I’ve gotten a few miles on the Wolvhammers now, and wanted to share some initial impressions.
Here’s the official RATG team mechanic, installing Crank Brothers cleats:
Not to be confused with the new 45NRTH model:
Ahh yes, the boots.
The outer boot seems very durable and, rather importantly, does not snag or catch burrs or other plant life.
They are waterproof (I stood in a puddle that was about 6″ deep to do some testing), and have a very grippy Vibram outsole.
I’m very impressed by how well the ‘boot within a boot’ concept works. The inner boot snugs down nicely on your feet and is very comfortable, and the outer boot keeps you dry and warm (and clean)…
I will say this: they are sensitive to the placement of the cleat. Because of the aggressive tread, they clip onto the cleat very aggressively…and it takes an intentional foot twist to get in or out. It’s kind of like going back to riding clipless for the first time–you have to really be intentional to clip out. Adjusting the cleat laterally to get a little bit better side clearance helped.
The pic above shows the cleat as initially set up. On the right side of the pic, you can see that the eggbeater pedal body is too close to the tread on the boots, causing some difficulty in unclipping. The picture below is post-adjustment, with the pedal more centered in the boot’s cutout:
I would consider using the metal Crank Brother shims under the cleat to make clipping out a bit easier still…at present, I’m just using the standard plastic shields. We’ll get some more miles on them, and then decide. This isn’t a complaint–it just takes some getting used to (and some cleat adjustment). Post adjustment, they were snug to unclip, but not unreasonably so.
Size-wise, I’m a 44 in just about everything, from Pearl Izumi to Bontrager to Louis Garneau. I ordered the Wolfies in a 45, and that seems about perfect. Even though they’re cut large with a roomy footbox, going up one size gives me plenty of room for heavy socks (if ever needed) and some air pockets. Also, the NASA approved insole…very, very comfortable.
Warmth wise, I’ve had them out in temps down to 25 (because that’s as cold as it’s gotten here), with 15mph winds, riding the Mukluk. Even with just a thin pair of socks, the boots were more than warm enough. I’ll be curious to see what the outer limits of these boots is. I’m expecting warmth into the sub-zeros, and colder with heat packs. The insulation is very impressive.
From a cycling perspective, the boots work great–the sole is rigid enough for good power transfer (and rigid enough to avoid foot cramps), but has enough flexibility to encourage hike-a-bike bushwacking. It’s a great compromise between extremes–and I wouldn’t change it.
I’ve been thinking about my impressions thus far, and here’s about the very best I can offer: these are great boots. Note that I didn’t say cycling boots. They’re warm, comfortable, versatile, have a great tread, a simple and effective closure system, they seem waterproof, they’re attractive, they’re comfortable to walk in–they’re great boots. Separate from cycling, I would be interested in these boots for winter activities. (Frankly, I suspect they will be adopted by some snow-shoers, as well). They have sensible design features, like the little loop for your gaiters.
The cherry on top of these being great boots is that they are also cycling boots. It’s added versatility. I don’t have any cycling shoes that are comfortable separate from cycling…I’m not throwing my RXXXLs on to go to town. I wouldn’t have any hesitation about throwing these on to go for a hike in the woods, or to go sledding, or to engage in other winter pursuits–with or without a bike. They’re just great boots, and the added versatility of the clipless compatibility is wonderful.
I realize that there are platform believers out there–these are worth considering for you, too. As winter boots–cycling or otherwise–these are a great option. For me, clipless is the way to go…I need to get the modest amount of power I can generate down in the most efficient fashion…and I feel as if I have greater control over the bike when I’m clipped in. Sure, it’s cheating, but hopping obstacles and such is easier–for me–using clipless. It’s also easier to pedal full circles when you’re busting through brush, or churning a path in deep snow. That’s my opinion (and this is my blog, so your subjecting yourself to my opinion).
It’s too early to talk about durability or reliability. As heavily as they are built, I cannot see any obvious weak areas. The durable sole, reinforced toe and heel cup, and durable fabric choices make me think that these will be long-lasting…but time will tell.
For now, I can say that they do not disappoint in any way. Calling these a winter “cycling” boot is selling them short. They’re a great winter boot, that happens to be compatible with cycling. It’s a pretty great option.