Monday, April 6, 2009

TTW Product Review: Northwave Celsius GTX

There has been a lot of shoe discussion in this blog. You would think that Rider 1 and I have foot fetishes, but I assure you that is not the case. Fetishes, sure, but foot fetishes, no.

If you are close reader of this blog, you will have seen references to my winter riding shoes. This is akin to a grandmother pulling out the baby pictures at every excuse, except my winter riding shoes are neither precocious, darling or future disappointments. At least if their short life with me is an indication, they won't be a disappointment at all. Speaking of pulling out pictures, though . . .

From Product Testing

Aren't they adorable?

This is what my shoes looked like before the first ride. I would show you a picture of them now, but they are covered with mud, sweat and tears. I don't mean this metaphorically. I cried on them last week because our endless winter prevented me from going out to ride. That is not something of which you would want a picture. Speaking of pictures, here are some more pictures of my shoes.

From Product Testing

From Product Testing

Of course I'm proud of them. Just look at them. Yes, their my first.

Okay, enough of my granny imitation. Here is the low down on these shoes.

First, they retail for $179.99. I used to be a Sidi-only guy, so I had been looking at their winter shoe for about $400, so this seemed downright reasonable. The other upside is that I had been telling my wife for two years that I wanted a pair of winter shoes, so she was aware that I was preparing to drop four franklins on some secondary shoes. By picking up the Northwaves, I not only got the shoes I wanted, I looked like a sensible chap in my wife's eyes. No easy feat. For my feet. Anyway.

Second, these are strictly utilitarian shoes. They are not designed to replicate a racing shoe or anything like it. They are designed to be warm and water-proof. I picked the mountain-bike version since the little bit of traction on the shoes might be helpful for a time of year when snow and mud dominate the roads and the extra weight is meaningless. Also, I have mountain bike pedals on my winter/cyclo-cross/rain/commuter bike because I find walking around important and more frequent with all of these activities, so the pedal is compatible with my mountain bike so I can extend both of these riding seasons with this shoe.

A digression. Usually, I just digress and you, the kind reader, are taken along for a ride without forwarning or permission. In this case, I am clearly letting you know I am digressing, so if you dislike this non-linear progression or you are limited in time, skip to the next paragraph. On bikes: I have a reputation for having many, many bikes, but this is unfounded and besides I have good reasons for all of them. The sentence in the prior paragraph which describes one solitary bike as the one I use for winter riding, rainy weather riding, cyclo-cross racing (oh boy, there's a 60-minute plus one paragraph story waiting to be told) and commuting, should indicate to you that I am not overly biked. I do know people who have different bikes for some or all of these uses. To me, winter/rain/commuting all involved a stable and sturdy frame and wheels, a wider tire and room for small knobbies or even a studded tire, and fenders. Cyclo-cross racing, at MY level, involves crying and medical bills, but a sturdy mount, wider tires and canti-brakes are also nice. So, I take off the fenders and Bob's your uncle. How efficient of me. So that's enough smart-ass remarks about how many bikes I own.

The Northwave shoes have a simple internal fastening system with a single cord tightening the loops down the foot. Integral to the fit are also the two velcro straps. They are harder to see in the picture, but one covers the entire top of the foot and the other wraps around the lower ankle. The pull-string closure is not as solid feeling as I would like, but it certainly works and when combined with the large velcro areas, it is easy to get a secure fit. The ankle strap also would help limit the water down the leg issue I identified in a previous post. Any rain pant over the top of the shoe would also do the job.

The shoe is completely comfortable and adjustable. Unlike Mr. Millimeter, my feet are bigger than average but not too hard to fit, so I don't normally have shoe fit issues. For me, these were comfortable right away. The feeling of how loose or stiff this shoe feels is impacted quite a bit by the large straps, which really are a significant percentage of the shoe. So, they are also easy to adjust.

The biggest question for me ahead of my first ride was "How long until my toes are numb?" I didn't really expect that they would keep my toes from being numb, but I certainly expected a longer period of time than my shoe and neoprene booties combination had been giving me. I was therefore quite surprised to find that after my inaugural ride I made it through the entire ride without numb toes. That day was a bit warmer than than the rides just prior, so while I was pleased, I wasn't really sold on them yet. Now, however, I have taken a number of rides in these shoes ranging from soaking and miserable to cold and miserable. Throughout each of these rides, these shoes performed as well as I could have hoped. They kept my feet warm and, except for rain running down my leg for over an hour, dry.

I have an annoying but not otherwise problematic medical condition that causes what is basically an occasional overreaction to cold, wherein my fingers and toes become completely white from lack of blood flow. This is one of the reasons my wife was willing to let me strongly consider whatever winter shoes would help with the onset of this problem. While appreciating her understanding, I was hesitant to spend $400+ versus my occasional suffering, particularly when there were other cycling items on which I would prefer to spend the money. Having found a solution for under $200 (and this time of year most shops with inventory probably have them on sale), I can't believe I waited this long to get a pair.

Unlike Rider 1's forthcoming review of his D2 shoes, I am not going into details about weight, fastening, heel cups and stunning good looks. Instead, these Northwave Celsius GTX shoes are just solid workhorse shoes for anytime the weather is bad. They will keep your toes warm and dry, provide a secure and reasonably stiff (but not too stiff and adjustable by wrapping down the top tightly or not) and do all of it with a minimum of fuss and at a killer price. What more can you ask for in a winter shoe? Nothing of which I can think.


  1. Awww, those shoesies are adorable. Congrats on your first. Are you going to tie and hang them from your car rear view mirror?

    Seriously, I get that same coldness in my fingertips and feet too, so I understand. The Northwaves look like a good deal to me. I used to wear Sidis back in the day and they were great.

  2. I guess it depends on what you call winter riding? We prefer sealskin here. Proven northern keep warm and dry material.

    It's just the gathering process that pisses people off I guess.


  3. You should have posted photos of the shoes covered in tears. The candor of the review doesn't come off so well with photos of new shoes.

  4. May I venture, not a comment,but a question? I'm almost sold on these boots, but, can you tell me if the sole provides good grip? I cycle only off road, in the UK mud & rain. I need a good rubberized boot to help me clamber over wet rocks and tree roots - would these boots fit the bill? I purchased a pair of Sidi Diablo today, which I immediately returned. Beautiful though they were, the sole woudnt provide the grip I require. I wonder if these Northwave, will?

  5. I can't comment on the variation of mud in the UK versus Inland Northwest US mud, but I have been mountain biking in these, and walking my bike as a result, and have been totally happy with them. There are two versions, a mountain bike version and a road bike version, so make sure you get the right ones. The road bike version has no traction to speak of.

    I am just as happy with these shoes today as I was when I wrote the entry above. Good luck with yours.
    Rider 3

  6. There are different types of boots and casual boots, athletic boots, the shoes of the line, wedding boots boots for women, men’s boots and work boots. You need to take the time to select the right shoe for your feet.

  7. How warm are these boots? My feet are usually hard to freeze but I wonder if these boots would keep them warm down to -10°C with a single pair of good socks.

    I know about the extra warm “arctic” version, but I fear that they would be too warm at around 0°C.

  8. Just bought the 11/12 version of Northwave Celsius GTX looking forward to some seriuos winter biking...comment to Michael the Artic version is for +5 -> -35 celcius degrees so if yours are intended for freezing temperatures I would select the Artic...mine is mostly used in the interval -5 -> +15 so therefor I disselected the Artic version