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THROUGH THE GRINDER

Some proper winter finally arrived in the north for us, which has helped reinvigorate our slightly damp souls and pushed us on with another couple of months of product testing in the hills. So, move aside and let’s see what’s in the bottom of the rather gritty box…

VAUDE TARON SYMPATEX MID AM BOOTS

Price: £180.00 // From: Vaude, vaude.com

Tested: Four months

Your understanding of ‘winter’ will vary depending on whether you live and ride in Cornwall, Cumbria or Colorado. These Vaude boots, though, will do a pretty good job of suiting most of the conditions that British riders come across over the darker months.

For a start, they’re lined with waterproof and breathable Sympatex, there’s a bellows tongue to let you step in man-size puddles and a neoprene Achilles cuff to keep out splashes and gravel while riding or hike-a-biking.

Your foot is kept in place by laces, reinforced with a Velcro strap at the toe and a ratchet strap over the mid-foot. I found the boots came up actual size – in that I sized up as I usually do for a winter boot, but found them very roomy and needing proper winter socks. So if you want to still wear a sports sock, keep to your true size. Talking of which, they come in a wide range of sizes from 37–47.

The boot is pretty low-key in style, with a lightweight walking boot look to it.The supporting ratchet strap is sewn in, but the buckle and the plastic zip strap are replaceable. The Vibram sole claims to be self-cleaning and the widely spaced lugs back up this promise, while still offering good grip on rocks and loamy forest tracks. There’s extra toe-box protection as well as some EVA cushioning under the heels. A heel strap helps you pull the boots on, though the Neoprene cuff makes this a bit redundant as you need to wrestle that out of the way first anyway.

Don’t be expecting fleece lining and velour cuffs; these boots are pretty minimal inside and the walls of the boots are thin enough to confirm that they’re unlined. Look on them as a high-top three-season shoe, rather than a proper mid-winter boot.

In use, the boots take a while to break in and reshape to welcome your feet. However, once on, they’re pretty invisible underfoot. They’re as happy going for a wet winter day out as doing an on/off ride to work. While no boot can be truly waterproof when there’s that jumbo hole in the top to let your foot in, the Tarons do a great job of keeping as much moisture out as possible. The lace and strap closure makes it easy to fine-tune the fit in a pleasingly precise way. The laces are flat and didn’t undo until my chilled hands asked them to. The strap buckle has a decent amount of throw to it and doesn’t seem to grit up as much as some other finer buckles can.

Overall: A well-made, solid and waterproof (as much as you can) boot that’ll work for everything but mid-summer and mid-winter conditions. And it’ll even do mid-winter if you’re warm footed and suitably socked.

Chipps

HOWIES BIB TIGHTS

Price: £69.00 // From: Howies, howies.co.uk

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About Singletrack

Hans Rey – No Way? Yes Way! 30 years as a sponsored bike rider. Hans must be doing something right. We chat over burgers and beer. Bike Test: Hardcore Hardtails – We test three examples of that very British of bike categories: the long forked hardtail, with bikes from Ritchey, Onza and Chromag. Classic Calderdale – Sim ponders our need to name trails and places on a guided tour of Singletrack’s own home trails. Trail helmets – 12 (count them!) trail helmets ridden and rated. Early Rider – a profile of a company that’s making kids’ bikes cool again Nepal – Spectacular views and bikepacking courtesy of Miranda Murphy, Todd Weselake and Steve Shannon. Joe Barnes – A profile of enduro racer, former downhill racer and Dude of Hazzard Joe Barnes. Shimano: behind the blue veil – Chipps goes to Japan (and Singapore) to see what makes this very private company tick. Retro Bikes – Were the good old days better, or just different? Warning: may contain pictures of alarming outfits.
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