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The lowdown: Serious winter riding boots with a competitive edge
Pros: Lightweight, waterproof, roomy enough for thick socks while still fitting precisely
Cons: The heel doesn’t fit very tightly and slips when running
Ordinary mountain bike shoes just don’t cut it for extreme cold. Thick socks make a performance fit too tight, preventing feet from receiving enough circulation; shoe covers reduce traction when walking or running.
Sidi’s Diablo GTX winter shoes are a no-frills, winter-specific boot that have a performance fit and feel, and should be able to keep the elements out on nasty days.
From afar, the Diablo GTX looks superficially like Sidi’s Duran mountain bike shoe, which features three velcro straps. The Diablo has a fourth, stretchy velcro strap well above the ankle that seals the top of the neoprene enclosure. For improved protection from the elements, Sidi recommends rain pants or tights outside of the boot.
Plenty of companies have a winter boot offering, and they each take different approaches to weatherproofing. 45North’s Wolvhammer is modeled after mountaineering boots and uses everything from natural rubber to a Cordura outer. Another heavy-duty winter boot, the Lake MXZ302, uses neoprene and leather. A four-layer upper on the Diablo GTX is Sidi’s solution to balancing breathability, insulation and protection from the elements. Most importantly, the shoe has a seamless Gore-Tex booty and an integrated tongue that prevents water from leaking in.
So long as water doesn’t find its way in above the ankle, the boots should keep socks dry in the nastiest of winter slush, although I haven’t yet had a properly wet day to put them to an extended test. I’ll report back later in the winter on how the Diablo GTX holds up in full conditions.
The Diablo GTX is designed with a roomy fit, banking on the need for thick socks in extreme conditions. Mine were roomy enough in my standard size to wiggle my toes while wearing thick socks, but still contoured nicely to my feet.
The top velcro strap has a lot of stretch around the ankle, though, and I never feel like I can cinch it down as tightly as I would like. My heels don’t slip in my older version of the current Spider, but slip enough in the Diablo that I don’t like running my bike in them, even though the Competition MTB Sole has good traction and the option of toe spikes. Unless the conditions are truly sloppy and “running” translates to “slogging,” I warm up in these and switch to standard mountain bike shoes to race.
On a really mucky day they make fine cyclocross shoes for slogging through mud and slush — despite the heel lift — but on days that I just want the warmth, I warm up in them, then switch to my standard mountain bike shoes with neoprene socks for the race.
The Diablo GTX and its road bike equivalent, the Sidi Hydro GTX, both retail for $300.