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Clothesline: Winter cycling boots

Editors’ Pick:
Bontrager Old Man Winter (OMW) Boots
MSRP: $299
Star rating: 4.5
www.bontrager.com

Sometimes you need a match and sometimes you need a flamethrower. These are the latter when it comes to winter warmth.

With a roomy toe box that allows for thick socks and a removable fleece-lined Thinsulate inner boot, these boots are made for the coldest temps you’ll likely brave. Use these bad boys anywhere down to 0 degrees, though once it gets colder than that, shove some toe warmers in there. You’ll need them. The inner boots pull out for easy drying by the fire, too, so you’ll be good to go for a second round in the snow. Speed laces cinch down quickly and easily even when you’re wearing bulky gloves, and the front zipper snugs up the fit even more.

The four-way stretch upper with waterproof OutDry membrane keeps snow and slop at bay. To test this theory, we walked through a half-frozen stream on a snowy day. Not a drop reached our feet (okay, a tiny little bit through the cleats, but that’s unavoidable on any shoe when you’re ankle-deep in a river). Certainly not a scientific test, but a good sign nonetheless.

Aside from the removable inner boot, the OMW boot differentiate themselves from so many of its brethren with the very high-cut ankle cuff, which keeps even deep snow and slush away from your feet. Layering with tights and pants can be a little tricky as a result, but it’s a trifle for as much protection as you’ll get from the high cut.

The rear of the boot features a Velcro strap made for Bontrager’s Ember light ($13, sold separately). It’s a nice touch for an out-of-the-way bit of visibility when the sun goes down.

At almost 1,300 grams (size 44) for the pair, they’re on the heavy side. But for the ultimate in cold-weather protection, the extra grams are worth the warmth and waterproofness.

Shimano MW7
MSRP: $250
Star rating: 4
www.shimano.com

Shimano’s winter kicks are surprisingly comfortable given how stout they look. With Gore-Tex insulation and fleece-lined insoles, the MW7s trap heat for a cozy feel in freezing temperatures. Even when the thermometer plummeted to the low teens, our feet stayed warm when paired with heavy wool socks.

The winter shoes fit almost identically to the other shoes in Shimano’s Enduro Trail line. The only difference is the MW7s have a bigger toe-box that accommodates thicker, winter socks. The winter shoes’ sticky rubber outsole adds extra grip for slippery conditions, perfect for shaded sections of the trails where ice lives all winter long.

Speed laces simplify getting in and out of the shoes even with winter-numbed fingers and thick gloves. With just a quick pull of the laces, our shoes were tight and ready to roll. Velcro flaps on top of the shoes cover the speed laces for added warmth and protection from the wind. 360-degree reflective accents are a nice touch for on-road safety. And at less than 1,000 grams (size 44), these are some seriously light shoes for as burly as they are.

When it came down to it, these were some of our favorite winter shoes for the season and we only have one complaint: We’d prefer a taller cuff, with added protection around the ankles for a more seamless transition from shoe to cycling tights or leg warmers. Deep snow banks served up a shoe full of the white stuff thanks to the slightly-too-low ankle cuff.

Sidi Ghibli
MSRP: $299
Star rating: 3.75
www.sidi.it

Sidi is known for its cool aesthetics and a narrow fit, and the Ghibli shoes stay consistent with that. They are exceptionally comfortable, unless you have a wide foot, in which case you need not read on.

The narrow-footed among us can enjoy the snug, comfortable, race-inspired fit, but if you like to wear thick socks or tuck a toe warmer packet in your shoes, definitely size up.

The shoe secures around your foot with two Velcro straps, a ratchet-style Caliper buckle, and a high ankle Velcro closure. This creates a very warm and waterproof seal, and it all tucks neatly over your tights and under your pants.

We had some issues with the Caliper buckle, though: While comfortable and secure when cinched down, the strap doesn’t always line up correctly with the buckle when you’re putting the shoe on. On a couple occasions, the strap got stuck crooked in the buckle, and we had to do some real yanking and cursing to get it free again.

A reinforced heel cup provides a snug pocket for your heel, which is great news for riders who tend to pull up on the pedals. The reinforced heel will also likely stand up to the rigors of long-term exposure to dirt, snow, ice, and all the other nasties that winter throws at you.

The ankle closure kept snow out except in the deepest snow drifts we plunged our feet into. A bit of powder snuck in then, but not enough to put our feet on the deep freeze. It’s a good seal and the shoe kept us plenty warm.

These are ultimately a crossover between a race mountain bike shoe and a winter boot, with a snugger fit than most winter boots. That’s ideal for comfort and pedaling efficiency, not so ideal for layering thick socks. They’re decently light for a boot, too, at 1,100 grams for the pair (size 44, with SPD cleats). Riders in search of a sleek shoe without the extra real estate inside will enjoy these.