Northwave makes snowboard and cycling kit, including these very nice Extreme Winter GTX boots. Despite being billed as suitable for mountain biking, their relatively compact profile, non-aggressive styling and very neat fastening make them excellent for winter conditions on the road. They'll keep your feet warm and dry, although (as with any cycling footwear) their protection is limited in the event of major storm or total emersion.
The Extreme Winter GTX boots are part of a wider range of winter footwear from Northwave. The GTX in the name stands for Gore-tex, and the uppers are made from fabric incorporating the waterproof and breathable membrane. This means it keeps big drops of water, like rain, on the outside, while letting water vapour (sweat) escape from the inside, so your feet stay dry and don't get clammy.
These boots are also waterproof because the cleat screw holes do not go right though to the insole, and so don't let in water from below.
So far, so good. The boot itself is fully waterproof, but that doesn't mean you'll always have dry feet inside. Just as with any cycling shoe or boot, if you ride through a ford or deep puddle, then water will of course come over the top of the boot and your feet will get wet. And because the boots don't have holes in the soles, there's no way for the water to drain out. But if you want boots that are fully waterproof, that's part of the deal. You can't have it both ways.
By the same token, if it's pouring with rain, and your cycling tights get soaking wet, then water will track down into your boots, and... you get the picture.
So, with the obvious caveat that winter cycling boots aren't going to be 100% waterproof unless you also wear waterproof leggings (or unless your shoes are something like fishing waders), the Northwave Extreme GTXes perform very well.
I've used them on some cold, wet rides, and they've certainly kept my feet warmer and dryer than my usual winter options – which include some old-skool mountain bike boots, heavy duty touring shoes or normal cycling shoes with neoprene shoe covers.
As well as testing the Extreme GTXes in the real world by riding around in the rain for a few hours, I also examined their waterproofing in the road.cc lab, first by placing them in about 30mm of water for several hours (to emulate wet roads), then by wearing them while standing in about 80mm of water for 10 minutes (to emulate a big puddle, and especially test the area where the upper is joined to the sole – often a point in many types of shoe). In both cases the boots stayed dry inside.
On temperature specifically, I used the Extremes on a couple of training rides with pre-dawn starts. In air temperature of around five degrees my feet were cosy. Down to about three degrees, my toes got slightly cold, but were still fine. In both conditions there was a bit of wind, which I'd guess turned the 'feels like' temperature down by another degree. Based on this, I'd reckon at about one or two degrees I'll be nippy around the tootsies in these boots, but not uncomfortable. For the record, I was wearing very thin socks, because there's no room in the boots for thicker ones.
Which brings me to sizing. The shoes sent to road.cc for testing were size 43. While some manufacturers' sizes may err on the big or small side, these Northwaves felt just right, and fitted as well as all my size 43 summer cycling shoes (Shimano, Specialised and dhb). In an ideal world, I might have gone for a size 44 so I could fit in a thicker sock. For this reason, when buying any winter footwear it's worth considering going up to the next size.
As mentioned above, the Extremes are part of a wider range of winter footwear within the Northwave portfolio, which includes the Celsius (a dedicated mountain bike boot) and the Fahrenheit (a dedicated road boot). The Extreme combines the best of both, and also has additional features such as the BOA fastening system, which is essentially a wire 'lace' across the upper part of the boot tightened via a pair of ratchet dials.
The Extreme GTXes take two-bolt cleats, the Shimano SPD style, common on mountain bikes and touring bikes, with a recess in the sole so you can walk around without damaging your cleats. This is more convenient and saves cleat wear if you're a commuter or are likely to be in situations where you get off your bike, for example to mend a puncture, walk up a hill, or just go into the cafe half-way through a winter club run without waddling like a penguin.
The Extremes are also ideal for all those cyclists that combine road riding with the occasional off-road foray, or those that enjoy the modern world of cyclo-cross sportives or the ancient and venerable art of rough-stuffing. And if your off-road forays tend towards the muddy side, there are optional studs under the toes.
As with many brands of winter cycling footwear, these boots have a high 'cuff' that wraps around the leg above the ankle, and is held in place with Velcro. This cuff is soft and flexible, and does not chafe your skin on each pedal stroke (as some boots with stiffer ankle sections can do).
The only downside I encountered with these boots was on the upper foot. For some reason, the boots have two tongues. This might be for extra protection from road spray, but in practice, while the inner tongue is soft and comfortable, the outer tongue gets in the way of the cuff around the ankle and prevents the Velcro tabs from fastening neatly.
But this is not a major problem, and overall these boots are ideal for winter riding on the road (and occasionally off the road as well). At a recommended retail price a penny under £220, they can't be called a bargain, but with discounts at the usual on-line stores making them just under £200 it might be a price you're prepared to pay this winter to keep your feet as warm and dry as possible.
Waterproof and windproof cycling boots, ideal for cycling on the road (and occasionally off-road) in winter. Comfortable, compact and stylish. Not cheap though.
road.cc test report
Make and model: Northwave Extreme Winter GTX Boots
Size tested: 43 Black
Tell us what the product is for, and who it's aimed at. What do the manufacturers say about it? How does that compare to your own feelings about it?
This product is a pair of winter cycling boots. Although aimed primarily at off-road enthusiasts, the Extreme Winter GTX is ideal for cycling on the road in cold and wet conditions.
The Northwave website highlights the Extremes' "revolutionary Double Shield Construction (DSC). The overlap of two different uppers, anatamically integrated with each others and designed to work together, ensure an absolute protection agaist water and cold. The outer layer blocks the weather while the inner works by creating a microclimate ideal for the foot. All the benefits of a shoecover, none of the weakness of a shoecover"
Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?
The Northwave website also highlights the boots' Speedlight 3D Sole: "The nylon chassis is filled with fiberglass and co-injected to the outer polished TPU shell."
Of the BOA fasteners, the site says: "The double BOA® closure allows a differential adjustement along the neck of the foot and the lower area, so as to avoid uncomfortable hotspots and provide a super enveloping fit. In addition, the BOA system stands out as one of the fastest and effective systems on the market"
Construction seems very good. A key point of weakness on many shoes is the area where the sole is joined to the upper. On the Extremes this seems bomb-proof. Well, waterproof.
These boots kept my feet warm and dry in winter conditions, so on that basis they performed very well indeed.
It's too early to say for certain, but these bbots sem very well-made and have anti-abrasion strips on the outer edges of the uppers, so the portents for longevity are good.
Comfort is very good. The sizing is correct length-ways (in that these boots are size 43, and I take size 43 in other cycling shoes), and also width-ways (I have wide feet, and there was no pinching).
With a recommended retail price around £220, and even with discounts bringing it nearer £200, the Extreme Winter GTX boots can't be called a bargain. Similar products in Northwaves's range include the road-focussed Fahrenheit boot (flat sole, three-bolt cleat fitting) and the off-road-specific Celsius boot (treaded sole, two-bolt cleat fitting), both at £149.99 full price, although neither have the BOA fastening system. Similar boots, mainly mountain bike specific, from other brands include the Shimano MW81 (around £150), the Diadora Polaris 2 (around £80) and the Lake MX2303 (also with BOA fastening) for around £200.
Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose
Overall, these boots peformed very well for their designed purpose, in that they kept my feet warm and dry in winter, and in a mix of road and off-road conditions.
Tell us what you particularly liked about the product
Comfort, weather protection, fastening system, style.
Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product
The double tongue is a bit odd, but not a ddeal-breaker.
Did you enjoy using the product? Yes.
Would you consider buying the product? Yes.
Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes.
Anything further to say about the product in conclusion?
These boots performed very well, in that they kept my feet warm and dry in winter conditions, and were ideal for winter cycling on the road, with occasional off-road use as well, and on that basis they'd score 9. However, the price is on the steep side and the double tongue a slight oddity, together knocking a point off, giving an overall score of 8.
About the tester
Age: 51 Height: 5ft 10 / 178cm Weight: 11 stone / 70kg
I usually ride: an old Marin Alp, or an old steel classic My best bike is: an old Giant Cadex (can you see a theme here?)
I've been riding for: Over 20 years I ride: A few times a week I would class myself as: Experienced
I regularly do the following types of riding: touring, club rides, sportives, general fitness riding, Trail riding - aka rough-stuff (off road on a road bike)