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Louis Garneau Course Air Lite II Review

An affordable pro-level shoe that won’t let you down when you're hammering
Louis Garneau Course Air Lite II
Photo: Louis Garneau
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Price:  $375 List | $244.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Extremely light weight, very stiff, great adjustability, super comfortable
Cons:  Heel may be loose, lacing could be easier to cinch up
Manufacturer:   Louis Garneau
By Ryan Baham ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 28, 2018
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83
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#4 of 10
  • Comfort - 25% 9
  • Weight - 15% 10
  • Power Transfer - 25% 9
  • Adjustability - 20% 6
  • Durability - 15% 7

Our Verdict

The Garneau Course Air Lite II is one of the most impressive road bike shoes out there. It's a top-level shoe that comes at a mid-market price. It knocks it out of the park on comfort and power transfer and comes out as one of the lightest road bike shoes you'll ever put on. The great thing about these is that they have the stiffness, adjustability, and durability you want in a road shoe, but they feel more like a training shoe. They're great for both racing and training, squeezing out all the marginal gains possible.

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Awards  Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award 
Price $244.95 at Backcountry
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$274.99 at Amazon$278.91 at Amazon
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$425 List
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Check Price at Backcountry
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Pros Extremely light weight, very stiff, great adjustability, super comfortableStylish, breathable, great adjustability, great power transfer, fits like a gloveSuper low weight, very stable, unbeatable power transfer, great adjustabilityVery comfortable, stable, ergonomic, fast, lightLightweight, stiff, affordable, simple
Cons Heel may be loose, lacing could be easier to cinch upPricey, sole scuffs, may be narrow for some feetLess comfort than earlier versions, upper material susceptible to wear, can feel too rigidPremium price, last shape not universal, heel cup might rubLimited comfort, one fastener, mid-range power transfer
Bottom Line An affordable pro-level shoe that won’t let you down when you're hammeringA sleek, stylish, refined road shoe ready to lay down the wattsA pro peloton reimagining of one of the most popular shoes on the roadA brilliant union of comfort and speed to create a high-performance pro shoeSturdy 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...
Comfort (25%)
9.0
9.0
8.0
9.0
7.0
Weight (15%)
10.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
8.0
Power Transfer (25%)
9.0
9.0
10.0
9.0
6.0
Adjustability (20%)
6.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Durability (15%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
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
Size Tested 44 44 45 45 45
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
Width Options Regular Regular Regular Regular Regular

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.

Performance Comparison


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.

Comfort


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.

The LG Course Air Lite IIs were as good hammering it out on trainer...
The LG Course Air Lite IIs were as good hammering it out on trainer sessions as they were out on the road doing real world things.

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.

The one caveat here is that the X-Comfort Zone has the potential to...
The one caveat here is that the X-Comfort Zone has the potential to create a hotspot along the outside of the foot, ironically.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Weight


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.

A pair of men's 44 come in at just 18.7 ounces, or 265 grams.
A pair of men's 44 come in at just 18.7 ounces, or 265 grams.

Power Transfer


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.

Josh Bonnici demonstrates serious power input and was happy to...
Josh Bonnici demonstrates serious power input and was happy to concur that the LG Course Air Lite IIs have excellent transfer.

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' great power transfer is mostly a result of the super stiff...
The LGs' great power transfer is mostly a result of the super stiff Carbon Air Lite sole.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Adjustability


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.

The Louis Garneau Course Air Lite II uses a really simple two-way...
The Louis Garneau Course Air Lite II uses a really simple two-way IP-1 Boa dial that allows you to micro-adjust 1mm at a time in either direction.
Photo: Ryan Baham

Durability


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 kicks are tough and protected and they'll serve you well...
These kicks are tough and protected and they'll serve you well through the seasons, taking a beating and kicking back.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

The LG Course Air Lite IIs are super comfy top-level performers, but...
The LG Course Air Lite IIs are super comfy top-level performers, but come at a reasonable discount.

Ryan Baham