Comfortable, light, airy and lairy – the impressive CX301s from Lake are great performers as long as the temperature is up and the sun is out.
I've never owned or worn a pair of Lake shoes before, and if I'm honest they are a rare sight in my cycling circles, so it was pleasing to get this pair in for test, something out of the ordinary and a little akin to my favourite (but sadly deceased) pair of Bont Riots. Would I like these as much?
Straight out of the box I was impressed. They stunned first with the luminous yellow glow, and then by just how remarkably light each shoe was minus cleats, bolts and insoles. Tipping the scales – barely – at 402g for the pair, that's an impressive figure. But would it lead to a few downsides?
Manufactured from very few components – well, three really – they consist of a full-carbon sole, as Lake points out a double-bonded layer to control where the sole flexes slightly or not, plus a thin and supple Clarino upper – a Japanese man-made microfiber material, and a single Boa dial and lace. They look and feel quality, the sole is very cleanly moulded with two meshed vents, one fore, one aft, a rubber toe bumper and a small, replaceable heel bumper.
The standard model here offers a slightly narrower than standard fit, with a tighter heel cup and narrower toe box; a wider version is also available. The upper is supple and well perforated with no unnecessary detail or Velcro straps. The Boa dial needs no introduction (if I'm wrong, see here) and does its job well.
The shoes do come with a standard thin insole, but I use custom made insoles that up to now have fitted every pair of shoes I have had and luckily these worked here too. Slipping the shoes on for a test fit, I wore them in the house for a while and found them comfortable with a little adjustment, and got on with fitting a new set of Look cleats. There are positioning marks printed on the sole to assist if you need them, and they will accept any three-bolt cleat, but not two-bolt.
The first few rides out in them went well, and I found the supple uppers formed around my foot shape well, but I did find that with only one Boa dial I needed to spend a minute or two when first putting the shoes on to hold the tongue in place and do the dial up slowly, pulling the steel lace taut lower down to ensure an even fit. An extra dial on the lower section would have helped here, but I can see that the lower weight was a bigger factor on this shoe and the extra dial would have added a little extra. Once done up to my satisfaction, adjustments if needed could be done on the fly to tighten or loosen off the dial slightly without having to stop and start the process again.
As luck would have it, the shoes arrived during the recent hot spell we had, and I took them with me to the Pyrenees where the weather was also on top form. In these kind of 20°C+ temperatures they worked beautifully, keeping a good flow of air through the shoe and preventing overheating or excessive sweating.
As they are aimed at climbers, the cols were a perfect test. I've already remarked on the comfort, and here the sole design came into its own, with the foot in a dropped heel position the shoe held my foot firmly and the stiff (but not entirely inflexible) carbon sole made sure that the power went through to the road. It could have been psychological, but the lack of weight on the feet certainly seemed to make the long mountain climbs a little easier. On this trip and at home I also completed rides of eight hours or more and the shoes were comfy all day long, and the following days too on the occasions that I rode consecutively.
However, as light and airy as they are, it does mean that in cooler temperatures these probably wouldn't be your best bet, and will soak straight through in seconds in a downpour. The Clarino upper was surprisingly easy to clean with just a damp cloth and seems pretty tough, but I would question its durability over time and especially in a tumble.
The carbon sole is also very prone to scratching – as are most lacquered carbon soles to be fair – exacerbated by the tiny heel bumper which led to the outside rear corner on my pair getting in a bit of a mess because of my natural foot position leaning outwards slightly. None of my other shoes have ended up like this as the heel bumper on all those other pairs is either full width or a horseshoe shape, which prevents the damage experienced here. Still, it's a little thing and it doesn't affect the performance of the shoe at all.
Value-wise they sit very well indeed among the array of high-end shoes on the market, especially if you are looking to buy them on their super-low weight alone. At a close but slightly higher weight of 408g for a similar size, the Giro Empire SLX will set you back £275, while the lighter (384g/size 46) Prolight Techlaces, also from Giro, have an RRP of £349. At the extreme end of the market, the unbelievably featherweight 300g Rocket7s come in at a whopping £1,200, making the Lake CX-301s an absolute steal.
As a lightweight warm weather shoe for days out in the hills or when pinning on a race number, they are a winner, and available in black or white if the yellow – which I have grown to love – is a little too much. For the average UK climate you might want a sturdier pair of shoes for more everyday use – and you wouldn't want to ruin these anyway, would you?
Super-light and well ventilated, they make a fantastic option for a summer day's ride in the hills
road.cc test report
Make and model: Lake CX301 Road Carbon Shoe
Size tested: 46
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
A lighweight shoe aimed at climbers and fast cadence riders, with a minimalist profile and construction with large surface ventilation.
From Lake: "Designed for higher cadence and pressure riding. Features more curved profile and increased toe pitch and heel lift.
Lake Race 100% Carbon Fiber Sole, Lake patent Double Sole
Ultra light weight climbing shoe, Clarino microfiber upper
Side mounted Boa L6
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The aim here is weight saving - as with most higher end shoes now the sole is 100% carbon, in this case a bonded double layer. The upper is a man-made Clarino microfiber material that has the feel of very supple leather, most commonly used for leather-like gloves, whilst the single fastener point is a Boa dial at the top of the foot.
A very well put together pair of shoes, with no evidence of glue runoff at the bonded seams of upper to carbon sole, and despite the upper being manmade it feels natural and supple.
Fit is personal but these were glove-like (or should that be slipper-like?) for me and felt almost weightless when on. For warm weather and climbing they were ideal. The Boa dial is easy to adjust on the fly if needed.
In the time I've had them I can't fault the shoes, but I suspect the light, thin upper will not be the longest lasting. Nothing untoward has happened so far, though.
These CX301s are built on a narrower last with a thinner heel cup and narrower toe box than standard (there is a wide version available) and they worked fantastically on my narrow feet, where I normally have issues with other shoes. My only gripe is the single Boa dial – you need to be careful when first putting them on to get the fit right as they can't easily be adjusted when on the move beyond loosening or tightening the upper enclosure.
These were a 46 and matched my other shoes from other brands well, so pretty much spot on.
These are among the lightest shoes we've tested on road.cc, and were like feathers compared with my daily-use Fizik and Shimano shoes.
Another high score as the fit worked beautifully for me; once on and adjusted correctly, they were comfortable on all-day adventures and multi-day rides.
They aren't cheap, but compare them with other high performance shoes and they are less than the similar-weight Giro Empires, and a lot less than others...
How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?
I did get oil on them from a hire bike and panicked a little that they would be permanently marked, but a wipe with a damp cloth took it off without fuss, a benefit of the man-made material. The holes can get clogged if exposed to mud but can be cleaned out with a little care.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Performance was excellent all round. Comfortable from the off, they stayed that way for the whole ride no matter how long. Power transfer was great, with no discernible flex but then not so stiff and harsh that every bump and jolt was transmitted back to your foot. The single Boa dial was as east to operate as always and allowed a bit of flexibility on the move.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
The fit and comfort were a big plus point for me, and the lack of weight was welcome over my standard shoes. Dare say it, I even love the colour.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The heel pad is tiny. So much so that the very first time I wore them the carbon sole was marked on the outer edge, and after having them a few weeks the sole is a mess, a myriad of scratches on the otherwise shiny carbon finish. Not a pair of shoes for the appearance-fussy cyclist unless they can hover.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes
Would you consider buying the product? Yes
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes
Use this box to explain your score
If they work for you the fit is superb and the quality top notch. The low weight leaves them feeling like they aren't even there, and for a summer shoe they are perfect with the thin, well-ventilated upper.
About the tester
I usually ride: Boardman AirPro Di2 My best bike is:
I've been riding for: 10-20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Expert
I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, time trialling, cyclo cross, commuting, club rides, sportives