Review: Northwave Artic Commuter GTX Boots MTB

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BootsI have an in-built timer which records the time between sudden onset of hosing-it-down deluge and the ingress of water from the downpipe created by winter tights. This is what I use to measure the success of waterproof boots. No boot (ever, in my experience) can deny its natural state, which is a receptacle for things from above – namely feet and rain. However, some boots have been known to resist the sluice-pipe effect for longer than others. The Artics are definitely at the upper end of the scale (a full half-hour in one case, which is a bonus on a three-hour ride). They are also at the upper end of the scale measuring ‘ability to remain warm while sodden’. And they are definitely dry and toasty when there’s no actual rain or mere showers, general spray, muddy puddles and other forms of lesser dankness.

The Artics are tough boots with a well-protected, semi-rigid skeleton in a synthetic neon fabric which takes in the toe area and structures the shoe (I’ve not managed to put a dint in the neon yet). The heel cup is completely rigid, really robust and protective. Contrasting panels of mesh fill in the gaps: these are in fact watertight and also wash well.

The ankle is secured with a waterproof, flexible (and comfortable) neoprene flap fastened with velcro to hold back the tide for as long as possible. A second flap covers the laces and keeps water and mud off them (and from getting to your feet). Generally the construction defies all but direct assault by downpour from above. Internally, the footbed is nicely shaped and slightly cushioned. A fleecy lining keeps them breathy and snug.

I didn’t get chance to test them down to the claimed -35//DEG// but they were confidence-inspiring in their toastiness in the cold, dark, sapping and wind-chilled mornings of February and March. While these boots are warm, I didn’t find them insufferably hot as the weather became more clement and was quite happy riding in them well into the spring.

The Speed Lace system is simple and tight, although with weirdly long laces – I spent a while both wondering whether they could conceivably have a purpose and devising ways of tucking the excess behind the covering flap – someone a bit less lazy would probably just chop them down.

The sole is billed as being made of “thermoplastic material enriched with carbon powder”. It is indeed light, warm and race-shoe rigid. While I struggle a bit with rigid carbon-soled shoes in general, the fit was generous enough for me not to feel like a victim of foot binding (even with thicker winter socks). Plus the curve of the sole, and the decent grip (a chunky rubber tread combined with small toe studs) meant they were easy to walk in in all conditions and particularly satisfying in wet grass and mud – which they excluded pleasantly. For me the nice wide fit across the front foot was a bonus, although the elfin-toed might find them a bit boat-like.

These boots did a great job mountain biking, cyclocross training and on a 40-mile road commute. The neon glow was a bonus on grim days. At £170 (less if you shop around) they are definitely an investment, but one I can justify when valuing decent kit against arriving hypothermic at the office (or even worse, having to drive there).

Overall: All waterproof boots suffer from the same fundamental flaw: the bloody great hole where you insert your foot. That aside, these are indeed excellent waterproof and warm boots.


Review Info

Product: Artic Commuter GTX Boots MTB
Tested:by Beate Kubitz for Until it stopped raining.

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