Billed as one of the lightest cycling shoes available, the first thing that strikes you about the new Pearl Izumi Octane SL III RD is its bright orange colour.
As riders who usually stick to dressing in flattering black, occasionally mixing it up with a bit of white, we actually welcomed the splash of colour – we have, however, been warned off riding with anyone wearing Mavic Zxelliums, in case we look like an accident in a citrus fruit processing factory.
The Pearl Izumi designers have put a big emphasis on lightness and minimising the interface between athlete (their word, not ours) and machine. So what you get is a pared-back design – three simple Velcro straps (no weighty ratchets), super-thin, anatomically sculptured carbon soles and uppers dominated by large areas of fine mesh. In fact, the mesh is so fine and extensive that your choice of sock colour will alter the overall look of the shoes!
The result is an astonishingly light bit of footwear – the makers claim 195g per shoe (based on a European size 42). That means the Octane IIIs are, give or take depending on shoe size, about 100g lighter than other high-end shoes per pair.
Also as billed, the carbon soles are stiff and have an ultra-low 6.5mm stack height, so you're right on the pedals. In use, there's no noticeable pedalling energy being wasted in flexing.
With large areas of mesh on the uppers and two large vents under the toe box, these are incredibly well-ventilated shoes, to the point where our toes were getting chilly even on British summer evenings.
Therein lies our only real gripe with the Octane IIIs – unless you're blessed with year-round warm weather, or freakish circulation to your extremities, you'll have to team these shoes with covers or have an alternate winter pair of shoes on hand.
We found the fit snug and comfortable. The Velcro straps lack the locked-on feeling of ratchet fixings but, as noted above, they save weight and make for a low profile. The shoes felt secure and completely at one with our feet.
All in all, their low weight and maximised ventilation make them the closest thing to cycling in your socks.