I had resolved to ride straight through the winter, mostly because I had spent so much time off the bike, injured, at the end of the summer and into the fall. A mild weather start helped stoke my motivation, and so, by the time the Polar Vortex returned to my New England home, I was feeling fit and ready, just a few small issues to address, one of which was footwear.
I like cold weather riding, and because I run hot, I seldom feel any core coldness at all, even in sub-freezing temps. Hands and feet are another matter, and I find that most of the products that pretend to keep your extremities comfortable when the mercury drops below 30F aren’t very good. In terms of footwear, I usually wear my regular road shoes with toe covers down to about 40F. I have some GoreTex riding boots that appear at that point, and they’re ok, but below 25F I am battling toe-numbing cold.
Enter the Lake MXZ303. A few weeks back, we had our coldest temperatures of the season to date, so the perfect opportunity to test these boots. Ride time temps looked like this for Monday through Friday: 23F, 14F, 12F, -3F and a balmy 27F on Friday. It snowed on the Wednesday, and the roads were wet and salty on Friday, so there was some opportunity to gauge water-proofness as well.
I’ll cut to the chase. On all but the coldest day, I didn’t feel a single tingle, not a hint of numbness. Even at -3F, with snot frozen at the flare of my nostrils, I felt only the vaguest discomfort, nothing to trouble over. These are, full-stop, the warmest cycling shoes I have ever worn.
I was concerned, when they first arrived at my house, that they would be too big and bulky. I said to a friend, “I’m a little concerned they won’t be the most agile.” And he said, “What are you trying to do at the kinds of temperatures those things were built for that requires agility?” It was a fair point.
And the truth is, the MXZ303s don’t feel overly big, once they’re on. It’s not like tap-dancing in rain boots. They don’t even look overly bulky, whether you tuck your tights into them, or drape pants over the tops. There is an impressive amount of insulation packed into the body of each boot, and the boa closures really mold them to your foot. The ankle portion is secured with a buckle, so you can adjust how tight they are at the top. I prefer them a little loose, higher up, so they can move with my foot more, and honestly, they were comfortable right out of the box. They never rubbed at the top like other riding boots I’ve owned.
I had a little trouble gauging cleat position (they are SPD compatible) when I first set them up and ended up adjusting them forward a little after my first ride. Because of the heartiness of the sole, they don’t clip in quite as easily as most of my shoes, but this is not a showstopper, certainly, given what you get in return.
I normally wear a 43, but got these in a 44 to allow for bulky and/or multiple socks. I find they hold heat best when there’s a bit of wiggle room in the toe box. They are much easier to get off at the end of a ride than you would expect, too. I appreciate that as I stand at the bottom of the basement stairs, snow and salt dripping of the soles. It saves me standing in the puddle of slush that is part and parcel of wet winter.
For those who plan to ride right through a serious, northern winter, the Lake MXZ303 is a real solution for cold feet. I am just waiting for someone to step up and make its equivalent in the form of a glove.
The Lake MXZ303 retails for $299.95. This pair was provided to me gratis, for test/review purposes.