Louis Garneau Course Air Lite II Review
Cons: Heel may be loose, lacing could be easier to cinch up
Manufacturer: Louis Garneau
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Louis Garneau Course Air Lite II
$224.95 at Backcountry
$311.74 at Amazon
|$189.95 at Backcountry|
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|Pros||Extremely light weight, very stiff, great adjustability, super comfortable||Stylish, breathable, great adjustability, great power transfer, fits like a glove||Super low weight, very stable, unbeatable power transfer, great adjustability||Very comfortable, stable, ergonomic, fast, light||Lightweight, stiff, affordable, simple|
|Cons||Heel may be loose, lacing could be easier to cinch up||Pricey, sole scuffs, may be narrow for some feet||Less comfort than earlier versions, upper material susceptible to wear, can feel too rigid||Premium price, last shape not universal, heel cup might rub||Limited comfort, one fastener, mid-range power transfer|
|Bottom Line||An affordable pro-level shoe that won’t let you down when you're hammering||A sleek, stylish, refined road shoe ready to lay down the watts||A pro peloton reimagining of one of the most popular shoes on the road||A brilliant union of comfort and speed to create a high-performance pro shoe||Sturdy and simple, this is the right shoe for serious road riders on a budget|
|Rating Categories||Louis Garneau Cours...||Fizik R1 Infinito||Shimano SH-RC9 S-Phyre||Specialized S-Works...||Fizik Tempo Overcur...|
|Power Transfer (25%)|
|Specs||Louis Garneau Cours...||Fizik R1 Infinito||Shimano SH-RC9 S-Phyre||Specialized S-Works...||Fizik Tempo Overcur...|
|Measured Weight (Pair)||18.7 oz||20.0 oz||18.8 oz||19.2 oz||20.8 oz|
|Outsole||Carbon Air Lite||Carbon||Carbon fiber||FACT Powerline (stiffness index 15)||Carbon reinforced nylon|
|Upper Material||High-density microfiber||Laser-perforated 1.2mm microtex||Synthetic||Synthetic leather, Dyneema, TPU||PU laminate, mesh|
|Closure||BOA IP1 micro-adjustment||BOA||Dual Boa Li2 dials||BOA Li2 Fit System||BOA and hook and loop strap|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The Louis Garneau Course Air Lite II is an improvement over the earlier LG offerings. They include several improvements, including a more supple but lighter upper, a tighter heel, air channels, bi-directional dials, and a few other odds and ends. Our favorite aspect was the awesome comfort. It's rare to find a shoe that's wildly light, super stiff, and yet quite comfortable. It was one of our favorites because it had that top-level performance, plus excellent comfort, but came at a discount to other top-level shoes.
High flyers though they are, we still want you to see how they stack up against the rest of the field. We broke them down across a handful of measures and compared them to the other road bike shoes in our group. Take a look below and see if they're right for you or if you might be interested in others.
These were a real surprise here. Typically the shoes with top power transfer have middling or downright terrible comfort. However, the LGs maintain a lot of energy transfer without sacrificing comfort by using a high-density microfiber upper combined with a super-stiff carbon outsole.
They also have a pretty unique feature, the X-Comfort Zone insert, which allows the shoe to naturally move between B-width and D-width. It's an elastic spandex patch on the outer metatarsal area of the upper, where scuffing tends to happen. It's a clever idea that could significantly improve comfort as the foot expands during the downstroke. Still, it's not without its risks, particularly for the unfortunate folks who make contact with pavement, poles, trees, other bikes, and whatever else is out there.
Aside from the slightly loose heel, the only drawback we could find here was that the LG's tongue slips down when putting the shoe on, forcing you to dig your fingers into the shoe to fish it out. Speaking of that loose heel, it's also worth noting that both the LG uses a sharkskin or cat tongue lining that lets you slip your foot into the shoe but limits slipping out.
Quite a lot went into the LG's super low weight here. A pair of Men's size 44 (Euro sizing) comes in at just 18.7 ounces or 530 grams. That lightness is owed to the seamless microfiber upper. The Air Lite II uses an improved upper from the earlier Air Lite version. It's a high-density material that's thinner but stronger and provides a bit more comfort than the previous version. The rest of the weight can be explained by the Carbon Air Lite outsole. It's a thin layer that doesn't lose its rigidity but also has a few vents cut, which further reduces the weight. They also use a titanium insert for the cleats, reducing the weight and showing their care for details.
Two things go into great power transfer: upper adherence and sole stiffness. The LGs have top performance in both of those areas. The snug microfiber upper closely adheres to the foot so that just about any movement of the foot is directed into the pedal - very little energy is wasted inside the shoe. The Carbon Air Lite sole doesn't quite have the rigidity of the light premium or heavier and thicker carbon soles but is still super stiff. Taken together, they make for a solid ride with almost unmatched transference.
The only major detractor here has been mentioned elsewhere. It's the loose heel, but that is somewhat mitigated by the use of a cat tongue or sharkskin lining that helps grip the foot as it tries to slide out. Even so, it would be preferable if the heel were tighter and cupped more.
The LGs do fairly well here simply because they're simple. There are two bi-directional IP-1 BOA dials placed along the side. The two-way dials are really the ideal here. They let you adjust 1 millimeter in either direction and include a quick release so you can easily adjust whether you're out on the road getting ready to hit a climb or just getting home and ready to kick'em off and shower.
The X-Comfort Zone feature really shines here. It's a small ventilated elastomer-spandex insert on the outside of the foot near the toes that allows the shoe to expand between B and D+ width feet, and it also expands with your foot on the downstroke. This isn't necessarily a personalized adjustment like dialing in, but it's certainly an accommodative feature.
We didn't have any complaints about the adjustability. The dials were quite sufficient to get the fit we needed, and the X-Comfort Zone did seem to improve the fit. That said, there are a few other models that do a bit better here.
They do a good job of basic protection and longevity with their thick microfiber upper, bound with tough threading and few seams. The outsole is strong carbon fiber, so no worries there either. We were also happy that they decided to include replaceable heel pads (bumpers), but replaceable toe pads would have been nice too.
The vulnerabilities it does have are mostly confined to its various vents and holes. Those in the upper, especially the mesh over the toes and the outsole, are vulnerable to punctures and fraying or wear. As we mentioned elsewhere, the X-Comfort Zone insert along the side might be ideal for improving fit. Still, it's an area of the foot that tends to see a lot of scuffing and unintentional contact with curbs, poles, pavement, trees, other bikes, and whatever else is out there to opportunistically catch you. It's probably not a serious concern, but it's something to keep in mind.
These puppies retail at a pretty fair asking price for all they offer in power transfer, weight, and comfort. To get comparable performance in a shoe, definitely expect to shell out more.
The Louis Garneau Course Air Lite II is a super impressive road bike shoe, and we found ourselves constantly grabbing them no matter the course, distance, or speed. They served us as well on the white-knuckle Tuesday/Thursday crit rides as they did on the slow Sunday Funday slogs out in the mountains. They perform as well as the best road shoes out there, yet they tend to sell for quite a bit less than flashier models. But it's perfectly placed in the gap between price premium and real-world performance. If you're in the market for a top-level shoe at a bargain price, we can't suggest these enough.
— Ryan Baham
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