by Tom dB
February 16, 2009
We’ve rounded up an even ten boots – from rugged summer numbers to depth of winter monsters and given them a thrashing.
Ten boots to protect you from rocks, rain and the rest. There are cycling shoes and there are boots. Cycling shoes are usually, light, well ventilated and help get your power to the pedals. Boots aren’t that simple. They’re normally bought to keep toes warm in the winter, or ankles protected in the summer. They know they’ll spend a fair amount of time off the bike – either portaging up scree slopes in Italy, or risking the shiny tiles in Morrison’s. A good boot needs to protect you from the elements while giving your delicate toe and ankle bones some protection from the on- and off- bike rocks you’ll encounter.
From: RJ Chicken and Son
Features: Low profile rubber outsole, EVA heel insert, patented “QuickFit” single-pull lacing system with mesh vented crud guard flap cover, upper made from composite mesh and coated leather, perforated tongue, molded sock liner, neoprene elastic ankle gaiter.
Although these are clearly boots they aren’t designed specifi cally for riding in cold, wet conditions – pretty much the opposite in fact. They’re aimed more at ‘Enduro’ and possibly even ‘Freeride’ riders really. They are noticeably much lighter and airy to wear than pretty much any boot we’ve tried before. But this lightweight nature does slightly impair the boot’s support and stiffness capabilities. We initially thought that they’d be a good option for riding in big European mountains during the Summer but even on more modestly lengthy British descents the fl exy sole led to aching feet and calves (the sole wasn’t very grippy on damp rock either so any ‘freeridey’ portaging was a bit sketchy). There wasn’t really that much useful ankle support or protection compared to standard (non-boot) cycling shoes either. On a positive note, the ‘QuickFiit’ lace system proved itself to be very good indeed, quick and simple to operate, very wide ‘mouth’ to get your feet in and out of, and with very evenly applied pressure.
Overall: Light, airy trail shoes for hotter days, though not as rugged, nor protective as they first appear.
From: Cannondale +41 61 487 9387
Features: Chunky sole, moulded-in studs, laces – with lace tidy clip, lots of reflective piping. Uppers are mesh and nubuck with rubbery ‘armour’ over.
The large areas of mesh and trainer-looks identify the Roam as more at home as a spring/summer shoe. Saying that, though, the sole is good and chunky and the looks would let you wear these as an everyday round-town shoe. In fact, if your trail-riding avoids general soakings, or you religiously wear waterproof socks, then you’ll probably feel right at home. If you don’t, then you’ll probably freeze. The laces kept taut and allowed for a good deal of adjustment. The lacetidything worked, but isn’t as handy as the tongue mounted lace holders that other shoes have.
Overall: Great for commuting if you don’t have room to pack spare shoes, for general riding or for those on-off the bike grocery trips. If you normally wear trainers though, the extra weight is very noticeable.
From: Moore Large
Features: Full Pittards waterproof leather upper, tall neoprene cuff, thermal lining and footbed with extra toebox insulation, BOA cable style fastening with quick release, takes toe studs (two lengths supplied).
Hot momma! These boots are great for when the temperature dips. Just putting them on brings a smile to your face; dial in the BOA lace and off you go, whatever the weather. Ignore the fact that you look a little like a special-needs stormtrooper and luxuriate in the warmth. Designed with help from extreme snow racer John Stamstad, these Lakes work well from –12º up to +10º and shrug off snow/sleet and rain. Even when rain eventually gets in over the top, they keep you warm. The only thing that might put you off is if it’s not cold enough for long enough to get your money’s worth out of them, but then it means they’ll last for years.
Overall: Highly recommended for those with cold toes, or those who want to head out into the hills when everyone else is by the fire.
From: Jim Walker
Features: Rugged, Gore-Tex lined fabric, Velcro flap covering laces, deeply lugged sole, stud compatible, but not included, Neoprene top cuff.
The Northwave Celcius boots are slim, racing style boots with full winter protection. The uppers are Goretex lined and your feet are further protected with a gaitered tongue and neoprene cuff. Tread is fairly open to shed mud and you can add studs or spikes for when it gets really crappy out there. The sole is stiff and effi cient and the shoe supportive enough for winter ‘cross racing. The only downside to them, apart from the time needed to take them off with numb fi ngers, is that they can get hot if the temperature’s not cold and slushy enough.
Overall: A ton well spent if it’ll keep you training and racing through the winter. The difference between one more hour in the hills and fleeing home frozen.
Northwave Gran Canion
From: Jim Walker www.jimwalker.co.uk
Features: Nubuck and fabric upper with full lace enclosure. Velcro strap for more support and lace-keeping. Gore-Tex XCR liner with bellowed tongue.
Another shoe very much in the walking shoe vein. The shape, lacing and chunky sole wouldn’t be out of place halfway up a mountain – and the SPD sole means you’ll probably be there with your bike too. The Gran Canion (boom-tish!) has a snug, warm feel and the Gore XCR liner keeps it that way. The sole is grippy off the bike (and the SPD blank bolts in and out) and comfy for walking in the hills or round town. Although they’re not as all-enveloping as the Celcius, they’ll still work well as a full winter boot – extending into spring and autumn duties, though the Gore-Tex liner will make it too hot for summer.
Overall: A great three season boot with rugged sole and good walking boot features.
Features: Neoprene cuff, Gore-Tex liner, leather uppers.
These are Shimano’s winter specifi c boots, featuring a sealed leather outer and Gore-Tex liner meaning water ingress from below is unlikely. What is more likely however is for water to get in through the top as the neoprene cuff is merely elasticated with no way of ensuring a tight seal, if you have less than trunk-like ankles this can be a real pain, a Velcro strap would make all the difference. The sole is a good compromise of pedalling efficiency stiffness and portage fl exibility, and the tread is reasonably aggressive, fi nding grip in all but the boggiest conditions, but the absence of toe studs has us scratching our heads. Surely this is the one shoe in the Shimano range that needs them, given its natural habitat is going to be deep mud? The toe box is roomy enough for thick socks and toe movement to stave off freezing foot digits, but they aren’t particularly warm for winter boots, especially compared to the Lakes, and so buying a size with a thick pair of socks in mind is recommended.
Overall. For such a season-specific shoe the MW02s need a few more features to make themselves a worthwhile investment.
Sidi Diablo GTX
Features: Goretex lining, non-vented upper. Three Velcro straps and Velcro neoprene ankle cuff. Takes toe studs.
If you’re a Sidi-lover, then you’ll immediately feel at home in these Diablo winter boots. There’s the same, snug, purposeful feel as in their race shoes, and there is less in the way of warm padding, or bulk compared to other boots. These are simply a Goretex lined taller race shoe with a small amount of thermal lining and a lack of vents. We don’t like having solely Velcro closures on a winter boot though because mud loves Velcro. They’ve worked fi ne so far though, so perhaps we’re just paranoid. They’re certainly as stiff soled as their race shoes too. You get the feeling that they’re not designed for all-day, off-the-beaten path winter wanderings, but simply as a tool to let you keep racing and training in terrible weather.
Overall: Stiff and purposeful winter boots for the racer and training rider. Not as suitable for wearing down the pub or wandering across Scottish bogs though.
Features: Goretex lined Nubuck artificial leather with Vibram sole. Lace closure in traditional walking boot style extending down to forefoot. No capacity for studs.
We’ve reviewed Shimano’s MT90s before and still stand by them as our favourite all-round winter/spring/summer boot. The rugged leather and Vibram sole are on a par with decent walking boots and the sole is stiff enough to ride in, but chunky enough for ‘I think the trail’s this way’ wandering moments. Using traditional laces, there’s a fair adjustment in fit if you like your boots tight or loose – or if you’re wearing extra socks. The laces stay put and tidy away well too. On extended trips, the shoes can take a while to dry out once the Nubuck outer become sodden. The amount of abuse the MT90s can take and spring back from though, is still impressive.
Overall: Still our benchmark, hardwearing autumn and winter boot.
From: Specialized UK
Features: Hitop boot with padded ankles. Lace closure. Specialized Body Geometry features, ‘Umma Gumma’ rubber on sole, carbon shank
Specialized don’t currently make a winter boot, but hey, who said that freerider-types didn’t need decent boots with stiff soles eh? The Buzzsaw is a chunky looking shoe that you can run with flats or clipless (the SPD thread cover bolts on and off) The boot is comes up either side of your ankle bones to give some padded protection and the whole feel of the boot is very safe and secure. The back of the boot is cut away for freedom of movement too and makes for good off-bike use too. The Buzzsaw is most definitely not a thermal winter boot though, despite all that padding. The generous mesh around the sides and toes make it ‘aqueously transparent’ and any water splashes instantly soak your feet. Saying that, though, if you’re after rugged shoes for Spanish holidays, or trips to Morzine, you should look at a pair of Buzzsaws.
Overall: Definitely not winter boots, but great spring/summer boots if you need extra protection without sacrificing pedalling efficiency.
Specialized Trail 120
From: Specialized UK 0208 3913500
Features: Velcro straps, toe studs, Umma Gumma tread, Body Geometry ergonomics.
As winter-specifi c boots the Trail 120s fall at the fi rst hurdle, a ‘water-resistant’ upper means that anything more than a puddle will mean wet feet, but for waterproof sock users, and those looking for a general year-round boot, there is lots to like. Four velcro straps hold your feet and ankles in place and you feel well held in with lots of support all round, the carbon sole adds to the feeling of being really locked in and part of your bike. A strange feeling, but one that means you feel more in control. The tread is made of ‘Umma Gumma rubber’ which is great on wet rock, and the fact that you can fi t studs earns it more points. A touch more re-enforcing in the area of your little toe wouldn’t have gone amiss, as this is usually where feet meet rocks but there are sturdy plastic cups at the front and rear for ‘head-on’ impacts. Being a Specialized shoe you get the Body Geometry treatment with all kinds of clever features to keep your knees, feet and hips happy, and you really can feel the difference.
Overall: Although there are better options for winter riding, for general all year round wear the Trail 120s are great, not cheap though.
Boots Group Test Conclusion:-
All the boots here worked well, though some at different ends of the temperature spectrum. For deepest winter epics and those who feel the cold terribly, the Lake MX301s win hands down. We’ve never had such toasty warm feet. For more British ‘warm and wet’ conditions, the Shimano MT90 and the North Wave Gran Canion boots make great autumn-through-to-spring wear. Fabric or leather – just take your pick. Both offer walking-boot fit and grip and will be hard wearing enough to make them good value. For more summery trips, where thermal properties aren’t such an issue, the Specialized Buzzsaws are a good, chunky but still stiff boot. They could do with a Velcro strap for a bit more security and lace-keeping, but for warm, rocky trips, they’re great. Which is good because in the wet, they’re rubbish.