Dirt Rag Magazine

Review: Bontrager Old Man Winter boot


Cycling-specific, cold-weather boots have long seemed like a luxury item to me. That changed when I decided to get serious about fat biking and spend every weekend exploring snowy trails high in the cold Colorado mountains. Suddenly, no overshoe was warm enough and no casual snow boot stiff or snug enough. After spending a few weeks with Bontrager’s brand-new and rather svelte-looking Old Man Winter (OMW) boots, I am completely sold on the idea.

OMW Boot-2

If, like me, you have Raynaud’s syndrome (the cold-weather narrowing of the blood vessels in your extremities) or, even if you don’t, keeping your fingers and toes warm sometimes seems impossible. The OMW helps allay that with a fleece-lined, removable inner bootie packed with 200 grams of 3M Thinsulate insulation. The stretchy outer boot is made of waterproof, breathable OutDry material and features sealed zippers. The inner bootie has a drawstring-type closure. Paired with two outer Velcro straps, the boots allow for a very snug fit and offer plenty of adjustment.

OMW Boot-5

The liner is removable. I think the shoe would be much too roomy and not as comfortable to ride without, but I’m glad I can take it out and wash it. A rough material on the heel works as advertised to prevent the liner from slipping around inside the boot. The sole of the liner is not protected with any kind of grippy material, i.e. it’s not made to be removed and worn around your house as a slipper (which I would totally do).

OMW Boot-6

Because of my Raynaud’s, I have been wearing these boots in temperatures as warm as 40 degrees, which is actually too hot unless you’re casually cruising short distances. These boots really shine in temperatures down into the teens and twenties paired with wool socks, particularly if you’re exerting yourself. I can’t comment on their sub-zero performance as Colorado is experiencing a fairly warm start to winter, but my last ride started out in air just barely warmer than 10 degrees and involved a lot of near-crashes where my feet sank several inches into powder. The elastic pull tabs that tighten each boot’s ankle did their job, keeping snow out as I pushed a heavy bike up steep, un-groomed trails. After three hours of that madness, my feet were neither cold nor sweaty. Win.

OMW Boot-7

Sole stiffness is a 6 on Bontrager’s scale (the highest stiffness on any shoe the company offers is a 14). Walking around and driving are comfortable for short distances. I didn’t feel any bending nor did I feel the cleats poking through when mashing the pedals on steep, challenging trail climbs. While they might not be rigid enough for skinny-tire go-fast types, I am plenty happy with them on cold, wet road rides and they offer enough flex for all-day adventures that might involve espresso stops or setting up a campsite.

Traction is good on dry land but I—personally—wish for more aggressive cleats. The sole allows for two toe spikes (not included) which I recommend getting if you’re going to be pushing a bike up long, snowy climbs, especially smooth ones that don’t offer a place for your foot to grip the ground.

OMW Boot-3

The boots come with substantial cleat covers for the flat-pedal community and each boot has a gaiter hook just below the toe-box strap. Another nice touch are Velcro tabs on the rear ankles of the shoes that are designed as a place to put small red lights.

I had to order a full size larger than expected in order to accommodate anything other than a liner sock and to get the zipper to close around my ankle when wearing tights, but I’m grateful to have room in the nice, wide toe box for super-thick ski socks.

OMW Boot-4

A few minor complaints: It can be difficult to zip the ankle gaiter over the plastic pull tab on the laces and, if you don’t manage to raise the zipper completely to the top of the ankle, the pedaling motion will push it down. The ankle opening is rather narrow and, because of the zipper closure, not adjustable.

Actual weight is 1,205 grams (pair, size 43). If you don’t think in grams, just know that they surprised me with their lightness when I pulled them out of the box. They don’t feel clunky on my feet and almost look like regular shoes if you’re cruising around town and pull your pant legs over the ankles.

OMW Boot-1

If you’re planning to spend several months riding in sub-freezing temperatures—whether you’re commuting or mountain biking—consider these boots. I have enjoyed their warmth, comfort and adjustability, and no longer see a well-made shoe like this as just a luxury.

Price: $300. More details and purchase info from Bontrager.

 

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Trail Tested: Bontrager Rhythm Trail Shoes


By William Kirk

These Bontrager Rhythm shoes could easily hide on the shelf at your LBS under the guise of a standard light-duty cross country shoe. However, if you dig deeper you’ll find features with an obvious gravity influence. About the intended usage of the$160 Rhythm shoes, Bontrager says “A little bit of all-purpose. Trail. Tech Trail. Enduro.” To me, it sounds like Bontrager managed created another mountain bike shoe, right?

bontrager_shoes-1

The side panels and toe box of the Rhythms are armored with plastic to protect your feet from trail debris and impacts. The ratcheting buckle on the top of the shoe offers micro adjustments to fine tune the fit as the day gets long. To keep you upright during hike a bike sections, Bontrager constructed the Rhythm with a Tachyon rubber outsole for better grip. While the Rhythms have features to protect your feet, they also offer generous venting on the top of the shoe to keep your feet cool in the warm weather.

When I first put the Rhythm’s on my feet, I was struck by how snug they fit. My feet tend to run slightly wider than average, so I was delighted to find the adjustment screw that fine tunes where the ratchet engages the buckle system, which made it simple to get the fit where I needed it.

On the trail the Rhythm’s offered a stiff platform for pedaling efficiency and provided the feel of an XC race oriented shoe. Off the bike, the soles were excellent at providing traction on all kinds of wet and dry surfaces. The micro adjust ratchet strap was used regularly on longer rides to adjust the fit for swelling feet or after creek crossing and wet socks. I tested the Rhythm’s on both standard and trail-style clipless pedals, and both pedal configurations engaged and disengaged without issue.

The Bontrager’s were used as my primary shoes for an entire summer of riding. The first pair of shoes I received had a pre-production ratchet strap which lost its bite within a month or so. Bontrager updated the shoe to include the new strap, and I am happy to report it works fantastically. The shoes have worn very well, I don’t see any reason you can’t get more than a few season out of the Rhythm’s.

As a rider who often switches between clips and flats, I long for the efficiency of reasonable pedaling platform but still demand trail feel. This is where the Bontragers may have fall short. The Rhythms have a very XC feel to them, but it seems this shoe is aimed at a wider audience that would be happy to sacrifice some stiffness for more trail feel and more comfort off the bike. If you are looking for an efficient pedaling shoe that offers more protection and versatility than your carbon soled XC race slipper, you want to check these out.

 

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Trail Tested: 29plus Tires from Vee and Bontrager


By Eric McKeegan

Since the original introduction of the 29plus platform with Surly’s Krampus, riders in love with the plus-size concept have been wishing for/hoping for/ demanding a more aggressive tire than the all-purpose Knard found on that machine. While there are more plus-size tires in the pipeline, these two tires are the first we’ve ridden enough to get a proper review together.

Vee Tire Trax Fatty (left) and Bontrager Chupacabra

Vee Tire Trax Fatty (left) and Bontrager Chupacabra

Vee Tire Trax Fatty $120

Vee Tire’s Trax Fatty was the first non-Knard 29plus tire available to the public. While marked 29×3.0, it is noticeably smaller than the Chupacabra and Knard, although at 880 grams it’s substantially lighter as well. This reduced width and height may allow it to fit into more forks and frames than the “full size” plus-size tires. Tubeless setup was painless and the tires held air well.

The casing width exceeds the knob width on both 35 mm and 45 mm rims, which makes for an odd-looking tire shape. The center knobs are ramped, and on hard surfaces these tires are fast. The transition and cornering knobs are small and feel a bit squirmy on pavement. On dry dirt cornering is acceptable, but as things get slick the transition knobs let go easily. Leaning farther over onto the cornering knobs doesn’t always catch the slide started from the transition knobs, leading to some interesting moments.

The tires I tested are 120 tpi folding bead with a silica compound. There is also a 72 tpi version with a less-expensive rubber compound in wire bead for $100 or folding for $110. Those riders placing an emphasis on light and fast over absolute traction will find what they are looking for with the Trax Fatty.

Bontrager Chupacabra $120

This tire came as a surprise, since Bontrager’s parent company, Trek, did not offer a 29plus bike at the time it was released. This has changed with the recent availability of the 2016 Stache.

In the meantime, the Chupacabra should help quiet some of the clamor for a more aggressive tire. While the small square tread and less- than-beefy cornering knobs certainly don’t look much more aggressive than the Knard, the Chupacabra is more confidence inspiring in every condition I tried. I set them up tubeless and they snapped into place on both Syntace W35 and Velocity Dually wheels; they seemed to work best between 8 and 12 psi. I was happy with 12 rear and 10 up front in everything but snow, where dropping things a few psi helped immensely with traction but led to a lot of rim strikes and some burping on the Syntace rim.

The 120 tpi casing is supple and the sidewalls are a great middle ground between weight and sturdiness; their 940-gram weight is very surprising for a tire this size. The Chupacabra rolls quickly and corners with confidence and predictability in both the dry and the wet. This tire comes highly recommended.

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