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Louis Garneau LA84 Review

Price:   $120 List | $84.90 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Stylish, retro-lacing, ventilated, versatile, affordable
Cons:  Scuff easily, sole less rigid, laces give less tailored fit
Bottom line:  A fun throwback for flashy commuting, spin, or hardcore road that brings real performance across activities.
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   Louis Garneau
By Ryan Baham
Friday December 1, 2017

Our Verdict

The Louis Garneau L.A. 84s are the most affordable model in our lineup. If you're on a budget, these shoes will get you out on the road without much hassle or setback. They are relatively robust and dependable, which also helps justify the purchase, but that comes with the understanding that they won't have the best power transfer, comfort, or last as long as a top level pro shoe. You might have also noticed that they use laces, which bring their sort of retro appeal, but it also means that they aren't readily adjustable. We liked riding them and think their quirk, price, and performance will make them the right shoe for some riders.


RELATED REVIEW: The Best Road Bike Shoes of 2017

Our Analysis and Test Results

For a lot of roadies, laces are pretty antithetical to cycling shoes, so these kicks had us skeptical. As it turns out, the laces weren't a serious imposition and gave an excellent, tight fit. The drawback showed itself after riding for a good long while when I was ready to loosen the shoes up. However, they work just fine on shorter rides. Surprisingly, they are relatively lightweight, lighter than even pro-level shoes like the Sidi Wire Vent Carbons, which won our Editors' Choice Award.

Despite their impressive lightness, they are entry level shoes and end up near the lower end of the spectrum across most of the other measures. That doesn't make them terrible shoes - they wouldn't be in this lineup if they were anything less than excellent, but they face some serious competition. Read on as we break them down across a handful of categories and compare them to some of the top shoes on the market.

Performance Comparison


Yes, the chart shows the LA84s bringing up the rear, but someone has to be the lanterne rouge, and it's not an indicator of failure, just that the rest of the field was solid.

Comfort


The Louis Garneau use a synthetic leather and mesh upper that helps keep the shoe rigid, but breathable. They have a healthy amount of padding on the tongue and collar, but the lining is slightly rough. This is a bit troublesome because the opening and heel are a bit loose, which allows the heel to slip to the point that it chafes. This is pretty annoying because the toe box is so narrow compared to the heel, so riders with isosceles triangles for feet will do well in these.

The L.A. 84s improve comfort by using modest padding in the upper and vents in the sole to keep the feet cool in the summer and drained in the rain.
The L.A. 84s improve comfort by using modest padding in the upper and vents in the sole to keep the feet cool in the summer and drained in the rain.

A comparable shoe, in fact, our Best Bang for the Buck shoe, the Fi'zi:k R5B Uomo Boa, offer far superior comfort and often perform better. If you're interested in a premium road shoe with excellent comfort, take a look at the Shimano S-Phyre, which won our Top Pick Award for its top performance at a discount to typical pro level prices.

Weight


These kicks come in at just 20.9 ounces in men's 44, which puts them alongside high-performance shoes like the carbon-intensive Mavic Cosmic Ultimate II and ahead of both the Fi'zi:ks and Sidi Wire Vent Carbons. They achieve this by using a fairly thin synthetic leather upper and a heavily vented, thin injected nylon and fiberglass composite sole. As light as these are, there are lighter shoes, including the Giro Empire ACC and Shimano S-Phyre, both of which use carbon fiber in their soles and less padding.

Power Transfer


The tight upper and stiff injected nylon and fiberglass sole help with power transfer, but they just don't deliver what we'd expect in a road shoe. Louis Garneau notes that its HRS-80 helps retain and cup the heel, but that doesn't seem to be the case. There's a good deal of lift - enough to cause chafing. The shoes do fine for entry level shoes, but don't touch the likes of their entry-level competitor, Fi'zi:k, which uses a stiffer carbon composite sole and better fastening and heel design to clamp down on slippage. If you want the ultimate in power transfer, look at the Sidi Wire Vent Carbon and pay attention to the tight heel retention system and narrow neck.

We tested the L.A. 84s side by side with the rest of our lineup to help determine their performance.
We tested the L.A. 84s side by side with the rest of our lineup to help determine their performance.

Adjustability


Because the L.A. 84s go with the lacing thing, they are at a bit of a disadvantage in this category. They are great when it comes to getting a uniform, tight fit, but when it comes to wanting it tight across the upper part of the foot and loose over the toes, it's impossible. This is partially because the toe box is already small, but also because the laces tend to even out as you ride. Further, there's no real option to loosen the laces without untying and retying. This makes micro-adjustment and especially adjusting on the fly an impossibility.

A better option can be found in the Fi'zi:k, which uses a bi-directional Boa dial and a simple toe strap to provide on the fly adjustment and micro-adjustment. Top of the shelf adjustability can be found in the Sidi.

Road shoes come with all sorts of fastening options: Boa dials  Velcro straps  buckles  ratchets  laces  and lots of unpictured options.
Road shoes come with all sorts of fastening options: Boa dials, Velcro straps, buckles, ratchets, laces, and lots of unpictured options.

Durability


These do fairly well in this category. Their synthetic leather upper is only one piece, so there is limited stitching and therefore limited areas where the upper is vulnerable to tears and breakdown. They also use a very hard injected nylon and fiberglass outsole that can take some abuse, but even carbon fiber will start to shear off after enough kicking, scraping, and grinding and these have small, irreplaceable heel and toe pads to protect the sole.

For a comparable shoe with improved durability, take a look at the Fi'zi:k R5B Uomo Boas. And for an extremely durable shoe with all sorts of reinforced regions and replaceable parts, take a look at the Sidi Wire Vent Carbons.

Best Applications


They use 2-hole and 3-hole configurations on the outsole and have a wide platform for conversion to SPEEDPLAY. This means you can ride any way you'd like with any cleats you want, but these are best for road riding and possibly spin. Anything requiring walking (like commuting, leisure touring, mountain biking, spinning) will be less than ideal.

A few of the most common cleats are Crankbrothers (left)  Shimano SPD (middle)  and Look (right). The New Republics come with 2 hole and naturally suit Crankbrothers and SPD  while the LA84s have 2 and 3 holes and are suited to all three cleats.
A few of the most common cleats are Crankbrothers (left), Shimano SPD (middle), and Look (right). The New Republics come with 2 hole and naturally suit Crankbrothers and SPD, while the LA84s have 2 and 3 holes and are suited to all three cleats.

Value


$114.99 is not a steep ask, especially if you like laces. They give serviceable performance and will last a few seasons. These are delivered $114.99 worth of appeal, performance, and longevity.

Conclusion


These are definitely a budget buy in the world of road cycling. They will get you out on the road and serve you well for some time, but they're not going to let you live your best roadie life. Yet, we think they are an excellent option for entry-level riders who don't need to spend a paycheck on elite gear like the Sidi Wire Vent Carbons. Doubly useful for that rider is the SPD compatibility that opens them up as commuter shoes. These are the right shoes for those riders and they will be happy in them.

The L.A. 84s sit here looking snazzy.
The L.A. 84s sit here looking snazzy.

Ryan Baham
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