February 27, 2014
If you ride in all conditions and they fit you, then these are definitely worth it.
There aren’t a huge number of proper winter boots on the market. Most of the big brands make one or two models at the most, but they’re one of those specialist products which is both hard to design well and hard to sell, as the materials and design make them expensive. If you ride all year round and especially if you get cold easily, it’s worth investing in a pair. It’s also worth bearing in mind that you won’t be wearing them anywhere near as much as your regular shoes (if you live in the UK, anyway), so they will last for many winters if you look after them.
This is Northwave’s top end winter boot, and its only one with a Boa ratchet fitting system (cheaper versions are velcro fastened). The fibreglass-injected sole unit is quite stiff, with plenty of well spaced lugs which grip well when hiking in slippy mud despite being relatively low profile. The cleat slots are nice and long, and there are stud holes (though no blanking screws) at the front of each boot. There’s still a bit of velcro here – fastening the well padded ankle cuff – and the uppers are made from a mixture of very tough mesh outer and a rigid, plasticky material. They’re pretty bulky around the heel, so if you’re a heels-in sort of rider you might need to protect your cranks/stays with tape.
Northwave has designed these boots with a twin-layer construction with the outer layer dealing with weatherproofing while the inner keeps your toes warm, making for a very supportive boot that’s still not too rigid to walk in. An insulated GoreTex membrane keeps water out (as far as possible when there’s a large, leg-shaped hole at the top of each boot, anyway) and warmth in. Crucially, they’re also windproof – so wind chill isn’t an issue, either.
The end result is a very cosy bit of kit. I got mine a size too large (in part because Northwave seems to have altered its sizing slightly for the better since the days when it made the narrowest and most restrictive winter boots out there), wearing them with a pair of thick wool socks as well as a thin synthetic liner to aid wicking if I know the ride will be wet. They are super warm, to the point that I’ve been wishing for a return of last year’s snow and ice to test them out properly – they really are too snug for plus temperatures but come into their own on sub-zero or wet, single-digit temperature days.
As suspected, keeping the Boa ratchets clear of grit and mud has proved difficult. While I’ve not had to resort to cutting them off yet, there have been a few sticky moments after really filthy rides when the ratchets jammed and took a lot of wriggling to free. If you’re accustomed to using Boa fixings on summer shoes and skipping the basic maintenance Boa advises, then be aware that the conditions you’ll be using these in make it more of a requirement than a recommendation. They do provide a much better fit round my skinny ankles than velcro-fastened winter boots, though, so I think they’re worth the effort in keeping at least the Boa bit clean, if not the rest of the boots…
Overall: Yes, they’re expensive – but what price warm feet? If you ride in all conditions and they fit you, then these are definitely worth it.