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.
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!