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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.