Pearl Izumi X Project Shoe Launch


Introduction by Francis Cebedo

Pearl Izumi flew Brian Mullin and I to Laguna Beach this fall to experience their new products. The highlight of which was the new X Project line of shoes. This is the first time in their history to hold a bike ‘media camp’ so it was indeed a special occasion. Pearl Izumi was the first bike clothing I bought when I started biking in 1996 and that jersey is actually still in my closet to this day. But Pearl Izumi has been caught in a slow product evolution cycle as they gradually improved their bike product line. They haven’t had big revolutionary news to hold a big product launch.

But that was then and Pearl Izumi has been energized recently with a renewed focus on the mountain bike market. They’ve introduced high quality mountain bike trail clothing recently.  But this introduction is for the X Project shoe that they’ve been developing for the past two years.

X Project Shoe line comes in three flavors costing $160, $210 and $280 for the top of the line X Project 1.0. All have similar technology and the same styling to them. Each line is differentiated by a unique color. There are several innovations in these shoes but the one that stands out the most is their layered carbon insert sole technology. They figured out that stiffer is not necessarily better when it comes to mountain bike shoes but rather stiffer where it counts. The cleat area has to be stiffest to enable power transfer to the pedal. But near the toe and heel, it doesn’t have to be. They’ve developed a an carbon sole structure that has up to seven lay-ups of carbon to be stiff where it counts and exhibit flex where needed.

Other things they focused on was light weight, good venting, comfortable straps and reliable buckles. They also have an insert that is supportive and adjustable. And finally, they made the shoe look cool with fun, transparent colors that display some of their technology.

I’ve used the shoe for about three weeks now and have thoroughly impressed. As a Sidi user, my standards are pretty high. The shoe fits good and pedals efficiently. And when I have to run or walk the bike, it’s as comfortable as my shoes with a softer sole. The shoe is not very wide and does yet come in wide options so that may be an issue for some. And when Brian Lopes made us walk up this half mile cliff, my heel rubbing on the rear of the shoe caused some discomfort.

We’ll continue to test these shoes but it’s great to see fresh innovation from a trusted brand.

By Brian Mullin

Mountain biking shoes are an oddity, since they are asked to perform multiple functions, including offering a stiff platform for optimal power transfer to the pedals and walkability for off the bike forays. The sports apparel and footwear company Pearl Izumi wanted to meld the benefits of pedaling and walking performance, so they designed the new X Project mountain biking shoes by starting from a clean blank slate, which allowed them to look at things from a unique and different perspective. By using innovation and biomechanical engineering and partnering with established Italian shoe artisans, they designed features into them that made sense for off-road functionality, so that the shoe would pedal and hike, with no performance loss for either endeavor. Pearl Izumi considers the X Project shoes a paradigm shifting product!

In a nutshell, the X Project shoe uses a tuned carbon sole which is rigid while pedaling, and then will flex when hiking or running over technical terrain. The shoes have an EVA foam heel to absorb impact, co-molded rubber tips on TPU lugs for traction, and a full-length tapered unidirectional carbon plate for power transfer and hike-ability.

X Project Press Camp
Pearl Izumi held an X Project press camp in Laguna Beach California at the rustic Aliso Creek Inn and Golf Course, which is nestled in the lovely Aliso Canyon. They invited editors and writers from around the country to participate in a show and tell of the new shoes, and to get a hands-on experience riding and hiking the shoes around the local trails with Brian Lopes as a guide. Test bikes were provided by the great Pivot Cycles Demo team, and the trip coordination was organized by Outside PR.

The X Project program was run under the auspices of Pearl Izumi’s cycling shoe manager Tony Torrance over a two-year time frame, with extensive design input from the four-time world mountain bike champion Brian Lopes, and coordination from Italian shoe and carbon composite’s craftsman, and CSU’s Human Performance lab.

Their X-ALP series was the precursor to the X Project shoes, and instead of the X-ALP’s more recreational and hike-a-bike orientation, they focused on a shoe which was lightweight and aligned for performance and racing, yet retained enough flexibility for hiking.

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About the author: Brian Mullin

Brian likes to push the limits in all the sports he obsesses in, whether it's mountain biking, whitewater kayaking, skiing, or sport climbing. He takes those same strengths and a good dose of insanity to his reviewing and writing on mountain biking products, creating technical, in-depth articles. Whenever he's not on the bike, he might be found watching MotoGP racing, otherwise look for him out on the trail.

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  • spokes572 says:

    why so bright colors. No gray or black. Biking is not a Rumba class.

  • Francis says:

    >>why so bright colors. No gray or black. Biking is not a Rumba class.

    Agreed. All of the models need to be available in grey or clear accent. Some neutral color. Currently, the X Project 1 is only available in green, the 2 in orange and the 3 in red. This will force some buyers to go up and down the product line depending on color preference.

  • Warp says:

    So, basically the main difference is the buckle and inserts? Weight difference is 10grs from top to bottom model, so not a factor or one easily lost on manufacturing tolerances.

    Hard to gulp the extra 120 bucks for the top of the line just for inserts and buckle… unless you REALLY like neon green. If you only need the inserts you can just shell out the extra 50 bucks for the middle one… if you really like orange.

    The top of the line will be a hard sale given the little difference with the lesser models and the higher price. But what do I know? XTR sells like pancakes.

    • Brian Mullin says:

      Each of the three models uses different materials for the uppers, which is detailed in the article. I am not sure of the exact weights between the models, since they are not in production yet, so take them with a grain of salt. The 1.0 upper has better ventilation and is more supple, while the 2.0 uses synthetic leather and would best suit UK wet climes, while the 3.0 use synthetic leather and mesh. They all have the same performance from the sole and sticky lugs, and the 3.0 just uses a heavier glass layup instead of full carbon fiber.

  • Steve says:

    No wide sizes, booooooo

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