19 April 2010

bikefix Exclusive Review: Pearl Izumi X-Alp Enduro shoes

The bikefix crew wants to welcome Mike from mtbikeaz,com. While we like to fancy ourselves 'big day' riders, Mike is the real deal. He spun through an epic day of technical riding (the Triple H) in Sedona with nary a wimper, impressing us with his mild manner and, later, his writing. Check out mtbikeaz for some amazing and inspirational rides in Arizona. This is his first review for bikefix.net:

Outdoor Demo 2009, Day Two — I was waiting for the Interbike Flatbed, a Pivot Mach 429 in hand, making smalltalk with a mountain biking unicyclist…

The flatbed arrived, the driver parked just a little bit off and riders had to jump about a foot and a half from the edge of the dirt to make it into the flatbed. No problem, everyone was managing just fine. I step up, take the leap, land on my fully exposed cleat, foot slides out, I twist, turn, drop the bike and fall flat on my face in the dirt, feet hanging up on the flatbed. Silence…I jumped right up, everyone cheered and I cursed my worn out Specialized MTB shoes… (cursed the worn out shoes, not the brand, I love Specialized!)

I knew I needed new shoes before this, but this silly spill solidified the search. I wanted a shoe that was comfortable to walk in. One that ate up the hike-a-bike sections of trail I found myself on more often than normal. Was I asking too much? Amidst my search, Chad Brown posted a single photo on his blog with the words: "If you are looking for a hike-a-bike shoe, consider this one."

If you know anything about Chad it’s that he rides like a madman/superhero. If this shoe lasted him a 11 months, I can go at least 33 on them. His recommendation came with serious clout so I took it seriously and ordered a pair from an online retailer for a good price.

Since the beginning of the year, I’ve pedaled 400 over miles with the X-Alp Enduros. Not all was pedaling though, there was also plenty of hike-a-bike to see if they lived up to their fame. Up Telegraph Pass, down super tech spots on Alta and Kiwanis. The Sedona HHH ride had some real sketchy slickrock hike-a-bike that was actually fun with the Enduro’s sticking like glue. Sometimes walking moves is actually scarier than riding them… but with the X-Alps, there was no fear to walk what I feared to ride.

Here’s what I love:

Comfort: Walking in these shoes is comparable to walking in a stiff hiking shoe. Plenty of support, but enough give to make walking, hiking, and hike-a-biking a good experience.

First attest to comfort: Usually after a ride the first thing I do is take off my cycling shoes and slip into my Keen Newport H2s. On my first few rides with the X-Alp Enduros I forgot to take them off after the ride. They were so comfortable off the bike, I subconsciously thought I had already slipped into me Keens… I could wear them all day. Which brings me to my second attest to comfort: Wearing them all day. I’d been planning the East Mesa Epic for a long time, I’m just glad now that I had the Enduro’s strapped on making this 60 mile feat easy on the feet. This ride had it all, climbing, descending, walking, hike-a-biking… at the end of 12 hours and 15 minutes of epic adventure, my feet felt as good as ever. My legs and my back and my neck though… if only Pearl Izumi made Enduro’s for those body parts.

Traction: Hike-a-bike used to mean carrying my bike up a steep rock section of trail while trying to keep my balance while not letting the cleat make too much contact with the rocks. Now I look forward to HAB. Traction, comfort, fun to HAB.

Here’s what I do not love:

The giant ratcheting buckle: It hits on every rock it can, looking for that one special rock to run away with. So far it’s still attached, but others have reported having to super glue theirs' back on.

Sizing: Make sure you try them on first. I am a 9.5 and I got the 43s. They seemed just a bit tight on the first few rides, but I wanted to break them in to see if it changed. They broke in fine, and feel good now — so they will stretch — but I really wish I had tried on the 44s to see how they felt. (If you’re going to buy online, I recommend you buy at Zappos! Get your size as well as the next size up and then return the smallest at no cost.)

The tongue: It’s too short and falls below the top of the top strap. Looks funny and feels like it will slip below the strap. A fellow Enduro owner told me I should pull the strap up often so it doesn’t get buried. Another fellow owner told me to shoe goo the outer area near the pinkie toes as a preemptive strike against wear. I looked at mine, and sure enough, that’s the spot with the most wear.

Sole Separation: After three months and 400 miles of abuse, I have noticed the very beginnings of sole separation on one of the outer edges of the shoe. Looking back I can remember hitting that foot extra hard on a rock within the first few weeks of use. The separation is still minimal and can most likely be stopped with some shoe goo, so I’m not worried yet.

The Bottom Line:
The X-Alp Enduro is a popular shoe amongst endurance riders. I have seen them on many mountain bikers. I always ask the riders how they like them and they all tell me that you can’t beat the comfort on and especially off the bike.

If you prefer comfort and endurance over super stiff race speed and maximum pedaling efficiency, if you regularly find yourself on trails to big for your wheels, if you finally want a mountain biking shoe you can wear all day without looking forward to wearing your favorite post cycling shoes at the end of the ride too much, if you want to be like Chad Brown, then the X-Alp Enduro is for you. It’s definitely for me.

The 2008-2009 shoe has been replaced this year with the 2010 X-Alp Enduro II model, which sees a few new features including a sleeker lower profile buckle. They are really cool looking too. I’d like to get my feet into a pair of those…




Anonymous said...

I am by no means ernie the epic, and with the exception of one trip a year to Moab, most of my rides are 2 hours or less. I purchased a pair of these a year and a half ago, online as well, and I love them. The ratchet system on the right shoe seemd chincy and cheap at first glance but has held up well. As a middle aged weekend warrior, I do my share of hike a bike and I love these shoes.

Mike said...

middle aged weekend warrior,

That's one more added to the list of "love these shoes."

I bought online because I couldn't find a LBS that carried them (due to then being discontinued).

Even though they have been replaced with the new 2010 model, you can still find a few of these gems online. And the price is usually really good. Might be time to stock up!

Thanks for commenting.