First Impressions: Louis Garneau T-Flex LS-100 Shoes

Unlike their paved-road counterparts, off-road cycling shoes need to blend walkability and pedaling efficiency. For shoe manufacturers, the challenge of balancing stiffness with flexibility and comfort is no small feat (bad pun intended). Louis Garneau‘s feature-packed T-Flex LS-100 ($249.99 MSRP) shoe is equally adept whether you’re pedaling or hoofing it.

Constructed from a combination of microfiber fabric and mesh, the LS-100′s upper features a BOA quick-attach closure, and forefoot Velcro strap for a secure fit. The carbon and reinforced-nylon midsole offers increased stiffness, while the deeply-lugged outsole and flexible toe area enable improved traction when walking. Louis Garneau includes winter and summer Ergo Air insoles, as well as two styles of toe studs.

Having narrow, low-volume feet, I often have a difficult time finding cycling shoes that fit properly. The LS-100 features what Louis Garneau refers to as an elite fit, and I opted for the same size as my other cycling shoes (44.5). The result was a no-slip fit that remained comfortable on longer rides. Initially, I was skeptical that the lightweight BOA closure would be as secure as a ratcheting buckle system, but the former proved to be solid, and free of pressure points.

During the course of this review, I tested the Louis Garneau shoes with Time ATAC and Crank Brothers Candy 3 pedals. The soles’ deep tread required minor modification to clear the Crank Brothers’ platforms, but the Time cleats were compatible as-is. Whether pedaling out of the saddle, or coasting over rocky trails, I never noticed any excessive flex or hot spots. Thanks to the Louis Garneau T-Flex design, walking was much less awkward than with other cycling shoes.

Pedaling efficiency doesn’t come at the expense of comfort, though. The Ergo Air insoles offer plenty of cushion and support, while the padded heel cups and collars are easy on your ankles and tendons. Removing the carbon T-Flex Power Blades increased ventilation slightly, but I couldn’t detect any difference in stiffness or efficiency. It’s too soon to report on long-term durability, but after five months of use, sole wear has been minimal, and the shoes’ uppers and fittings remain solid.

Disclosure: Louis Garneau provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: Clement X’Plor MSO 700×32 Tires

In April of 2012, we reviewed Clement’s 700×40 X’Plor MSO tires. More than two years later, that review continues to be one of this site’s most-read articles. Riders searching for a high-volume 700C tire that can handle dirt and pavement are well served by the 40mm X’Plor MSO. But what if your bike can’t accommodate such a large tire? Clement has you covered with their 700×32 X’Plor MSO.

The 32mm MSO features the same low-profile tread pattern as its larger sibling, but scaled down slightly to fit the narrower casing. At the recommended maximum 75psi, our sample tires measured 32mm knob-to-knob (30mm at the casing) when mounted on Mavic Ksyrium Elite S wheels. Actual weight for our 60tpi tires was 325g (Clement also offers a 120tpi version).

Like the 40mm version, the MSO’s tightly-spaced tread pattern proved to be smooth and quiet on paved roads. While the larger MSO had more of a peaked profile, the 32mm size featured a rounder, more circular profile (which made for more sure-footed cornering). As with other similarly-sized tires, it took a little experimentation to find the best pressure for balancing comfort and flat/rim protection (60psi front and 70psi rear worked well for dirt and gravel).

While Clement’s 32mm X’Plor MSO may not offer the performance of a conventional cyclo-cross tire in loose or muddy off-road conditions, it’s perfectly at home on hardpack trails and gravel roads. Where the tire really shines, however, are those rides where you want to piece together paved and unpaved sections for a day of two-wheeled exploring.

Disclosure: Clement provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.

First Impressions: J.Paks SnakPak

Thanks to the popularity of bikepacking and gravel riding, a cottage industry of bag manufacturers has emerged to fill the need for products not available from the big-name brands. One such company is Colorado’s J.Paks. Founded by industrial designer and avid adventure cyclist Joe Tonsager, the one-man shop offers a variety of stock and custom-made bags, including his popular SnakPak top tube bag.

The SnakPak is designed to provide quick-and-easy access to necessities such as snacks, cell phone, or camera. Measuring 9″ long and 2.25″ wide, the bag attaches to the front or rear of the top tube. For maximum compatibility, the hook-and-loop mounting straps can be repositioned to clear braze-ons, cables, etc. Single-body construction, combined with a waterproof YKK zipper keeps the bag’s contents dry. A strip of rubberized webbing along the bottom of the pack helps reduce slippage. If basic black isn’t your thing, Tonsager offers contrasting zipper accents in red, blue, green, yellow, camouflage, white, brown, or grey.

With a storage capacity of approximately 85 cubic inches, the SnakPak has room for those items that you don’t want to keep buried in a hydration pack or saddlebag. To give you an idea of just how much the SnakPak can carry, we were able to fit twenty (20) packets of GU energy gel in our review sample. For daily use, the bag comfortably held a wallet, cell phone, keys, some energy bars, and a bandanna with room to spare.

SnakPaks can be purchased directly from J.Paks for $40 + shipping. Turnaround time is approximately seven days for standard models. If you’re in Colorado, Golden Bike Shop and the Pedal Bike Shop both carry a selection of J.Paks products.

Disclosure: J.Paks provided review samples for this article, but offered no other form of compensation for this review.