.O.

  • Rigidity and Power Transfer 90% 90%
  • Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability” 90% 90%
  • Comfort and Fit 80% 80%
  • Durability 40% 40%
  • Weight 80% 80%

Pros

Great Pedaling Efficiency

Comfortable and Grippy off the Bike

Cons

Expensive

Least Durable Shoe in Review

Best Application: XC, All-Mountain

Closure: Two BOA IP1 dials

Sole: Carbon Composite

Outsole: Molded Carbon Rubber Tips on TPU Lugs

Weight: 419g (size 44)

Upper Material: Advanced 3-Layer Seamless Composite

Rigidity and Power Transfer

Everything about the Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro is ambitious, and its rigid for pedaling flexible for walking sole is no different. After extensive testing, Pearl Izumi used a stiff, carbon sole from the cleat to just shy of the heel. This is where they determined maximum rigidity was needed for a shoe not to sacrifice any power transfer.

So, does the ultra stiff sole from the cleat to the ball of your foot transfer power as well in the real world as it does in the lab? Actually, yes. The X-Project Pro might give up just a shade of stiffness to the Shimano S-Phyre XC9 or Giro Empire VR90, but if it does, you would be hard pressed to notice it out on the trail.

Traction and “Hike-a-Bike-Ability”

Naturally, the reason that Pearl Izumi put so much emphasis on just what portion of a clipless mountain bike shoe’s sole needed to be uncompromisingly stiff to facilitate maximum pedaling efficiency was so that they could use a sole with flex fore and aft of that to facilitate a comfortable walking shoe.

While the X-Project Pro’s walking ability off the bike might not quite match its pedaling efficiency, you would be extremely hard-pressed to find a shoe with more flex off of the bike and better power transfer on it.

As for grip, the Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro relies on hard plastic TPU lugs topped with 3mm of soft, tacky rubber for grip. The wide spacing of the lugs means that the X-Project Pro clears mud very well, while providing some of the best traction of any clipless mountain bike shoe in our review. However, there is a bit less rubber meeting the road at any one time than on some shoes, but this is about the only thing the X-Project Pro gives up when it is time to hike-a-bike.

Comfort and Fit

The Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro is a comfortable clipless mountain bike shoe, if not the most comfortable. It fits a bit larger than its predecessor but still seems to run a tiny bit to the small side of true. Like everything else about the shoe, the fit is quite ambitious, using a customizable footbed and shipping with multiple insoles and inserts to help you dial in the perfect fit.

As for its closure, Pearl Izumi opted for a dual Boa closure on the X-Project Pro. While nothing beats the ease of use and simplicity of the Boa system, it is more prone to pressure points and more difficult to dial in the perfect fit than other shoe closure systems, although using one closure dial for the ankle and one for the toe does help this a bit. We think that this is one area where the X-Project Pro might have been better served by going old fashion than high tech, as a traditional lacing system might have made it the most comfortable and customizable fitting clipless mountain bike shoe in our review.

Durability

The lofty claims and ambitions of the Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro have so far been mostly fulfilled. Unfortunately, the durability department is where both the claims and aspirations of the X-Project Pro go to die.

The upper is not on par with any of the more all-mountain/enduro oriented shoes on our list, but that was not the real deal breaker. The tacky rubber mounted to TPU lugs that provides the X-Project Pro with such great traction stands up to very little of the hike-a-biking that the X-Project Pro was intended for. The tacky rubber begins to break down and delaminate after minimal hiking over rough terrain and continues to wear out quickly.

This could be forgiven on a $100 shoe, but not on one that costs $350.

Weight

For a clipless mountain bike shoe that claims to be a true go anywhere, do anything, no compromises all-mountain shoe, the 419g weight of the Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro is pretty impressive. While it is not quite on par with ultralight XC shoes, it is well at home on the lighter end of the clipless all-mountain shoe spectrum.

The Bottom Line

The Pearl Izumi X-Project Pro is almost a great clipless mountain bike shoe. It really does offer the traction and comfort off of the bike, along with the pedaling efficiency on the bike that Pearl Izumi claimed it would, and it does it at a fairly light weight. However, it simply is not durable enough for anything but XC use, and anyone doing enough hike-a-biking to appreciate its off the bike performance will wear this shoe down very quickly. In the end, we just didn’t feel that it was durable enough to justify its $350 price tag.

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