Arguably, the ideal travel boot is one that provides protection from rain and roadstone for as many hours as you need on the bike, yet is light and flexible enough to saunter through a souk or climb to the top of a nearby hill to soak in the panoramic views surrounding you.
For a long time, I subscribed to the idea of riding in the sort of all-terrain lace-up boots beloved of hikers and ground troops. But, I found they can be a lot of faff to get on and off – even when the Pyrenean paramedic tending to your broken ankle is equipped with some sturdy shears.
So, in recent years I’ve been wearing off-road boots that give much more ankle support and shin protection, as well as sporting quick-release clamps for fit and security.
Among these, my current pair of TCX Infinity Evo Boots are proving to be a good choice so far.
With a recommended retail price of £279.99 they sit alongside high-spec offerings and premium brand names. This is reflected in the quality of the components used: Goretex lining, Michelin soles and some very nice wrought aluminium buckles on micro-adjustable closures to keep the boot in place.
The Goretex lining worked well over 2,000 dusty miles of northern India’s roads at the end of the monsoon season in late summer. There was little rain to deal with and the Himalayan water-crossings were not deep at that time of year but, with daytime temperatures well over 40 degrees Celsius, the northern plains provided a different kind of test for Goretex’s ability to breathe.
Sure, there were a couple of evenings when that days heat and humidity meant my socks were almost as wet going in to the hotel shower as they were after being washed and wrung out, but the breathability of the boots meant that I didn’t suffer from the energy-sapping chill that clammy feet encased in non-breathable boots can bring-on as the sun goes down at high altitude.
It will be interesting to see how the Infinity Evo’s cope with a British winter. Not just in terms of their ability to keep rain out, but also because this is where the Michelin Adventure rubber soles are supposed to show their worth. Apparently inspired by Michelin’s Anakee3 adventure bike tyres, their boot soles are said to offer excellent grip, stability and water clearance on soft, wet and muddy ground. In all honesty, that sounds like marketing hype to me but I can’t recall ever feeling anything other than sure footed while wearing them on-bike or off.
Two micro-adjustable straps allow the boot to be cinched down above and below the ankle bone, while a Velcro panel at top of the boot allows easy adjustment for a comfortable fit – which is further helped by front and back cut-outs in the leather and a neoprene collar. That clever piece of design helps to keep a good seal around the leg that doesn’t dig in to the back of the calf once the boots have been broken in.
Typical off-road boots tend to be very bulky, with a larger array of buckles and some prominent shin armour which specialist off-road clothing is designed to work with. The design of the Infinity Evo includes more streamline protection and so fits well with road riding trousers and waterproofs so can suit riders who don’t need or want to invest in another set of specialised clothing or who want to avoid looking like a competition rider.
Large suede panels along the inside-edge of each boot, from calf to ankle and from heel to ball of foot, provide heat protection and grip while probably helping to preserve the cosmetic appearance of the bike frame and anything in the footrest area.
Three flexible panels (one on the front of the boot, one behind the ankle, another below the calf) allow a good range of movement for gear changing, braking, paddling and hiking. But, for my wide(ish) feet, the fit around the ankle area feels sloppy enough to make me question the degree of protection. The fact the boots also seem a little tight around my calfs suggests this sloppiness might be down to the proportions of the boot, rather than my choice of size. As the foot bed in these boots is easily replaceable it might just be a question of finding an alternative that better suits my feet.
Boot manufacturers can take different approaches to foot size, width, arch support, ankle protection, etc. so sizing is often a compromise which makes it important to try before you buy. With off-road boots in particular, their heavier construction and added stiffness means it’s not always easy to tell how they’ll fit after they’ve been broken in and the general advice to wear thicker socks for better cushioning just adds to the confusion.
www.getgeared.co.uk, who retail TCX boots, has one of the more accurate guides to choosing the correct size online. This suggests that I should have gone for the next (European) size smaller and might well be right.
This test conducted by Nich Brown, summer 2015, Northern India, over 2,000 dry miles. Watch for further updates as the test continues.
Available sizes: 38-48 Euro 5-13 US
Colours: Black only