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The new Copper T-Flex shoes sit at the top of Louis Garneau’s mountain bike line. In fact, Louis Garneau says, “our entire race shoe design heritage has been passed on to the Copper T-Flex.” Those are big shoes to fill indeed! I’ve been testing the Copper T-Flex shoes for a couple months now and here’s what I’ve found.

First Impressions

Putting the words “race” and “shoe” together often signals a third word in many mountain bikers’ minds: “discomfort.” Seemingly making matters worse, the Copper T-Flex boasts a stiff carbon sole and other features focusing on power transfer. Fortunately Garneau recognizes that these days, racing isn’t necessarily about going all-out for just an hour or two in an XC race.

Today, racers are just as likely to be competing in all-day gravel grinders and ultra-endurance races as they are short track sprints. Garneau puts it another way: “because the most demanding riders are those who ride the most, comfort is top priority.” With that in mind, the Copper T-Flex shoes utilize flexible uppers and a redesigned closure system that seeks to relieve constriction on the top of the rider’s foot.

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The Copper T-Flex shoes feature not just one but two Boa dials located in a slightly elevated location toward the top of the shoe. This is an excellent choice, as many mountain bikers, myself included, can attest to having dials and buckles sheared off after clipping rocks or trees at speed.

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With a rather aggressive, deep and wide tread pattern, plus the ability to run spikes, the Copper T-Flex shoes are clearly designed to handle loose conditions encountered on MTB trails and cyclocross courses.  Garneau says the shoe’s Coolmax insole is designed to be an “all weather” insole, in contrast to the two-insole system Garneau employed on previous T-Flex models. The claimed weight is 335g per shoe, slightly lighter than the Pearl Izumi X-Project Elites for comparison.

I’ve been testing the standard black version of the Copper T-Flex shoes (there’s also a yellow/black version), and I personally think the shoes look great. Garneau mixes matte, synthetic leather on the main parts of the shoe, with a glossy tongue and a small mesh cutout at the toe. Understated reflective details and graphics round out the look.

On the Trail

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I have wide feet, which can making finding comfortable XC-style mountain bike shoes a challenge. Apparently designers must think wide shoes aren’t aero enough. In any event, I was pleasantly surprised to find the uppers on the Copper T-Flex shoes are supple enough to accommodate my wide feet without feeling overly constricting. The Boa dials are a big help here as well, as it’s easy to tweak the tension to get a really precise fit–loose enough to fit my wide clompers, but tight enough to keep my feet firmly in contact with the sole..

I’m a big fan of the Boa closure system on mountain bike shoes, and it’s no surprise to find Boa on the high-end Copper T-Flex shoes. Tightening the laces is a simple, one-handed operation, and getting out of the shoes is even quicker and easier: just pop the dial up and pull your foot out! Garneau says it’s easy to replace the Boa dials in the event of a malfunction, though fortunately I haven’t had the need to do this yet.

The anti-slip membrane sparkles in the sun. In one direction, it feels smooth; in the other, it grips like sandpaper.

The anti-slip membrane sparkles in the sun. In one direction, it feels smooth; in the other, it grips like sandpaper.

Garneau uses an “anti-slip membrane” inside the heel that works really well in my experience. The material reminds me of snake skin in a way: it’s only rough in one direction. The upshot is the shoes are easy to slip on, but not off, especially at the heel. For whatever reason I consistently have heel slip issues with all types of shoes, but not with the Copper T-Flex shoes. The benefit is improved power transfer to the pedals compared to shoes that allow more heel slip.

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The all-weather insole on the Copper T-Flex shoes is stiff and has proven to be quite versatile. I’ve been testing the shoes in February and March, during which time the temperature flip-flopped from the 80s to the 30s and back again more than once. In my testing, I found the shoes to be comfortable at both ends of the temperature spectrum, rarely too hot or too cold. I’m not sure if or how the insole contributes to the comfort I experienced, but it seems the shoes’ minimal mesh venting may play a role here.

Not a lot of mesh on these shoes.

A single mesh panel on the toe.

Other XC-style mountain bike shoes I’ve tested have more extensive mesh zones, which is great for hot weather riding, but not so much for winter rides. It seems the Copper T-Flex shoes are able to strike a nice balance for moderate temperatures, though for extreme cold or heat, I can imagine they could get a bit uncomfortable.

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I found the tread on the Copper T-Flex shoes to be grippy and stable, even in sketchy hike-a-bike situations. The lugs are deep and spaced pretty widely, and the rubber compound Garneau uses is fairly soft and pliable. The tread provided great grip in muddy, loose conditions, but seemed to pack up pretty quickly, especially in red Georgia clay. Not only that, I found the lugs to be spaced just right for picking up pea gravel and small sticks pretty much every time I stepped off the bike.

Conclusion

The Copper T-Flex shoes from Louis Garneau manage to pack a raft of high-end features including the Boa closure system, carbon sole, and top quality materials into a shoe that’s not only fast and efficient, but also comfortable. Garneau recognizes that comfort isn’t just about keeping feet warm or cool–it’s also about adapting to the shape of the rider’s foot, which is especially important to those who put in mile after mile on the trail. While this high performance shoe doesn’t come cheap at a suggested price of $324.99 USD, it does showcase just what is possible when it comes to designing a wearable, winning mountain bike shoe.

Thanks to Louis Garneau for providing the Copper T-Flex shoes for review.

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