Keeping dry and warm is a challenge during winter, but Fizik's Terra Artica X2 shoe does an excellent job of keeping your feet protected, with a toasty warmness that lasts long into the ride. The tread is rugged and easy to walk in with an agreeable level of flex, but at £280 they're a serious investment.
If you mountain bike several times a week, a dedicated winter boot is a real treat. Throw in some commuting and road riding, and the cost gets easier to justify still. Nevertheless, I wish these were cheaper, so more people could enjoy the benefits they bring.
They're warm as toast. I suffer from very poor circulation in hands and feet, so have to pay particular attention to protecting my extremities – and that makes me a pretty harsh testbed for bike shoes.
Swapping from regular shoes one morning to these the next, for the same crispy, frosty conditions, was a revelatory experience. In my regular winter merino socks, my feet were warm from the off and stayed that way to the end. I was already digging £280 out of my pocket at this point.
What's more, on milder rides I found my feet getting a little warm, which ordinarily never happens to me all winter. Thankfully the Terra Artica X2 has just enough breathability to resist tipping over into sweaty unpleasantness, though if your toes typically run hot you may want to keep these for genuinely chilly air. Or not. Easier to cool down than warm up, I always say.
Do they keep water out?
Sort of, but not entirely. Fizik uses an eVent waterproof/breathable membrane which keeps the water out, and there are no pesky vents either – they're totally sealed. The zipper on the neoprene upper is also waterproof for good measure. The problem, as ever, is the somewhat necessary inclusion of a hole in the top for getting your feet in.
Splash through puddles and the X2 keeps your feet dry. Walk through deep puddles that completely cover the upper, and still your feet stay dry.
However, as we all know water always finds a way in, and it’s on long rides in constant rain that the weakness is exposed. The opening with the neoprene cuff isn't totally snug, and after a while it lets water seep down inside.
After one four hour ride in constant rain, I had puddles in the bottom of the shoes. But – and it’s an important but – my feet still weren’t cold. If I can't be dry, I'll happily take wet and warm.
Wearing trousers, as I’ve taken to doing this winter (it's a revelation, try it) does go some way to mitigating this issue as they help lead the rain over the top of the shoe. Waterproof socks are no bad idea either if it’s bucketing down. For the most part then, yes they are waterproof, but they have their weakness.
Are they comfortable?
Oh yes! Fizik gave this shoe a rubber sole with a reasonable amount of flex. No, you don't get the hyper-efficient power transfer of an XC carbon race slipper, but it's extremely comfortable on long rides.
It's also comfortable when milling around the car park, diving into the cafe for coffee and cake, or the pedestrian bits of commuting. The snug fleecy lining is as close to an actual slipper as I’ve ever got from a mountain bike shoe.
A single BOA dial cinches the lace across the top of the shoe and spreads the pressure evenly across the top. That one dial has a lot of work to do though, and I did find a discrepancy in the tension at the front compared to the top: basically, it’s tighter the closer it is to the dial.
A second BOA dial would solve the issue and at this price, it’s reasonable to expect perfection. As it is, I often found myself wanting to dial in half a turn more tension across the front of the foot, but couldn’t because it was tight at the top.
My biggest gripe with winter boots has always been the lack of articulation around the ankle. Because the Terra Artica X2 is essentially a regular shoe with a flexible neoprene cuff on top, articulation is unaffected. I like this – it means no compromise in fit and comfort compared to summer shoes.
What’s durability like?
I’ve been splashing, crashing and scuffing through the UK’s finest mud, rain and wind for the last couple of months, and on the durability front, they are so far impressing.
There’s no damage visible anywhere to the “ hardwearing ripstop woven fabric” that Fizik uses in the upper. Additional protection comes via reinforcement with "thermolaminated PU” at the toe cap, heel and side areas. It does a good job dealing with rock contacts.
The Vibram Megagrip sole offers good traction when walking in mud or on slippery rock, should you need to get off and push.
Setting up cleats is easy, with good fore-aft range on what Fizik says is an “extended cleat track” for more setback if you need it.
Clipping in and out of platform pedals is effortless, with no obstruction from the tread surrounding the cleat area. Additionally, the “directional lug pattern” aids those moments when you miss clipping in the first time, or on those bits of a steep, technical descent you’d rather not spend clipped in at all.
Getting the X2 on and off isn’t that easy. If you want a shoe that's well-sealed against the elements, the big compromise is ease of entry and exit.
The first time out I really struggled, but it gets easier after a few attempts. The trick is to push your feet firmly down into the shoe, then pull the neoprene up. Then your feet easily slot home.
It would be a lot easier with a pull tab at the back, but there isn't one. That's a real shame, as a fabric loop isn’t an unreasonable thing to expect on a near £300 shoe.
Getting them off is okay. I use the same technique as for wellies – stand on the heel and yank your foot out.
The Terra Artica X2 is great for keeping your feet warm and dry, or at least significantly warmer and drier than regular shoes. It isn't completely impervious in the heaviest sustained downpours, but it stays warm when wet, is very comfortable, and has a sole stiffness that's balanced perfectly between pedalling and walking. The closure system works well, too.
Which really just leaves the price, and there's no getting away from it: £280 is a serious investment. You could buy many pairs of waterproof socks. But, if you're determined to ride regularly through the winter slop, the performance means that price is a justifiable one. Fizik's Terra Artica X2 certainly increased my enjoyment of biking in crappy weather, and it would surely do the same for you.
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