Woo-Hoo! Bike Gear Review #1!!!
Today’s featured product is the Shimano MW-81 winter biking boot. Shimano’s stock photograph:
And the boots, live and in person:
They are gore-tex lined shoes with a synthetic, water resistant outside. The sole is glass-fiber reinforced polyamid, with standard mounting points for mountain-bike cleats. I use Crank Brothers 2 hole cleats on them, and have used the shoes with both Eggbeaters and Candy pedals. There are 3 velcro straps that go across the foot, and a fourth velcro strap secures a neoprene bootie that covers the ankle.
The boots are very waterproof. Yesterday, I put my foot down in a puddle (accidentally) that was nearly up to the top of the boot. I quickly saw my mistake and retracted my foot, and there was no water intrusion at all. Even after repeated dunkings to a few inches of depth I was very pleased with the waterproof performance.
From a sizing perspective, I usually wear 10.5 in shoes, and 44 (Bontrager) cycling shoes. My feet are relatively narrow. Saloman shoes fit me about perfectly in a 10. My Bontrager road and MTB shoes are both 44s, and fit very well with thin socks. I ordered the MW-81s in a 45, and find that they’re about perfect with a really thick pair of socks. Even with my skinny feet, I have no problem cinching down the velcro tight enough to be comfortable (and to not have repeated foot movement). A 44 would be perfect in these if I wasn’t wearing thick socks. With the thick socks, the 45 is helpful. The shoes have a good deal of internal volume to deal with sock mass.
The shoe shape is very comfortable, and I have no heel slip at all. Speaking of the velcro, it is without a doubt the nicest, heaviest-duty velcro that I’ve ever used, on any product. It holds firmly, cleans easily, and is very convenient. I’m typically more a fan of buckles on bike shoes, but these work very well–no complaints at all.
The polyamid footbed is relatively rigid; I can bike all day in these and not have any foot ache or discomfort. The seam sealing and neoprene bootie work well to keep water out, as indicated above. The ‘tread’ on the bottom of the shoe is not very aggressive (this is an area that could be substantially improved), but there is mounting for cleats, and that can aide a great deal. In addition, the tread that there is on the shoes is ‘rubbery’ and not ‘plasticky’, and thus does have some grip on solid surfaces. Off-road, the shoes are not very tractive.
Speaking of tractive, let’s talk about attractive. As in, “my, your MW-81s are not very attractive.” True, true. But they are good performers. In cold weather riding, my normal wear would be a pair of cycling bib shorts or knickers, a pair of Bontrager thermal tights, and a set of Gore bike pants (reviews on those to come). I wear thick, Smartwool socks under that setup. On the road, the shoes are comfortable down to the high-20s. By 25 degrees, my feet get cold after an hour, no matter what. Off-road, where there’s more foot movement, standing, and other motions that encourage foot bloodflow, I can ride these down to the low 20s. Below that, you’re looking at platforms and boots. My setup is to tuck the tights right into the boots, close the velcro ankle closure over the tights, and then pull the Gore pants down over the ankle closure. This does an excellent job of keeping crud, snow and water out, and keeping warmth in.
I only have a few hundred miles on them so far, and a majority of that has been road/path riding. I’ll update this in a few months with some wear and tear reports, but the boots have been great to date. If you’re looking for a cold-ish weather boot that is waterproof and comfortable, these are a great place to start looking.
Where to buy? Your local bike shop. Call or email them, and ask them to order you a pair. Can you find them online? Yup. I’m sure you can. But if you’re like me, you value the availability of a LBS to get your products from, so: 1) when you have an issue, you have immediate, local product assistance; 2) you can get expert help selecting the best product; and, 3) you can have a place to go and drool at bikes, without risking shorting out your keyboard.
RATG gives these an A, thus far.
*****UPDATE OF 12.29.11*****
I tried the MW81s with adhesive foot warmers (just like hand warmers, but slightly rounded in shape and with an adhesive that sticks to socks) last evening. My comments on the bottom end of comfortable temperatures is now revised. Even with thin socks, riding on the road, with wind, I was very comfortable in the high 20s (and by very comfortable, I mean there was no discomfort at all). I’m not sure what the bottom end of temperatures would be, but I suspect that with thick socks and foot warmers, the MW81s should suffice into the low teens.