Cold perception is a very personal thing. It comes down to many factors; what’s your body temperature, is there enough blood-flow available, how intensely are you riding? And obviously, is it on or off-road cycling that you prefer? The Lake MXZ303 caught my eye with it’s hefty build and promise of warmth.
I’ve been on a long search for sturdy off-road cycling winter shoes. I ride and race in even the harshest conditions so needed something that could deal with my demands. The issues I have to deal with are a lack of proper blood circulation, constant cold extremities, and low blood pressure. Previously this had meant that on rides of more than an hour, there was no shoe for me out there that would meet my needs.
Lake have been making cycling shoes for some time now, since 1982 in fact. The temperatures that hit their headquarters in Lake Michigan are some of the coldest in North America. Working with those kind of conditions it’s hardly surprising they have led the way in the winter cycling boots concept.
The MXZ303’s predecessor the MXZ302, had some remarkable winter features, but the MXZ303 has upped the ante. This is a warm, flexible, high top, off-road riding boot that comes into its element as soon as all shoe-covers and make-shift remedies fail.
Appropriately chosen materials are critical for keeping your feet warm in freezing temperatures. But how flexible is the shoe at the same time? The upper of the MXZ303 is Pittards full-grain leather. This is not only extremely durable, but it moulds for a perfect fit as well. It took just a few days when I realised how quickly the shoe had broken in for a snug fit.
The sole is made from Vibram, a high-grip rubber compound perfect for walking through snow and mud; excellent for my cyclo-cross races! The sole is drilled for a standard two hole Mtb cleat and you can fit toe spikes as well.
During training rides – when the temperature dropped below -12 Centigrade – I found Lake’s Outlast temperature regulating liner came in handy. These inserts in the heel and tongue stored the heat from my feet, discharging it back into the boot as the temperature drops. They definitely worked, allowing me to ride in harsh conditions for over five hours.
I must admit I never thought the boots would keep me that warm. You do have to keep up the effort though, as I found that as my intensity dropped, I could feel my feet getting colder. Then again, I do suffer in the cold more than most, so for most people this might not be an issue.
Also helping keep the cold at bay was the 3M Thinsulate insert in the toe box. This blocked any wind-chill, which is a major factor in cold feet on any ride. While the first two are primarily aimed at keeping your feet warm while riding, Lake have also thought about those times you’ll have to walk. The MXZ 303 has a Thermosol composite insulation insole to isolate while off the bike.
While I didn’t get to test it in truly Arctic conditions, judging by it’s build, I think you would be fine! We had a long period of snow this winter, previously one of the problems this brought was snow getting into my shoes. The MXZ303 has this covered though with it’s over-ankle neoprene cuff. I ran in them a lot, mostly in races, and even though the snow was deep, no snow got in.
And while running and walking I rather appreciated the tight fit afforded by the BOA ratchet. This enables easy fine-tuning while riding without the jeopardy of coming loose during the ride. As well as the BOA closure an added buckle holds the ankle flap in place, protecting the ankle at the same time.
Speaking of running, one of the MXZ303’s drawbacks was it’s weight when running. While the boot is pretty much winter-proof, all that technology comes at the cost of increased weight. Although in all fairness these boots aren’t meant to be out-and-out race shoes. If you want race shoes, Lake have plenty to offer. Despite this weight penalty it’s not really noticeable when pedalling.
Size is always an important issue with shoes and here Lake scores major points by providing whole and half sizes. There’s also a wide fit option available in whole sizes from 38 to 48. I had a 47 for my spacious feet and still had room for a thicker sock, not a necessity given Lakes superb heat management.
Thus far the MXZ303’s have held up well to my winter riding. I’m happy to have finally found a boot that can keep my feet comfortable and warm all winter. The fear of suffering frozen feet on long winter rides, with temperatures below zero has been banished by the MXZ303. I feel it’s robust build and weight are canceled out by it’s abilty to banish the winter blues; for my feet at least.
As I write this winter still has to run it’s course and I have a three stage cyclo-cross race in Switzerland coming up. I could use one of Lakes lighter dedicated winter shoes like the MX145 or CX145. But I think I’ll stick with my MXZ303’s, while I might be at a slight disadvantage against riders with dedicated race shoes, I’ll have warm feet!