To ‘winterise’ our riding activities, we often focus on tweaking the bike to try to keep us upright and out of the muck. Swapping out tyres, adding decent lights for longer ride times and frame fenders to prevent the worst of trail debris from clogging up washing machines, all seem to help. Sometimes the combined cost outlay and extra commitment levels mean that tweaking bike components is as far as we go down the ‘winterising’ track. Throw on a good pair of socks, gloves and a waterproof… and away. Deal with the consequences later.
So, now you’re thinking of buying a dedicated pair of winter boots? Possibly the last great jigsaw piece in your winter riding puzzle. Commitment levels here can plonk you firmly into ‘four-season’ riding territory and hence, you should be in greater comfort, better protected, will ride more often and for longer. Hopefully.
45NRTH is based in Minnesota, USA. The (MTB specific) Japanther boots are an SPD compatible, full ankle affair and billed as a ‘spring, autumn and mild winter’ boot by the harsh standards of the Northern State’s climate. That means slap bang perfect for the harshest of British conditions (comfortable down to -3 degrees C they say) and have proved ideal in our winter season so far and even comfortable enough back in our mild UK September (up at roughly +10 degrees C).
The design is rather striking; it’s clean and ‘stripped down’ which hides the ‘keep it under wraps’ internals. The sectional layers, from the upper lace area to the ankle top, knit together and seal with two large Velcro contact patches. This allows for loads of adjustment and creates a moulded, protective cocoon to shield your lowest danglies from the elements. At various junctions the folds in the material also help prevent water spray and splashes from coming in, resulting in a very neatly executed design.
The outer material is a tough synthetic leather casing. Features you would demand of a boot with these intentions are exactly where you expect them to be: protective toe cap and metal stud cap plates, a heat reflective internal waffle type sole and reinforced heel panel. Key construction areas are both glued and stitched.
Like any boot or sock-wrap scenario, you will never completely prevent gravity taking water down into the hole made by your legs but these boots do a sterling job of keeping all but the worst of torrential downpours from cutting short your ride. In a downpour, damp beads around the ankle seals, but the heel and forefoot have on test, remained dry.
In the latest design incarnation of this boot, a revised YKK zip has been fitted on the final outer zip seal, across the laces area. This remains a tight fit over the speed laces and – a word of caution – I always wipe this area free of muck post ride, before trying to jam down the zipper. When you consider how close your feet are to the ‘grit and grime trail festival’ it’s essential to keep that zip running free over the seal which is under stress here and keeping the snug design all held together.
Sizing wise, I went from 46 to 47 (UK 11) mainly to accommodate the tight lace area zipper and have benefited from a little extra toe wiggle but have lost nothing in heel grip and fit.
The sole is of real rubber construction and performs reassuringly in the soft stuff. Not an overtly wide, cumbersome boot but they provide a solid platform to prevent ankle turns. They have just enough flex to walk comfortably and plenty enough to get the pedal power down. They don’t feel overtly heavily for their intended use either (at 610g per boot). Just remember how heavy your trail shoes feel, squelching in that icy wet stuff.
Why would you buy these over a more ‘normally branded’ winter riding boot? They offer up a unique design and provide genuine wet weather proofing. If you’re like me and wet cold feet make winter riding activities less likely or potentially shorter activities, you’ll see the investment is worthwhile.
Overall: As a partner for any mix of winter-based off-road/CX/adventure/commute activities, these sole savers are worth the outlay at the price point. Grippy, toasty, comfortable to wear and genuinely water resistant. You’ll just need to be very fussy about cleaning the laces area zipper post-ride, for long-term boot health.
|Product:||Japanther MTB Winter Boots|
|From:||Charlie the Bikemonger, charliethebikemonger.com|
|Tested:||by Jamie for Three months|