- Shimano SH-W101 winter boots
Come the winter months, it can be a challenge to keep all those pesky extremities working. Feet are a particular challenge, as on a bike they don’t really move much. Yes, they spin around in circles but your toes tend to stay pretty still. This can make your feet gradually get cold and numb, which isn’t pleasant.
Traditional solutions to this problem usually involve warmer socks and/or overshoes and for good reason – they work and they’re cheap. Overshoes aren’t the perfect solution for off-road, though. If you’re likely to have to walk any distance (and with trails made of gunge and slop this is always a possibility), overshoes afford limited grip and tend to fall to bits after a while – they’re just not designed for walking over uneven surfaces in.
The other alternative is a proper winter shoe, but there aren’t many of those on the market. These are one of the few – Shimano’s W101.
Shimano’s offering has an interesting history. A few years back when the component giant brought out the DX range of red-and-black BMX/jump/DHey parts, they put out a DH boot to go with them, complete with extra ankle protection and generally burly construction. Most downhillers who bothered with SPDs preferred to go with a more skate-style shoe, though, and Shimano’s boot was quietly rejigged to take advantage of its most notable asset – warmth.
This latest version is a subdued black/grey colour, built around a straightforward SPD sole unit. The uppers have no mesh areas at all and a big storm flap underneath the double Velcro closures. They sit quite high around the ankle, and there’s an extra neoprene cuff/lining that Velcros around the ankle and extends down inside the shoe for extra insulation.
That said, there’s not a huge amount of insulation in the shoes. Their main contribution to warm feet is keeping wind and water away from them, and they do that pretty well. They’re not completely waterproof – there’s a little gap at the front of the neoprene cuff that can let water in and of course you can overtop them if you ride through something deep enough – but they’re a lot better than most.
You’ll probably still want to wear a thicker (or extra) sock in very cold weather, but the 101 has enough space in the toe box to let you do that without cutting off all your circulation. Try them with your favourite warm socks before you buy just to be sure, though.
Drawbacks? The sole unit isn’t the grippiest thing out there – we’d like something more aggressively lugged for winter and in common with quite a few other bike shoes the rubber compound is pretty skatey on some species of wet rock, so take care.
Positives: Keeps off wind and rain, comfortable, should last <
Negatives: Not completely waterproof, sole could do with more grip
We like these. Yes, it’s a whole ‘nother pair of shoes but we know plenty of riders who’ve bought second, slightly bigger, pairs of shoes so they can wear extra socks. And if you’re going to be buying second shoes you might as well get some winter-specific ones. Pricier than overshoes, yes, but a lot more convenient.