Over shoes, shoe covers call them what you will, if you’re doing long rides in the winter you need them. Traditionally shoe covers – ok I’m going with GripGrab’s version – are made from neoprene and for good reason. It’s the stuff wetsuits are made from, which means it’s tough and water-proof. It’s also pretty good at keeping the cold at bay, especially the thicker versions. But shoe covers aren’t just for the winter. The GripGrap RaceAqua shoe covers are designed for giving protection against wind and rain rather than freezing temperatures. The tight, water-proof stretch fabric also gives an aerodynamic fit for those precious marginal gains.
As we all know rain isn’t a winter only thing, it can come any time. If you happen to own a very nice pair of cycling shoes – usually white ones – then wet rides are going to leave them looking a little less than their best. Ok it’s not a performance issue, but when you’ve just laid out good money on a fine pair of shoes, you want them looking their best. So a shoe cover will go a long way to keeping the muck off. Now you could go old-school and slip a pair of socks over your shoes, while that will keep the dirt off, it won’t stop the rain.
GripGrab’s RaceAqua shoe covers do a whole lot more than a pair of your old socks can. Manufactured from a mix of Nylon, Polyurethane, Polyester and Elastane they are wind and water-proof. This mix keeps the elements out but is still stretchy enough to give a tight, aero fit.
When I first got the RaceAqua covers I was a little concerned at how lightweight they were, the material is only around 1mm thick. Pull on them and you get a good amount of stretch out of them, which is important for the aero fit side of things. They are quite unlike normal, bulky shoe covers, so no more scuff marks on your crank arms.
While the top half is all stretchy and yellow, underneath it’s a different story. This is made from a woven non-stretch material with cut-outs for the cleats and heel. The cut-outs have a reinforcing hem applied and there’s a reflective tab at the rear. The shoe cover is closed with a YKK zip that comes with a nice long tag that’s easy to grab with gloves on. The top of the shoe cover has an elastic cuff with black and white GripGrab branding.
There’s a size guide on the GripGrab site that lets you choose from Loose, Regular or Tight fit. I’m a size 43 and chose a Large Regular fit. First attempt to get them on and I was panicking that I was going to tear them! My fears were unfounded, GripGrab have produced a tough product here. Pulling hard, I got them over my shoes – which have two sets of Boa fasteners and a velcro strap – without any tearing. The Regular fit is tight, not sure how much tighter the Tight fit would be, but it felt aero. With practice getting them on takes maybe a few seconds longer than regular covers, but nothing major.
Once they’re on the RaceAqua Hi-Vis covers are certainly eye catching. With these flouro yellow booties bobbing up and down at the end of your legs you’ll be hard to miss. GripGrab have a whole range of Hi-Vis clothing which will cover you from head to toe. Handy for training on murky winter days and regular commuters, it’s worth adding some Hi-Vis to your wardrobe.
So how did they perform? I used my RaceAquas over most of this winter and while we didn’t have any really long cold spells, I managed to sneak in a few rides that saw the mercury hovering just above zero. Considering they’re not GriGrab’s warmest cover, they performed well at these temperatures. Although my toes were cold after three hours, they weren’t that scary blue colour!
Combine them with a pair of merino socks and they’ll keep a lot of the cold at bay. I think longer rides would have been uncomfortable, but for me three hours was about the limit. Once we’re into the warmer spring weather I can imagine these will be fine on rides that start out chilly, but warm up. You’ll be warm for the first part of the ride, but won’t feel over dressed when the sun(!) breaks through.
Now onto the second part of the review; how did they perform in the wet? If you’re the kind of rider that rides all year, then you’ll know the joy of wet feet. Throw in some cold wind and you have the double whammy of cold and wet, a perfect storm of frozen toes and miserable cyclist. So how to prevent this? Shoe covers go a long way in keeping the water at bay by stopping it getting at the shoe. Cycling shoes are usually useless at keeping water out. With loads of mesh to keep your feet cool they will leak like, well, like a cycling shoe.
The RaceAqua, with it’s waterproof construction keeps 100% of the water off your shoe, as long as the water is just hitting the shoe cover. If the roads are really wet and you don’t have mudguards then you will get wet feet. Nothing to do with the shoe covers, as I said the RaceAqua covers are waterproof. The problem is that of spray coming off your wheel, it ends up hitting your legs and running down into your shoe. Not a lot the RaceAqua can do about that. This will only happen when you have a lot of road-spray, or when it rains so hard that it’s running off you into the shoe.
This isn’t something peculiar to the RaceAquas, all shoe covers and waterproof shoes suffer from the same problem. I found I could delay the ingress of water by wearing waterproof leg-warmers, like GripGrab’s AquaRepel. With these placed over the top of the RaceAqua, it kept a lot of the water from getting in through the cuff. As well as keeping your shoes dry the AquaRepels also keep your shoes clean. As I said at the beginning, if you’re going to pay big money for race shoes, you want them looking good.
With the the AquaRepel covers being only 1mm thick I was wondering how they would survive a winter. Would they start to fray and tear from the stretching and abrasion? I find over shoes (yes, I know I said I was going to call them shoe covers!) usually last me one or two winters, sometimes less. The zips usually go first, then a hole appears and pretty soon they’re looking tatty and not doing their job. Well, after a short winter season they have stood up pretty well. The left cover has a slight rub on the toe, I ‘un-click’ on this side, so it gets more wear than the right. It’s not a hole, just worn. There’s also a small cut on the right side, probably from the chain ring, to be expected when you go off road!
To wrap up then, the GripGrab RaceAqua shoe covers will get you through the winter. While they don’t have the insulating qualities of neoprene, you can combine them with a merino sock for shorter winter rides. They are water-proof and will keep your feet dry, as long as the water isn’t running down your legs. GripGrab have produced a very well made cover that shows little sign of wear. They’re perfect for early season races where their tight aero fit will be a benefit. And they’ll keep your shoes looking good for summer!
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