Wouldn’t be our first choice
Pearl Izumi X-Alp Flow is lightweight and easy to turn over pedalling, without this attribute making it feel too flimsy or unstable around the foot.
The sole uses a zoned tread with dual rubber compounds. The pedal-facing centre uses Vibram’s grippiest outdoor rubber (Megagrip) to mesh with pedal pins, and the toe and heel uses a deeper, diagonally treaded pattern for extra traction off the bike.
The lace-up upper is a distinctive, almost seamless, synthetic design, with minimal overlaps and stitching to reduce the chance of rubbing or hot spots. Two separate testers reported an excellent balance between comfort (trainer-like) and stability, but the interior is a little narrower than some brands, so try for fit first.
Between the supple upper and sole is an EVA shank to defend against impacts and dampen vibration. It stabilises the sole from being too flexible and there’s excellent pedal feel without being overly soft so feet claw round platforms.
So far so good then, but what about grip levels? The heel and toe area work well, but the smoother central zone is a bit of a let down on even aggressively studded pedals. Initially, it’s way too easy to get knocked out of position if tyres hit a root or repeated bumps, although once pedals start to make indentations on the sole and as the shoe beds in, grip improves. You still won’t be that sold on the X-Alps if you love a totally locked-down feel though.
Despite Pearl Izumi’s good price and supreme comfort, we’re after maximum grip for all weather riding, so this wouldn’t be our first choice, especially faced with often wet, muddy and slippery UK conditions.