Tuesday, November 13, 2018

Shoulder Season

45NRTH Ragnorok
Weather has a huge effect on how you dress for a ride on your bike. Summer is minimalist and during Winter, (if you ride at all) you layer up and armor yourself against the elements. But the inbetween seasons of Spring and Fall, which some wiseacre marketing wonk has called "Shoulder Seasons", is a different animal. Temperature swings during these times of year cause consternation. Too cold in the morning for shorts and short sleeves but where do you put the windbreaker and arm warmers at 11:00am when it is getting too hot for that stuff? Fall can be nice in the afternoon, but as the Sun lowers the air temperature may dip and the toes get cold. Wish you would have toted along those overshoes?

Call it what you will, Spring and Fall weather is challenging every day in a different way most times. Besides covering and uncovering extremities during rides, getting your feet happy was the other major issue to be faced. Many times Spring and Fall are wet and cold, which is a deadly combination for feet. Wearing shoe covers was what you did, but with their open bottoms to allow for a pedal cleat to engage the binding of the pedal, and generally sketchy construction over all, shoe covers usually didn't do a whole lot of good for very long.

That's why when 45NRTH first came out with the Fasterkatt, I was blown away. Here was a boot made to be worn during "shoulder seasons" and was built to withstand water intrusion, keep feet dry, and wind out. It worked way better than shoe covers despite some serious issues regarding the zipper and some other technical parts of the boot's construction. 45NRTH has since done two revisions, calling them different model names since, and the idea has been mimicked by other companies as well. Louis Garneau did a version that looked good, but the sizing was wonky. Now there is a newer version of this idea from Northwave called the Extreme XCM 2 GTX.

Northwave Extreme XCM GTX boots.
I received a pair of the Northwaves to test for RidingGravel.com. I got them out of the box, and much like the new 45NRTH Ragnoroks, the advances in design are impressive. The materials mate up in a seamless fashion, the construction is sleek. Where plastics and rubbers meet fabric you see no defects. The different rotating retention device, (it isn't a BOA), is awesome and works well.

It's amazing to me that shoe covers/booties/whatchamallcallem's are still a thing. Well.......yeah, they are cheaper to buy. Sure, I get that, but they are a total compromise in most situations I have ever used them for. In fact, I bought a pair of shoe covers last year to finish out testing some Summer shoes I had due to the end of the review period coming in late Fall. These were really nice covers, but they weren't going to do the basic job of keeping my feet warm when the shoe underneath was all about keeping my feet cool.

So, these boots are expensive, yes. But, if you could ride in comfort, without having your piggies go numb, then why not get a pair? I figured that a decent set of shoe covers goes for around $50.00 and can be as high as $100.00 for a pair. Spending that much money every couple of years, (because that is about how long they typically last used regularly), and you are getting into a price spent which makes these boots, which last years with reasonable care, make a lot of sense. My 45NRTH Fasterkatts are at least five years old and still going strong. These Northwave boots are made even better, so I suspect that they would last at least as long, if not longer. All those seasons of better coverage, warmer toes, and drier feet make the hundreds you spend up front worth it, in my opinion.

I mean, it's crazy to think that we spend hundreds on saddles, bars/grips, and yet feet get the frugal treatment. It doesn't make sense. By the way, this goes for socks as well. It's weird. Everyone seems to want to cheap out on their feet, and I should mention pedals also. Whatever. I'm not wearing shoe covers unless I have to. These boots are a way better solution.


S Sprague said...

I'm curious how the sizing is on the Northwave's. I had Fasterkatt's in a 45 which were quite tight and eventually were sold. And the zipper was opened and closed with care. I do like the new Ragnorok! I look forward to your full review!

Guitar Ted said...

@S. Sprague- It's "generous". Not too long, but a bit wider than I am used to. Room for tick socks for sure.

Barturtle said...

Good to hear that these are roomier than the 45NRTH, which I can't wear. Considering the Raptor TH to bridge the gap between summer shoes and the Spec Defroster Trails I use in winter.