The Bike Shoppe

The Bike Shoppe
Your Ogden Utah bike expert since 1976!

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

What Every Fatbiker NEEDS


Here we are at week two of reviewing what every fatbiker needs.  Since last post, I've been able to get out on the bike four more times.  It's been really cold these past few mornings.  This morning, as I was descending down Eastfork (after a long, sweaty climb), I ran into two moose hogging the trail.  They refused to move, and I wasn't about to climb all the way back up, so I ended up following them about a mile down to Old Snowbasin Road.  Once I stopped moving, I started getting cold pretty quick.
Cycling gear works like that.  If you're sitting in the cold doing nothing, you'll freeze; but when you're exercising, the minimalist clothing will keep you warm and regulate temperatures so you don't get too hot and sweaty.  Needless to say, as I was sitting around waiting for the moose, I got pretty chilled...except for my feet. 
I chose to invest in some winter cycling boots a few years back, and I'm pretty happy I did.  Before that, I tried regular snow boots, hiking boots, and cycling shoes with thermal shoe covers.  Snow boots keep you warm, but are far too bulky and heavy to be practical.  I ditched those pretty quick.
Hiking boots are a bit chilly, but much lighter and pedal-friendly than snow boots.  My biggest issue with them was snow getting inside.  If you ever put your foot down in snow deeper than your ankle (and you will), you get snow in the shoe.  Be ready to welcome wet, cold feet. 
I found the most success running regular cycling shoes with a heavy duty shoe cover.  My feet stayed fairly warm, and I could clip in and pedal without restrictions.  The problems came anytime I had to hike the bike.  The nose of my shoe cover would peel back and pull up and over the toe of my shoe filling with snow and exposing my shoe.  This not only stretched out my shoe covers, it proved to be pretty miserable once my toes started freezing.  So, after trying everything else, I finally decided to give the cycling boots a try. 
There are a lot of awesome brands out there.  At the Shoppe, we've sold Lake, 45Nrth, Louis Garneau, and Bontrager.  After some studying, I decided to give the Bontrager Old Man Winter boots a shot.  I know they're expensive.  $300 is a lot to pay for a pair of cycling boots you'll only be using four months out of the season.  However, compared to many other brands on the market, $300 is not a bad buy, especially considering the quality of the boots and the features.  So let's talk features.  Bontrager have done an awesome job keeping these boots simple and easy.  They have really practical features with lust-worthy benefits, but aren't loaded down with gadgets like some of the 'Swiss Army'-type boots out there. 

First, look at the insert bootie:  Bontrager made the insulated portion of the boot a removable insert.  It uses a comfortable fleece lining with a healthy 200g 3M Thinsulate insulation.  The bootie fully opens up then snugs tight with an easy draw-string and cinch.  There's a convenient loop at the back for quickly pulling it over your heel and onto your foot.  After the insert is snugly fitted, you can effortlessly slide your foot into the boot. 
The heel-portion of the insert is wrapped in non-slip material that prevents the heel from slipping when walking or riding...and it works! 
Water problems?  If you ever manage to get the shoes wet with water or sweat, the insoles are removeable from the bootie, so air drying is a breeze. 

Now the boot:  I like simple.  It's nice when things do what they're designed to do without being complicated by useless gadgets and add-ons.  Bontrager nailed it on the head with this design.  The front fully opens up with a zipper.  Once open, it slides easily over the bootie and is tightened with two sturdy velcro straps.  One thing that bugs me about winter riding is the time wasted putting on all that cold-weather gear.  But with Old Man Winters, anyone could gear themselves up in a snap even while wearing full winter gear and gloves.
The boot extends about 9" from the sole, so it's plenty tall for the hike-a-bike situations without being cumbersome or restricting.  If you find yourself post-holing out in the deep stuff, the top of the boot tightens with an elastic draw string that can be pulled taught and locked with one hand. 
They've used a fully waterproof, 4-way stretch upper protected by a durable 'GnarGard' shield wrapping the toe box and lower sides prone to brush and rock strikes. 
The Vibram sole is meaty for traction, but avoids the extra bulk many other boots carry.  I've had no issues with the boots rubbing my cranks or striking my chain or seat stays, but I've had no shortage of traction marching up steep, slick slopes.  They hook up nicely on a good pair of platform pedals, but work well with a clip-in system too.  I've chosen to run clipless (Crank Brothers) because they give me a little more room when the trails are narrow and deep, and I've never had issues clipping in or out...even in snow.   The clipless also makes them much more practical when commuting on my cross bike.  Speaking of commuting, the back-side of the boots have a velcro strap designed to hold a flashing tail light for increased visibility on moving parts.  The Bontrager Ember fits nicely here.









All-in-all, these are excellent boots, and in my opinion, well worth the investment.   You should take a minute to stop by and check them out.  I promise, they'll make your winter fatbike adventures much more comfortable. 








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