Editor’s Note- In an effort to bring you, the reader, pertinent reviews for the times, we will sometimes accept a review from a trusted contributor. In this case, “BB” is a former co-worker of mine and a certifiable “cycling nut”. He eschews car usage as much as he can for cycling, even through the tough conditions of Upper Mid-West winters. He offers, for your consideration, this review on a pair of 45NRTH’s latest winter product, the Wolvhammer winter cycling boot. There has been much anticipation and expectation for this product, so let’s see what BB thinks after riding and using these for the past three months.
45NRTH “Wolvhammer” Winter Boots: Quick Review- by BB
When the Wolvhammer was announced via social network smoke signals my response was a bit mixed. They looked great, possibly the solution I have been holding out for in winter footwear, but then the price tag gave me that all too common sticker shock. (Editor’s Note: Approximately $325.99 USD), However; an opportunity arose through the shop that I work at to get a pair on an early shipment, and I decided to order myself a pair and see.
My first impressions out of the box started to give me a sense of comfort with the price. These boots are very well made and are made from quality materials. I became a believer in Vibram soles when my dad showed me his boots he has worn since college that are soled with Vibrams that still look brand new. The Cordura outer provides a nice look and so far has given great water resistance (more on that in a bit). One complaint I noticed right away and have heard from a coworker and fellow Wolvhammer owner: the pull strap for cinching up the inner boot is entirely too long. It is more of an annoyance than anything else, but you don’t really need the leverage to yank them that tight and it adds an extra step to a somewhat lengthy process of donning these boots.
On to putting the things on. This takes a while. There really isn’t any way around this seeing as you are encapsulating your feet deep inside in hopes of protecting them from the elements. I find it much less frustrating than yanking booties over my shoes. The large loop on the heel gives you something good to tug on to get the boot on your foot. It does take a pretty good tug though. Although I do feel the lace is too long, I am a fan of the cinching system. It pulls the inner boot pretty comfortably around my foot and I find it preferable to the Boa system found on the Lake boots. One less mechanical part is a good thing to me given the conditions these boots will be exposed to. The zipper enclosure feels secure and zips easily even at a bit of an awkward angle coming diagonally up the boot, and the ankle strap gives one final seal and you are ready to go.
I think the comfort of these boots has been the most impressive part of my experience with them. I was a little nervous of this seeing as I purchased them without trying a pair on. Given the lengthy process of putting these on and taking them off I find myself just leaving them on throughout my day. On the bike they feel just as comfortable as my regular SPD shoes, and with only a slight amount of noticeable heft. For my feet, which I would say are on the narrow side of average, I have found them too roomy with regular cycling socks. One or even two pair of wool socks fit great, and the adjustability of the inner boot accommodates this nicely. One thing I did notice with the comfort: pulling the ankle strap snug when first putting them on made them rub a bit uncomfortably around on my shins after a while on the bike. Thankfully the strap is easy to grab even gloved and this was easily remedied. Off the bike they are also great. The soles are great to walk in and the warmth is nice. I have actually started using them as my main snow boots.
So the biggest question: are these things actually warm? For the most part I will say yes. There is a caveat you must know about this reviewer when it comes to my feet. I inherited a neurological disorder that attacks the myelin sheathes of the nerves in my hands and feet (think electrical wires without insulation). I am particularly susceptible to cold due to this, which makes me a good test subject but probably not a truly representative one. I have one commute that is 7.5 miles one way and another that is 13.5 miles one way. On the shorter trip, I have not noticed any issues with as cold as it has gotten thus far in Minneapolis (lower single digits Fahrenheit when I am going in the morning). What was equally impressive was that on one of the warmer days when everything was turning to slush every part of me got soaked, except my feet.
On the longer trip I noticed my first issue. Riding home at night with the temperatures right around 10°F and maybe a 5mph wind my feet got cold about halfway home and were pretty uncomfortable by the time I was done (the total commute was about an hour). It seemed that most of the cold was still coming up through the bottom of the shoe, so I am not sure I am completely sold on the insulating insoles. I have little extra room in the boot so I may experiment with other insoles.
I found that experience discouraging, but I am still glad I sprung for these boots. Going the “thick sock, shoes, and booties” route of old I would probably have significant discomfort at around 30°F on the longer commute, so these will certainly extend my comfortable riding temperature range. They are the best solution I have encountered for those seeking to still ride clipless pedals through the winter months. And while I have only had them for a few months, the construction leads me to believe that I will be using these for many winters to come.
Note: BB submitted this review at no charge to Twenty Nine Inches and is not being compensated by TNI nor by 45NRTH for this review. The Wolvhammers were purchased by BB at employee discount from his employer for personal use by BB. For more on the Wolvhammer boots and other 45NRTH products, see their website here.