If you’re looking for shoes to protect your feet from cold, grotty weather then Bontrager's JFW Winter shoes will protect well. They’re very well made, offering loads of toe wiggle room, secure foothold and a sole that is balanced between pedalling stiffness and walkability. I just wish that they were totally waterproof.
Protecting your feet in the worst conditions can make the difference between a nice ride and misery. The JFW Winter shoes feature a neoprene upper that covers the foot from toe to above the ankle. It is paired with a more durable outer material to protect it and add visibility from the loud high-vis yellow. A BOA L6 dial secures the foot in place with even pressure distribution.
Down on the base, the 'Tachyon' rubber outsole gives you plenty of grip on slick rocks should you need to do a bit of hike-a-bike. In fact, walking is very comfortable indeed with just enough give in the nylon composite sole. The pedalling performance wasn’t noticeably lacking when I decided to put a bit of power down. It’s a very good balance.
Let’s start with the neoprene upper as this is the layer that does the most to keep your feet toasty. When I say toasty, that becomes sweaty in anything above the maximum temperature range of an oddly specific 4.4ºC. Stick within this and the lower end of -3.9ºC and your feet will be fine. I actually found that you can push the temperatures higher. A grim 7ºC day was where they started to make my feet sweaty during normal riding.
The neoprene extends all the way up to cover the ankle. Initially, I thought this would feet weird while pedalling, but it’s no different to an overshoe. That’s thanks to the flexible nature of the neoprene. It allows natural movement while also fitting close to the ankle.
It’s not close enough to stop water from running down the shin and soaking into socks, but the fit is close enough to allow you to put your bib tights or waterproof trousers over the top. No matter what you do, water will get in through the top of the foot. It’s a little annoying as more complete waterproofing would make these shoes absolutely brilliant. The insulation of the neoprene meant that my feet weren’t cold when wet, but having wet feet isn’t that nice and I doubt there would have been any breathability issues had Bontrager gone for full waterproofing, especially given the recommended temperature range.
Getting these out in suitably horrid weather has not been a challenge. I’ve had these out on muddy cyclocross training rides and also gone out to play in the snow in them. Each time that I’ve used them, I’ve been immensely impressed by the comfort that the shoes offer. Spending a significant amount of time in them is a pleasure and they’ll be perfect for all-day adventure rides.
While I did just say that full waterproofing would be great, the breathability of the shoes means that they’re not as temperature-limited as the FLR shoes that I’ve also had on test. It opens the shoes up to harder rides, meaning that cyclocross skills drills and threshold efforts didn’t cook my feet. The lower temperature didn’t get troubled by the tame winter that we’ve had but my feet never felt cold, even when the temperatures dropped just below freezing.
The £150 price tag is okay to stomach if you know that you’ll be riding outside all winter. You’re certainly getting a very well made and sturdy pair of shoes here, though I’d like to see a different colour option. Fluro yellow just isn’t my cup of tea.
So these winter boots might let a bit of water in, but your feet will be warm and that generally keeps me happy. When the rain isn’t falling, they’ll keep out puddle splashes and the breathability means that sweating won’t be an issue when it’s cold. The best thing was the comfort. Between the even pressure of the BoA closure and the balance of stiffness in the sole, these are an easy pair of shoes to love.
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