Written By : Chris Zito
Way back when I was pounding the mean streets of Milwaukee shuttling other peoples packages and shit around town, I picked up a pair of the Lake winter boots that were toted as being “the bomb” in winter riding foot apparel. And they were. I rode them heartily through a Milwaukee winter, where for the most part they kept my feet warm and dry better than any footwear I had worn to that point. A year later I moved to Minneapolis and put in a couple of more winters chock full of couriering, WedNiteRiding, and (such and such) winter bike stuff that is continually going on in them parts. After the first winter in Minneapolis the heal cups pulled out. It seemed as if the threads had just given up. After a relatively inexpensive repair the same thing happened a year later. Instead of another repair I decided that it was time to just retire the old dogs and get a new pair. My new pair was great. The lace-up shoe inside, an outside flap with Velcro, and three Velcro straps across the foot and ankle. Vibram soles and optional toe spikes. They seemed as well built as my first pair and were definitely comfortable, warm and dry beyond reasonable extremes. But, within the first couple of months of life the heel ripped out. I promptly returned them and because was hesitant to get try the latest model with the “BOA” technology that uses the dial and cable-thread lacing. My fear was the small mechanical parts of the dial were no match for the sand, dirt, and shit that the Twin Cities bike culture exposes you to. I also was apprehensive of the cable like lacing, it seemed as if they would eventually cut through the materials they were designed to keep tight. So I bought another brand of lower quality and a pair of warmer socks.
A couple years later I was introduced to the Louis Garneau winter boot, a drawstring shoe inside of a neoprene waterproof zip-up outer shell. This is the boot I am currently wearing. I am content with the Garneau, well I was…
I was surprised, pleasantly surprised! The “new” Lake Winter boots have a slip in neoprene interior with an outer leather flap that is cinched tight by my old nemesis the “BOA”. Lets start there. It works. You can get your feet nice and snug with enough room for good circulation, yet tight enough to keep your foot from moving around when you’re “dropping the hammer”. There is no longer a plastic heal cup, everything is leather and appears to be very well built. The insole seems to be thicker and definitely provides a warmer foot bed.
The uppers have a clip fastener on a cinch style strap that tucks under the belt-loop like loops along the back of the upper. The catch is the strap is backed with Velcro and once pulled taught, it’s hard to get trough the loops without the Velcro getting all “caught up”, for lack of a better term. The only solution I found is to set the strap to a desired length while the boot is off, which I think is contradictory to having a cinch feature.
In all other aspects I found the 303’s to be outstanding “beyond reasonable conditions”. I rode some city streets in snow and slush in 30 degree temps, on cold and frozen commutes in the teens, on the beach in the twenties and thirties, and was always warm and dry. In the snow and on the ice the traction was always exceptional. I wore them while testing some studded tires on an ice rink and was once again very pleased with grip performance. One day as I was leaving the beach and pondered, “what might happen if my foot was to go through some ice and into some water?” Result: nothing. Instead of searching for ice that would break through and put me in the water, I found some open icy water and submerged my foot to the ankle, well above the seam of the flap. After twenty seconds, I could feel the cold of the water. But 20 minutes later when I got home my socks were bone dry. Twice since then I have experienced extreme flooding on the Oak Leaf Trail, and while soft-pedaling through had to submerge both feet several times and the result was dry again. I didn’t have the opportunity to test these boots in sub-zero temps, but for the testing I did, they were spot on. My feet were warm and dry throughout conditions that I would consider “beyond reasonable”.
This test monkey gives the Lake 303 boots an A-, and recommends them to all inclement weather riders, whether you are Fat-Biking, mountain riding, or simply commuting, your tootsies will be warm and cozy.
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