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review

Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes

8
£295.00

VERDICT:

8
10
Gravel shoe whose substance is more than equal to its style, with a stiff sole, comfortable upper and chunky tread for excellent walkability
Looks
Chunky sole
Stiff
All-day comfy
Great for hike-a-bikes
Looks
Expensive
Heavy
Weight: 
734g

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The Café du Cycliste Outlands are an odd beast. They're a soy latte shy of £300 so you're expecting to be dazzled by a high-end performance shoe with carbon nanogubbins, sveltebutstiff everything and probably a dash of alien styling, but what you're actually looking at is a light hiking shoe or something that you could easily shmooze down the yacht club with a sockette and pastel ensemble. The Outlands belie their casual looks, though, by being a serious off-road shoe for both pedalling in and walking up unrideable climbs in that you can then wear into a bar and sip an Aperol spritz to settle the dust.

Whether you prefer riding on or off the road, read our comprehensive guide to choosing the best cycling shoes for you.

> Buy now: Café du Cycliste Outlands for £294 from Café du Cycliste

Let's begin with the obvious... The look of the Outlands stomps very heavily and squarely in what has become the gravel aesthetic, with muted earth tones and a hybrid look of road and off-road, mixing the tech of the former with the vibe of the latter; chunky road if you will. But while the hiking look of the Outlands will attract as many as it offends, don't let appearances fool you, that leisure look is just skin deep.

For a performance shoe it doesn't conform to the norm that it has to be tight and restrictive, and the Outlands are pleasantly roomy for their size, with a mid-shoe that isn't too narrow and toe box that doesn't get all pointy and squeezey. Café du Cycliste footwear uses standard European sizing and its size guide handily has a Virtual Fitting Room foot length size calculator alongside European, English and American sizing. I'm a 41 with a preference for a slimmer shoe, and while the Outlands were a slightly roomier 41 than usual, that turned out to be a good thing.

The upper is one-piece leather, laser perforated with small holes; it's a warm shoe compared with those with mesh panels, but it does mean the Outlands are easy to wipe clean, and they scrub up well after being dragged through the mud, bog, puddle and grit that passes as UK gravel. If this light Sand colour isn't to your taste then there is an alternative, Scots Pine, that's an almost black green upper with lighter green bumper and eau de nil sole.

There's a frieze of 'liquid rubber' joining the upper and footbed, for durability, which has a suede texture to it but is a lot easier to clean, and it does a good job of protecting that part of the shoe from gravel strikes and overgrown undergrowth tangles, although it does succumb to nicks and scuffs after a while. The toe section is rigidly reinforced to protect your pinkies from bouncing rocks, dismount stumbles and stone stubbings.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - front.jpg

The inside rear of the shoe has what Café du Cycliste calls its Fish Grid heel gripper; you might know it by other manufacturers' nomenclature of a Cat's Tongue gripper, but the aquatic theme fits better with the Café du Cycliste fish logo and the smooth/rough direction of scales. It's a rough material with a one-way grip to it to prevent heel lift and it does a good job on the bike, though it does struggle a bit with the extra movement when you're off and walking.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - heel.jpg

A pull-loop in contrasting red decorates the rear of the heel to help with slipping on.

Laces

I've never really been a fan of laces on a cycling shoe; living in a frequently damp and puddly climate, I'm of the opinion that anyone who deliberately specs laces on a cycling shoe has never tried to undo soaking wet, muddy laces with freezing, shivering hands after a game of football at school, trying not to blub. But maybe things have moved on and I have deeper issues that need to be addressed about not being good at team sports.

Here, the laces pass through four pairs of captive D-ring eyelets and one set of speed hooks at the top, which give the Outlands their walking boot demeanour and help towards their noticeable weight. Mid-way down the tongue there's a handy elastic loop with chunky pull tab to tuck the laces into so they don't dangle into chainsets and shrubbery.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - laces.jpg

The laces are stretch free and you can give them a good old haul through those burly eyelets. You can't specify which bits of the shoe you want tighter over others, as you can with shoes that have multiple tensioning items, but I never felt it was an issue; the pressure evened itself out across the top of the foot, ensuring there were no hot spots and contributing towards the overall comfort of the shoe. The heavily padded tongue helps too.

There are some benefits to laces over dial tensioners – they're not going to fill with mud and foliage and become reluctant to release, and you're not going to smash them on a rock – but they have no instant on-the-move adjustment capability, and I found myself stopping at least once every ride to cinch them up a bit. After this they were usually fine and I generally got used to the comfort of a less constrictive shoe and never felt it was robbing me of power or effort.

You also get a spare pair of black laces if you don't fancy these sand and red dappled ones, which I do.

Sole

The Outlands have a 3K racing grade carbon fibre sole, which Café du Cycliste says is for maximum transfer of power. There's no random number stiffness index given to the rigidity of the sole, but it is definitely at the performance end of the scale and doesn't feel like it's flexing watts out of you when you're putting down primo gravel power. You can see all the carbon around the cleat mount. Initial thoughts were that the sole would be too stiff for any walking about, but that wasn't to be.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - sole toe.jpg

The tread on the butterscotch sole is good and chunky, which definitely contributes towards the shoes' overall heft. It's an SUPtraction outsole, for optimal grip. The tread has a firm squish to it if you give it a good old squeeze, so that's going to help with traction and grip compared with a lot of off-road shoes where the tread can be solid, slippy lumps.

The tread is about 8mm thick at the cleat, which gives it lots of protection if you're hike-a-biking, although it can make pedal release a bit sticky once in a while. It's not a gappy tread, so isn't suited to mud (would you even want to get these muddy?) but it's perfect for dry, dusty conditions (the colour of the shoes); that said, if you are considering sloppy or sticky terrain there is provision for studs in the toe.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - sole heel.jpg

The body of the sole is patterned with a chiselled rock effect which offers a bit of grip both on rock and balanced on pedals, and looks nice into the deal.

Despite the stiff sole, with no designed flex to the toe, they are surprisingly good for trudging over rocks. The pronounced upward curve of the sole at the toe means you can roll your foot and the thick and soft grip makes them confident over all surfaces. This is where the mass of the shoe reimagines itself as dependability, and you feel you can treat them quite badly and not mince about like you might in a more traditional stiff and tread-lite cross-country shoe.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - side.jpg

The insole is from Solestar, a company that specialises in sports insoles, and its patented Stabilization-Delta technology is claimed to put your feet into the optimal position for maximum stability, comfort, and performance. They're a premium item compared with standard issue insoles, and no doubt contribute to the cost of the shoes. They also have a very high instep compared with those standard insoles, which may or may not conform to your orthotic needs.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - in sole.jpg

In use

The leather upper of the Outlands is incredibly supple, which means it conforms to your foot shape, and there are no seams to rub or create tight spots, ensuring comfort no matter how long or how far you wear the shoe.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - in step.jpg

Having never been a fan of old fashioned laces, preferring the on-the-move adjustability of a dial ratchet, I came round to them here; if I gave the laces a decent hoik at the start of the ride I found that mid-ride tightening was needed less often, and especially on longer rides my feet thanked me for not being under the tightest tension possible at all times. Who knew? A wrinkle on the outside right shoe where the laces pulled clumsily over my foot was aesthetically bothersome but didn't affect the comfort of the shoe at all.

The Outlands' ultimate test was on a weekend of all-day rides that included far, far more walking than is reasonable to expect from what was supposed to be a cycle ride, both up and then annoyingly down hills, and they came out the other side smiling. Off the bike, their walking boot looks make sense and they're solid and assured, and while the stiff sole is not the ideal platform for scrabbling over rocks, the thickness and squish of the tread make for welcome surefootedness and the curve of the toe helps with mobility.

2024 Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes - heels.jpg

The heft of the Outlands is noticeable if you equate lack of weight with performance – if your riding is clipping in at the start of the ride and clipping out at the end without a dab or trot in between, then probably look elsewhere – but that sturdiness pays back in general rufty-tuftyness and have-a-go attitude if your gravel or off-road riding contains a lot of rugged terrain and off-bike action.

Value

No matter how comfy these are and how well they perform off the bike, it's still a salty price, though your cost per mile ratio barometer may differ, of course. A Jimmy Choo trainer can cost twice as much as this and you're not going to get the same mileage out of it, and it's not going to perform so well halfway up a fell.

They're not alone at this end of the market, but there are cheaper options available. The obvious comparison to the Outlands is the Quoc Gran Tourer XC Lace, because they look like siblings. The Quoc shoe is significantly cheaper at £220, but that's reflected in the upper being microfibre not leather. Another £20 gets you the Gran Tourer XC with a dual dial closure system, as reviewed by Liam for off.road.cc, and in similar vibes to the Outlands, he commented on their weight but great walkability, although they look narrower than the Café du Cycliste shoes.

The S-Works Recon Lace Gravel Shoes are £300 (or currently half if your colour palette is more lairy than muted gravel). They're a more racy shoe, with Specialized's stiffest and lightest XC FACT carbon plate in the sole, and they come with titanium alloy cleat nuts. Whoo.

A cheaper option is the Recon ADV, a lace-up for two-thirds the price. They come with STRIDE Toe-Flex Technology that allows greater toe flex for improved walkability off the bike, and a supple laser-perforated upper.

Another £300 option that looks different but still mixes road efficiency with off-road gravelista sensibilities is the Fizik Vento Ferox Carbon, which might pique an interest and have you wondering what you might have in your wardrobe to match... They come in more subtle colours. But why would you? Mixing up the tension systems with a BOA dial and a wide Velcro Powerstrap, the upper is made from a semi-translucent 'ripstop-style' fabric that gives the shoe a singular look and Patrick loved them for their road-stiff carbon sole yet incredible overall comfort.

The Giro Empire VR90 could lay claim to being the grandaddy of lace-up performance off-road shoes, which road.cc reviewed eight years ago. They have a one-piece upper mated to a full-carbon Easton EC90 sole with a moulded Vibram rubber tread to make them road shoe stiff but with walkability. The price has increased since then, obvs, and they're now £274.99, so a little cheaper than the Outlands.

Conclusion

I'm a shoe tart and love a high-end ride slipper, and I really wanted to give these Outlands a good kicking because my first impressions of a cycling shoe that looks like a lightweight hiking boot and costs almost £300 were that we're being shafted by both the gravel tax and the Café du Cycliste tax, and paying for image over performance. But they handsomely confounded all those initial prejudices and are really rather good actually: a sturdy off-road shoe that can take on anything in its path, be that pedalling all day or walking for longer than you might prefer while pushing a bike.

> Buy now: Café du Cycliste Outlands for £294 from Café du Cycliste

Verdict

Gravel shoe whose substance is more than equal to its style, with a stiff sole, comfortable upper and chunky tread for excellent walkability

road.cc test report

Make and model: Cafe du Cycliste Outlands Shoes

Size tested: 41

Tell us what the product is for

Café du Cycliste says: "Innovative gravel-riding shoes for a superb connection to your machine and the wilderness that awaits you. With an aesthetic inspired by hiking shoes, the Café du Cycliste out-there spirit is captured perfectly with this trail-breaking design.

"Collaborating with a specialist footwear manufacturer using leading-edge engineering and performance materials, the shoes' leather upper is matched with a carbon footbed and rubber outsole for optimum comfort, stability and power transfer."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Café du Cycliste lists:

3K racing grade carbon-fibre sole for maximum transfer of power.

SOLESTAR insole, proven for breathability, hygiene and all-day comfort.

Custom design rubber tread outsole made with SUP traction for optimal grip.

Flexible Leather upper with laser-cut holes for ventilation.

'Liquid rubber' joining the upper and footbed for durability.

Durable and flexible laces and hiking-boot inspired speed hooks and D-ring eyelets.

Mud-stud compatible.

Fish grid heel grippers.

Sand or Scots Pine colours.

Two colours of laces included.

Weight: 734g per pair (size 41).

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10

Extremely well made shoes; the eyelets may be a style affectation but they're solidly mounted and haven't ripped out.

Rate the product for performance:
 
9/10

Their casual good looks hide a performance off road shoe that's stiff enough, comfortable enough and particularly good if you like to go for a walk with your bike.

Rate the product for durability:
 
8/10

They've been put through the off-road wringer and have stayed together very well. They're showing the odd scuff and nick now on the upper, which is to be expected, but the sole is still looking good even after all the yomping they've done.

Rate the product for fit:
 
9/10

A tiny bit roomier than you might expect from a performance-related off-road shoe, but that's a good thing here.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
8/10

The Café du Cycliste size chart was spot on for getting the fit right.

Rate the product for weight:
 
3/10

Those weighty eyelets and thick sole make them a chonky clog.

Rate the product for comfort:
 
9/10

A roomy shape and supple leather upper make them a very comfy shoe to be in.

Rate the product for value:
 
4/10

No matter how comfy these are and how well they perform off the bike, their £295 RRP is still salty, although - as shown in the section below, 'how does the price compare' - they're not alone, and even slightly cheaper than some.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

The leather upper and 'Liquid Rubber' band were both easy wipe clean.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

The Café du Cycliste Outlands are a gravel and off road shoe designed for optimum comfort, stability and power and the hiking shoe aesthetic does make them look like they might be an expensive exercise in style over substance but they perform very well both in the pedals and on the ground and pushing.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

All-day ride comfort and off the bike confidence.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

Price.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

The obvious comparison to the Outlands is the Quoc Gran Tourer XC Lace, because they look like siblings. The Quoc shoe is significantly cheaper at £220, but that's reflected in the upper being microfibre not leather. Another £20 gets you the Gran Tourer XC with a dual dial closure system, as reviewed by Liam for off.road.cc, and in similar vibes to the Outlands, he commented on their weight but great walkability, although they look narrower than the Café du Cycliste shoes.

The S-Works Recon Lace Gravel Shoes are £300 (or currently half if your colour palette is more lairy than muted gravel). They're a more racy shoe, with Specialized's stiffest and lightest XC FACT carbon plate in the sole, and they come with titanium alloy cleat nuts.

A cheaper option is the Recon ADV, a lace-up for two-thirds the price. They come with STRIDE Toe-Flex Technology that allows greater toe flex for improved walkability off the bike, and a supple laser-perforated upper.

Another £300 option that looks different but still mixes road efficiency with off-road gravelista sensibilities is the Fizik Vento Ferox Carbon. Mixing up the tension systems with a BOA dial and a wide Velcro Powerstrap, the upper is made from a semi-translucent 'ripstop-style' fabric that gives the shoe a singular look and Patrick loved them for their road-stiff carbon sole yet incredible overall comfort.

The Giro Empire VR90 could lay claim to being the grandaddy of lace-up performance off-road shoes. They have a one-piece upper mated to a full-carbon Easton EC90 sole with a moulded Vibram rubber tread to make them road shoe stiff but with walkability. They're £274.99, so a little cheaper than the Outlands.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes, dammit.

Would you consider buying the product? I'd wait for the sale.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? I actually would, despite their price.

Use this box to explain your overall score

Yes, they're expensive, and compared with other shoes at this price it's hard to immediately see where your money goes, as they look like a casual hiking shoe. But underneath that there's a performance shoe that's stiff enough for efficient all-day rides yet incredibly comfortable and sturdy enough for confident walking about in if your type of cycling involves pushing a bicycle around a lot.

Overall rating: 8/10

About the tester

Age: 50  Height: 180cm  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: It varies as to the season.  My best bike is: The one I\'m on at the time

I've been riding for: Over 20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Experienced

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, cyclo cross, general fitness riding, fixed/singlespeed, mtb, Fun

Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he's not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he's not doing either of those he's pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he's agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours don't He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.

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2 comments

Avatar
Freddy56 | 2 weeks ago
1 like

They do look lovely. Would love to see a picture of them now after testing? How is the white wearing.

Avatar
brooksby replied to Freddy56 | 1 week ago
2 likes

If I buy shoes with white on them I can pretty much put them down, turn around, and they're covered in oil or dirt 

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