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review

Northwave Flagship R GTX

7
£386.99

VERDICT:

7
10
Good performance-focused winter boots, but a hefty price
Excellent dual dials
Extremely stiff sole
Good waterproofing
Warm
Super expensive
Not as warm as expected
Weight: 
940g

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The Northwave Flagship R GTX winter shoes are very waterproof, have a very stiff sole and their dual-dial closure system is excellent. They are rated down to -15℃, but below zero and my toes were getting cold.

Read our feature on how to keep your feet warm cycling, and if you're sticking with your summer shoes and overshoes, check out our guide to the best cycling overshoes.

> Buy now: Northwave Flagship R GTX for £386.99 from Northwave

As you can probably guess from the name and the price, the Flagship R GTX is Northwave's top-end winter shoe, designed for warmth and performance with no compromises.

Warmth

During winter I really struggle to keep my feet warm – just the week before these shoes arrived I had to skip the cafe on the club ride as my toes were so cold.

These are designed to keep your feet warm down to -15℃, but I'm not convinced they quite live up to that. I tested them down to around -2℃, but with a savage 20mph northerly wind and a 'feels like' temperature of around -5℃. I found them warm enough down to around zero, but below that I still got cold toes – though they were still a lot warmer than the combination of normal shoes and overshoes. I don't think these would be warm enough for anywhere near -15℃, for me personally anyway – I'd wimp out long before then.

Waterproofing

The Gore-Tex Duratherm Kelvin membrane is designed to protect your feet whatever the weather. I tested these on many rides in miserable conditions – cold, wet, windy and with a lot of standing water around.

They do an excellent job of protecting against road spray. On a ride after some torrential rain there was a lot of standing water and my feet didn't get wet at all. And they do a good job of keeping your feet dry when it's raining too. They're great in all but the worst conditions, although – as with any waterproof shoes or overshoes – after a while water will likely run down your legs and start to seep in.

On a four-hour club run with near-constant rain (why didn't I just turbo?), the water started to run down my tights and into the shoes. Gore-tex doesn't let water escape easily, so I did have to pour out a bit of water from the shoes when I got home.

The neoprene collar is a good size and provides extra warmth and protection around your ankles. There is also a loop on the front and back of the collar which makes these easy to get on and off. The Fizik Terra Artica GTX shoes that Mike reviewed in December had a bit of Velcro on the neoprene collar, which might have been beneficial here to reduce water ingress.

2023 Northwave Flagship R GTX - cuff.jpg

Using them with waterproof trousers would help, as the water wouldn't run down your legs into the boots, and this seemed like the only way water got in.

They're not so bulky that you can't pair them with overshoes, but if you're spending this much on a pair of winter shoes that shouldn't really be necessary.

You don't just have to stick to freezing cold days with these either – I've worn them on some wet and mild days, and though my feet were possibly a little too toasty, they were largely dry, which was preferable to using my summer shoes.

Sole

These have a carbon sole, with Northave's maximum rigidity rating of 15. They're as stiff as any summer shoes I have tested, feeling rock solid when trying to sprint or on some hard climbing efforts.

The sole is well shaped and the arch is supportive. I didn't have any aches or soreness while wearing these, though I am used to similarly stiff soles on my summer shoes.

2023 Northwave Flagship R GTX - instep.jpg

I suspect during winter a lot of people would be willing to sacrifice a bit of rigidity for a slightly cheaper price. While I still like riding outside in winter, I tend to do large steady efforts and stick to the turbo for the high-intensity training, so would happily forgo a super stiff sole to make the price more palatable.

The shoes will accept any three-bolt cleat design, and were easy to set up with Look Keo cleats. There are adjustment markings to ensure you get the same positioning on both shoes. With an adapter they are compatible with Speedplay pedals too.

2023 Northwave Flagship R GTX - sole toe.jpg

The heel and toe bumpers are a reasonable size and give good grip when off the bike. They also do a decent job of protecting the sole, with little sign of wear after a few months of use.

2023 Northwave Flagship R GTX - sole heel.jpg

The shoes have three vents on the bottom; I wasn't sure of the rationale for this as they are designed for optimum warmth. I think I'd prefer that they sacrifice breathability and don't give any opportunity for warmth to escape. The Northwave Celsius R Arctic GTX doesn't have any vents, which I'd probably prefer.

Closure

The closure system on these is a pair of X-Dial SLW3 dials, the same as on the Northwave Extreme Pro 3 shoes I reviewed in October. These top-end dials tighten like most but can be loosened by one notch – 1mm – by pressing the lever on the dial. You then pull back the lever to release them fully.

2023 Northwave Flagship R GTX - ratchet.jpg

This enables you to tighten and loosen the shoes on the move. I really like this, as occasionally I realised I had overtightened them, so it was handy to adjust them on the go. The lever you tap to loosen the shoes is super easy to use while riding, even with winter gloves on.

Fit & sizing

The dual dials are excellent for dialling in the fit, and ensuring there was no heel slipping when climbing out of the saddle.

2023 Northwave Flagship R GTX - heels.jpg

They're described as having a Pro fit; they're a bit narrower than other shoes I have tested, even more so if I paired them with winter socks.

2023 Northwave Flagship R GTX - front.jpg

I tested them in a size EU45 which equates to a UK11. I usually wear a 10.5/11 but I would perhaps have preferred the EU45.5 with these (they're available in half size increments across the most common sizes). They felt a bit smaller than the Northwave Extreme Pro 3s I tested (I was wearing the same socks).

Weight

The shoes weigh 940g a pair in a size 45, which is a fair bit heavier than typical road shoes but fairly light compared with some of the winter shoes we've tested. The 45NRTH Wolvhammer Boa Premium Insulated Winter Cycling Boots weigh more than that per shoe!

Value

At £386.99 these are very expensive winter shoes, designed for those looking for maximum protection as well as top-level performance.

They are an investment and are really well made – I suspect you would get a lot of wear out of them over the years – but they are a heck of a lot more than others we've tested that also perform well.

Those hefty 45NRTH Wolvhammer Boa boots that Mike reviewed in 2021 are rated to -18°C and were 'only' £275 (currently $335).

Looking at others we've reviewed, the Fizik Tempo Artica GTX winter shoes (tested by Mat last year) are £249.99, though they have fewer features than the Northwaves. (They do come in black too – I would never want white winter boots! The Northwaves are only available in black.)

And John really liked the Lake MXZ304 winter boots, which are priced at £280, though they are a lot bulkier than the Northwaves.

Northwave has a few different models of winter shoes with good protection but less stiff soles and more basic fastening dials, starting at £215.99 with the Celsius R GTX.

Conclusion

Overall, the Flagship R GTX is a good winter shoe. While I don't think they live up to the claim of keeping your feet warm in temperatures down to -15℃, they are certainly better than a normal pair of shoes and overshoes combo. The carbon soles are extremely stiff, and the excellent dual dials help to achieve the perfect fit. They are a big investment but they are very well made, so you should get many years' use out of them.

Verdict

Good performance-focused winter boots, but a hefty price

road.cc test report

Make and model: Northwave Flagship R GTX

Size tested: 45

Tell us what the product is for

Northwave says: "Designed to be the core road cycling shoe for your winter rides, Flagship R GTX stands for outstanding performance when the mercury column drops. Excellent thermoregulation is ensured by the Duratherm Kelvin Goretex membrane which protects the foot from the fiercest weather conditions enhancing breathability and comfort.

"Laminated to insulating hollow fibres, the water- and windproof Gore-Tex® Duratherm Kelvin membrane provides maximum thermal insulation to keep your toes toasty and warm on the pedals even at -15°C."

Tell us some more about the technical aspects of the product?

Northwave lists these features:

Highly abrasion resistant

Offers outstanding moisture management so your feet always stay dry in any conditions

The closure with two SLW3 dials, the only one with a step-by-step release, allows a customized fit and millimetric adjustments, even wearing winter gloves.

Super responsiveness carbon is granted thanks to the Powershape sole, with a rigidity index of 15.0.

The Easyfit collar offers superior protection and a plus in comfortability with no need to give up on the freedom of movement. Strategic reflective inserts outline the minimal design of the shoe delivering extra visibility while on the saddle.

Rate the product for quality of construction:
 
9/10
Rate the product for performance:
 
7/10
Rate the product for durability:
 
9/10
Rate the product for fit:
 
7/10

The Pro fit is quite narrow.

Rate the product for sizing:
 
7/10

Perhaps half a size smaller than my usual shoes.

Rate the product for weight:
 
7/10

Much heavier than usual cycling shoes, but lighter than a lot of winter shoes.

Rate the product for comfort:
 
8/10
Rate the product for value:
 
4/10

These are top-end winter shoes and are very well made, but they are way more expensive than others we've tested that also do a good job.

How easy is the product to care for? How did it respond to being washed?

Wiped clean very easily after each use.

Tell us how the product performed overall when used for its designed purpose

They kept my feet largely dry and warm, but not as warm as I'd hoped. In terms of their 'performance' features, the sole and dials, they were excellent.

Tell us what you particularly liked about the product

These were very good in all but biblical rain, and the stiff sole and dual dials are excellent.

Tell us what you particularly disliked about the product

They weren't as warm as I expected once it dipped below zero.

How does the price compare to that of similar products in the market, including ones recently tested on road.cc?

They're top-end shoes with a top-end price.

Both the Fizik Terra Artica GTX and Tempo Artica GTX shoes, which received good reviews, are a lot cheaper at £249.99.

John really liked the Lake MXZ304 winter boots, which are £280, though they are a lot bulkier than the Northwaves, and Iwein really rated the Shimano MV7 Gore-Tex SPD shoes (MW701), which have been updated and are now priced at £219.99.

Did you enjoy using the product? Yes

Would you consider buying the product? No, too expensive for me.

Would you recommend the product to a friend? Yes

Use this box to explain your overall score

Overall, these are a good pair of winter shoes that focus on performance as well as protection. They are good at keeping your feet dry in most conditions and are much warmer than normal shoes. They are very well made, but they are also very expensive.

Overall rating: 7/10

About the tester

Age: 35  Height: 178cm  Weight: 73kg

I usually ride: Specialized Roubaix  My best bike is: Cervelo S3

I've been riding for: 10-20 years  I ride: Most days  I would class myself as: Expert

I regularly do the following types of riding: road racing, touring, club rides, general fitness riding, Indoor

Add new comment

5 comments

Avatar
IanEdward | 5 months ago
0 likes

I have the off-road equivalent, which are both the lightest and stiffest shoes I own, more so than my white leather summer shoes 

I too have poured water out after a ride, I keep meaning to buy or make (I believe a Marigold glove is recommended) a little ankle gaiter to try and seal up the cuff a little bit, but I guess it will still soak down my leg warmers unless I wear the gaiter against the skin...

Avatar
Fursty Ferret | 6 months ago
0 likes

I have an older version of these and find them toasty in most conditions. However, while the quick-release feature of the dials is handy, it's broken on both of my shoes so the only way to loosen them to remove is to click the button about a million times on each shoe to let a tiny bit of wire through each time. 

I wouldn't buy again on these grounds alone.

Avatar
andystow | 6 months ago
1 like

I have a general website suggestion... maybe there's an image not loading, or maybe this was on purpose, but I had no way of knowing without clicking through whether this was a review I would be interested in reading or not. With no context, a "Northwave Flagship R GTX" could be an e-bike, a glove, a light, pretty much anything.

Like a driver stopping to shout at a cyclist about holding him up, now I've wasted another minute of my time to complain about wasting a few seconds of my time looking at a review which is irrelevant to me.

Avatar
SurreyHiller | 6 months ago
0 likes

I have a pair of an older model of these.   A couple of points after long term use.   
Don't buy them if you want the Speedplay lower stack height through the Northwave adapters.   1, the adapters are really hard to come by and 2 you need to cut some of the insole away to allow the 3 bolt section to come out and the 4 bolt one to go in.   This is a hard task in summer shoes that you can pull the tongue out on.   In fact I gave up with a pair and just used the stock Speedplay ones after ages of nearly slicing my finger open and ripping up the sole of the shoe.   In a shoe like this with the membrane in I wouldn't even start.

When they get wet they take ages to dry out and as such start to smell.   If it's cold and damp or mildly wet I'll wear these.   If it's chucking it down then I'll wear summer shoes with overshoes so they can dry out quickly.

Last point is they are stiff with lots of room inside for thick socks and given the choice I would buy them again (off ebay for £50, not sure about full price!) as the majority of the time it's not raining enough for the rain to seep down my leg and in and the lack of faff in putting them on is worth it.  

Avatar
Jem PT replied to SurreyHiller | 6 months ago
0 likes
SurreyHiller wrote:

I have a pair of an older model of these.   A couple of points after long term use.   

When they get wet they take ages to dry out and as such start to smell.   If it's cold and damp or mildly wet I'll wear these.   If it's chucking it down then I'll wear summer shoes with overshoes so they can dry out quickly.

Last point is they are stiff with lots of room inside for thick socks and given the choice I would buy them again (off ebay for £50, not sure about full price!) as the majority of the time it's not raining enough for the rain to seep down my leg and in and the lack of faff in putting them on is worth it.  

I've got an older pair of these too that look similar but without GORE written on them. They are really comfy - with a nice fluffy lining but still grip my feet well.

I agree with what you say, and I have on occasions poured water out of them at the end of a ride(!). My feet also feel the cold and having experimented with rechargeable foot-warmers I now use one-off disposable foot-warmers if the temperature is below 4 degrees. Who goes cycling in -15??

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