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Pearl Izumi is famous for making high-quality apparel for running, road biking, and, of course, mountain biking. While you can easily get decked out in Pearl gear from head to toe, the company is especially known for their shoes.

Octane SL II Review

Let’s get one thing straight: the Octane SL IIs are pure-bred race shoes. Weighing in at 335 grams (size 43), they are uber-lightweight. I ran some Google searches for many of the top shoe brands, and the Octane SL II is most likely the lightest mountain bike shoe on the market (soon to be bested by the Pearl Izumi X-Project at 320g). The S-Works MTB from Specialized is the closest shoe I could find to the Octane SL II on the market, with a claimed weight of 335 grams as well. However, the 335-gram Specialized is measured in a size 42 versus the Pearl Izumi Octane SL II which was measured in a size 43, so the Octane SL II barely edges out the S-Works. (Note: actual weight may differ from claimed weight on any product.)

The stiff carbon soles, complete with an “Octane Grade Uni-Directional Carbon Power Plate,” are intended for maximum power transfer to the pedals. The one-piece uppers are not designed for maximum comfort—they are designed to be lightweight and to latch securely onto your foot, again, for maximum power transfer.

With these points in mind, the Octanes do a fantastic job at their intended application. The low weight and stiff soles make me feel like I’m spinning a faster cadence (or a higher gear) without even trying!

However, if you’re looking for a new pair of shoes, be aware: these are intended for serious racers! At $300 MSRP this is the most expensive pair of mountain bike shoes in the Pearl Izumi lineup, and yet they do not have a ratchet strap. I assume the elimination of the ratchet is to reduce weight as much as possible, but I personally prefer the security of a ratchet. Also, these shoes just really aren’t that comfortable, but again, they aren’t intended for all-day epic rides. The Octanes are intended for hard, fast cross-country races where every gram counts.

If you might run into some extended hike-a-bike sections way out in the backcountry, these shoes are not for you. The uber-stiff soles and lack of cushioning in the uppers make for very difficult and uncomfortable hiking. These shoes are designed for riders who are planning on staying on the bike 100% of the time. And with the majority of cross country courses being so smooth, this, again, caters to cross country racers.

Note: This is definitely not the intended application for these shoes.

Bottom Line

Pearl Izumi bills the Octane SL II as the “lightest, fastest, and most efficient mountain bike shoe available.” If these are qualities that you desire in a shoe, you can’t go wrong with the Octanes! If, however, you value comfort too, you might want to take a look at Pearl Izumi’s P.R.O. MTB II or new X-Project shoes.

Many thanks to Pearl Izumi for sending these shoes over for review!

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# Comments

  • maddslacker

    For the price and intended purpose, I’m surprised these don’t have a buckle.

    • mtbgreg1

      The only thing I can think of is that they went for the least amount of weight possible, and to get there they sacrificed the buckle. Personally, I’d rather have a ratchet and have them weigh a few more grams.

    • skibum

      I actually like the 3 velcro better than a buckle setup. It’s easier to get on and off and, for me, much more comfortable without losing performance.

      Still, 3 Benjamins is a lot for a shoe. Since I do a lot of hike-a-bike, sounds like these aren’t for me anyway.

    • jeff

      I agree, the most likely explanation is it was eliminated for weight savings. But another reason folks prefer velcro to a buckle is that if the buckle breaks (which will happen eventually), you’re not SOL on the trail. For this reason, some people (and I’m not making this up) carry a replacement ratchet strap/buckle in their Camelbak on big rides!

      Also, can you imagine how much the shoe would cost with a high quality buckle on top? Maybe PI got to a point where they decided enough was enough. Then again, price is no object for some folks so why not…

    • Jared13

      @Jeff
      Do they carry a spare cleat/hardware also?

      I haven’t broken a ratchet/strap, but I did lose an attachment screw for my SPD cleat. I had to take the shoe off my foot to get it unclipped!

  • skibum

    I used to ride the PI Vagabond–it was a fantastic shoe for me. It fit my foot comfortably, was stiff enough for efficient power transfer and yet quite easy on the feet for hike-a-bikes. And I could score a pair for only 75 clams.

    Then they stopped making them. I’m still on the lookout for something to take their place.

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