As we saw at the Sea Otter Classic this year, bike companies are embracing gravel cycling in a big way. We’ve recently seen that the gravel trend includes gravel-inspired shoes. We reviewed the Shimano XC5 shoe that uses a mountain tread while providing a good amount of flex and found other mountain bike shoes better suited for gravel.
Lake Cycling has been in the shoe business for over three decades, and we’ve covered their treads for nearly a third of that. Recently, the company has focused on offering discipline-specific shoes aimed at the gravel and adventure crowds. Back in 2015, we tested the three-season waterproof MX145, in 2016, we took a first look at the cyclocross-specific Supercross models that we’ve yet to try, while last year, we first saw its MX 241 Endurance shoe at the 2017 Sea Otter Classic. The MX 241 was described as the ideal shoe for gravel and hard-to-fit feet.
Does the MX 241 provide a comfortable fit for long adventures in the saddle? Can it pull double duty for short ’cross races in the fall? We have put the Lake MX 241 Endurance shoe to the test for both gravel and ’cross to see how it handles the rigors of rough-road and off-road riding.
An Adjustable Leather Fit
A shoe labeled Endurance is probably not cyclocross oriented, but endurance certainly fits the description of a typical gravel event. The Lake MX 241 Endurance shoe is a very adjustable shoe with a mesh body perfect for long dirt road rides.
It is rare to find real leather in cycling shoes today, but Lake is one of the few to use real leather across its entire line of shoes. Lake chose kangaroo leather because of its strength and light weight compared to other types. Kangaroo leather also provides breathability and retains formability over time that should allow the Lake shoes to “break in” nicely with wear.
As the saying goes, “If the shoe fits, wear it.” The Lake MX 241 has a greater chance of fitting the bill with its adjustability using two BOA cords per shoe, one near the toe and the other at the instep. Nine years ago, Lake was one of the first companies to bring us a Boa dial-equipped offroad shoe in the MX170, and that one stuck with us, in more ways than one. The dial-based enclosure system has certainly come a long way in terms of adjustability and reliability, and the new Push/Pull IP1 BOA dials locked our feet in, but released on command.
The body of the shoe has a stretchy foam skeleton surrounded by a moisture-wicking lining and a mesh outer layer. Three leather panels cover the mesh on each side of the shoe, and the BOA system tightens the shoe around the foot. It’s this panel construction that provides the adjustability for different foot shapes.
Helcor abrasion-resistant leather covers the toe and heel of the MX 241 Endurance shoe. Find your heel slipping in run-ups? Don’t reach for your screwdriver like you might with a Sidi Drako or Dragon. Just head to the kitchen. When the resident chef isn’t looking, you can use a mildly warm oven to heat-form the heel cup at home, which adds to the fit customization.
The MX 241 is a mountain bike shoe compatible with two bolt cleats. Lake’s “race” sole constructed of 100 percent carbon fiber composite keeps the shoe stiff on the bottom for power transfer. Rubber armors the sole with a design Lake calls Race X that covers a good portion of the arch area, which can be useful if riding unclipped. There is a vent in the sole just behind the toes with a screen to keep fine gravel out, but it will provide a breach for water and fine dirt. There are provisions for toe spikes or cleats.
Find yourself in the dark after Wednesday Worlds? Others, especially those on four wheels, will hopefully take notice thanks to a reflective patch on the heel.
The MX 241 Endurance shoes check in at 810g for the pair (size 44). Despite all the carbon, that’s about 130g heavier than the Shimano XC5 shoes.
A Comfortable Ride?
The Lake MX 241 Endurance is one of the most comfortable shoes I’ve worn. The sole has a flat fit with good natural arch support, and the adjustable width across different areas of my average width, average volume feet provided a glove-like fit.
I took advantage of the self-molding heel cups, putting the shoes in the oven at 200 degrees F for 5 minutes and then wearing the shoes, cinching them up and massaging my heels into place. In my opinion, it improved the heel fit immensely, which helped when walking with a stiff carbon sole.
The shoes did require adjustment after riding for a while. The foam skeleton compressed and the leather stretched, but the shoes were easy to adjust using the BOA fasteners and dial adjuster.
The toe box is fairly rigid and is the least adjustable area of the shoe even though the BOA laces weave nearly to the front, like a rock climbing shoe. I would argue it is still more adjustable at the toe than the majority of the shoes out there, and it fit me fine.
The mesh body makes this a decent shoe for warm weather. The leather panels cover a lot of the mesh, but their breathability and movement while riding aid ventilation through the mesh.
One aspect of the design that may be a long-term concern is the number of panels and stitches on the upper part of the MX 241 Endurance shoe. The upper part of the shoe receives a lot of force from pushing and pulling the pedals and over time, and those motions put a lot of strain on a shoe’s stitching. The MX241 shoes have held up well during our time test riding them, but it is something we will have our eye on long-term.
A ’Cross-Worthy Option?
I gave the MX 241 shoes a run for both gravel and cyclocross use. I found the leather panels on the top of the shoe create a flexible upper shoe that inhibits its usefulness for cyclocross. When dismounting, I’ve found it helpful to have a stiff upper shoe to provide a snappy pedal release, and it also felt like the flex in the upper shoe could inhibit maneuvering while pedaling or running over tricky terrain.
The Lake MX 331, MX 332 or MX237 models that were designed specifically for cyclocross are likely better choices for one-hour racing. That’s next on our list to test.
Find yourself more straight-laced and not so wound-up by the dial enclosure movement? Lake aims to please, following the success of Giro’s Empire VR90 lace-up shoe with its retro-styled MX1 Carbon.
The Lake MX 241 Endurance shoe is a great shoe for the summer gravel and adventure rides. It combines the adjustability of laces with the convenience of a BOA lace system. It is breathable, adjustable and comfortable. The MX 241 Endurance shoes have proven up to the task of tackling mixed terrain rides.
The flex in the upper part of the shoe provides a good fit and comfortable ride during long days in the saddle, but it might be a little too flexible to provide an ideal shoe for the rigors of cyclocross’ frequent dismounts and accelerations.
Lake MX 241 Endurance Shoes Specs
Weight: 810g / pair (size 44)
Materials: Helcor leather, Nufoam lining, heat-moldable carbon heel
Sole: Lake Race Carbon with Mountain Race X rubber sole.
Closure: Dual Side mounted Push/Pull IP1 BOA lacing system
More Info: lakecycling.com