Wolvhammers - Day 2
Ok, here we go, drum roll please..... These shoes rock. Yes they are ridiculously priced; yes, if you did not get your order in already, your chances of finding them are dwindling by the day; and yes, if you can, but still haven't, definitely pull the trigger and get them. I think they are going to be that good.
If you ride clipped and you ride in the winter, then you know that your choice of footwear has been severely limited. For hardcore cold weather it has really been a one shoe show, the Lakes. I rode the Lakes last year, and while they worked, I would not have used them in extremes. For the really cold stuff, people were forced to be creative with home made outers to get those shoes working in really cold stuff. Top that off with the fact that they were narrow and really not comfortable to pedal in, and well, their was room for something new.
Enter 45Nrth and their Wolvhammer. A winter boot designed for cyclists who want to ride in cold to extreme cold temps and conditions. There are lots of detailed reviews on the shoes, so you can get all the specifics there. I am hear to pass on my initial thoughts, along with some running dialogue as I get to know the shoes -- how they work as well as what they don't do well. They are good, but they are not perfect. Perhaps perfection will appear next year, but for now, these are the bomb.
Today's ride was cold; 24 miles of hard trail in temps that started at 10 degrees and worked their way up to about 18, a bit more than 3 hours in the saddle. All in all I would call those cold conditions, albeit not extreme. Their was no snow today, no wind or any of those other things that come into play when talking about extreme temps.
For my personal setup I am still playing with different layering strategies. With these boots, I bought up one size and I think that was perfect. I have plenty of room to run a liner plus a thin VBL and then an over sock. There is also plenty of room to go the RBH way, and use a simple liner sock paired with their Vapr-Therm insulated VBL sock. This sock combines 200 wt Polargaurd with a VBL barrier and an inner wicking liner all in one sock. That is the combination that I chose to test out today.
From the start my feet and toes were comfortable and only got warmer as the ride progressed. Yes the temps increased, as did my workload, which coupled with the warmth of the boot and the layers, had me feeling extremely comfortable. For those temperatures I would say that I had too much on, and instead would next time use a liner paired with the Reed Aquatherm (VBL) socks and a mid weight wool oversock. The RBH Vapr-Therm socks are warm!
The good news is that I have no doubt that these shoes are very capable of going down into the negative zone. How far down I don't know, but I believe that it will easily be to the -10 or -15 range. I think below that may be problematic with either of the layering approaches above. This leads me to what I consider to be a weakness of the shoe.
In an attempt to create a boot that could deal with snow, 45Nrth made the upper part of the shoe very snug fitting. What this means is that with typical thick wool socks, the kind that come up to your calf, you are going to have some challenges layering everything up and getting the zipper to close. As an example, while I can get a liner, a thin VBL, and an exped weight wool sock in the boot itself, with room for my toes to wiggle, I can't zip up the boot. Another example is with the setup I used today, where I could not get my Craft pants inside of the boot and still have them zip up. This meant I had to put the Crafts on the outside, which then meant I could not close up the ankle... So, with the Lakes it was the footbed that was the limiting factor in layering, while in the Wolvhammers it is the ankle portion and the zipper.
So, like with all gear, especially gear for sport specific applications, there are compromises to be had and choices to be made. My expedition socks and Craft pants were chosen before I had the Wolvhammers. Obviously I would have preferred that everything work together as planned, but now I will have to revisit layering options as well as shell choices. I may even look at cutting down and then sewing some of my socks to eliminate the issues up to the calf. That is not a zone I am typically cold in, but unfortunately most cold weather socks are bulky there. Anyone know of options, bulky on the foot but tapered on the ankle?
With all of that said, I am stoked about these shoes. I worked hard today on the ride, and hammered the flats and stood on the hills. The boots are incredibly comfortable to pedal. As they break in, I think they will only get more comfortable. The feeling of my foot in the boot is warm, soft and comfortable. With the pull laces, you have the ability to easily snug the shoes up with lighter layers, or loosen them up when going thick. Everything has big pull tabs for gloved operation, which is something that all winter gear should have.
All in all I am incredibly excited about the boots. More miles and conditions are needed, but for now I say get them if you can. They are definitely worth the ching.