Louis Garneau is known for its quality and innovative cycling products. And the Carbon T-Flex mountain bike shoe is no exception. This is Louis Garneau's first foray into the relatively rarified world of carbon mountain bike shoes, and they've done themselves right. The shoes are light (at 338 g/shoe) and bring a nice balance of stiffness and comfort. In short, if you're looking for shoes for racing -- whether mountain bike or cyclocross -- or just want to do some serious riding, be it on the trails or elsewhere, the Carbon T-Flex, Louis Garneau bike shoes have a lot to offer.
Performance Assessment of the Carbon T-Flex Shoe
I had the chance to try out these shoes and put on a lot of miles in a variety of situations. The Carbon T-Flex have a two-bolt SPD-style set-up, and so I used them with both Crank Brothers Eggbeaters and Candy pedals, in both dry and muddy trail conditions, on a hard-packed rails-to-trails touring-type path and around town as a commuter.
First, the T-Flex shoes are very comfortable. The synthetic leather uppers don't really require any time to break in (but all the same, I don't recommend you take these out on a some marathon 100-miler your very first time wearing them), and built-in nylon mesh vents allow your feet to breathe and stay cool. I wore these on several all-day rides that included plenty of walking, and the shoes were equally comfortable both on and off the bike.
But make sure you're aware of the fit -- the first pair of these I tried were the same size as my road shoes, but ended up being too narrow. When I kicked up to the next larger size, it was all good.
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Protection and Durability
The shoes are built up to be quite durable, both in terms of their length of service and in their ability to protect your feet. The shoes feature an ergonomic thermoplastic molded heel cup and a thermoplastic molded toe cap to keep both ends of your feet safe from the banging and thumping that can happen when you ride in the dirt. And the sole has a nice tread pattern that provides a steady grip even on wet and/or rocky surfaces. Plus, included bolt-on toe cleats help with additional optional traction if you intend to use these for racing and have to jump off and run through some slop.
The bottom two straps are solid velcro closures but the most important one, and the one that gets the most use, is the top strap and it has a terrific ratchet closure that adjusts easily and holds tightly.
Finally, Louis Garneau likes to talk about the "T-Flex zone" and "power transfer points" on the outsole. That talk is the stuff of shoe scientists and designers, and frankly doesn't mean much to me. But in terms of practical performance, what I did find with these shoes is an extremely comfortable, durable shoe -- plenty stiff but still not bulky or dull on the pedals. They provide nice contact and feel with the pedals, offering control and the ability to drive hard yet stay subtly connected with your cranks.
All in all, this is a shoe you're going to be happy with. Whether you plan to use the Carbon T-Flex for mountain biking, cyclocross, touring or general riding, you'll find the performance and durability to be first rate. There aren't millions of pairs of carbon mountain bike shoes on the market, and Louis Garneau bike shoes clearly rise to the top of the class. Just keep in mind the tendency these shoes have to run on the narrow side -- perhaps the "sole" concern with them, har har -- and you'll be fine