Monday, December 07, 2009

Review - SideTrak Booties

I'm not one to flagrantly spend my money on bike stuff, although I won't deny myself a treat or three. When it comes to booties, though, I've stuck with a favorite for many, many years. I think I've had these for 5, maybe 7, maybe more years, and I first started using them in the early 90s.

SideTrak booties.

I took this picture from Excel Sports. I don't take such good pictures.

One of the cool things about the SideTraks is that you can get them at your local shop for the same price as it is online. I don't know exactly how they did this, but it works for me. For the record, I bought a pair online, but I bought other pairs in shops.

The best thing about these booties is how long they last. I didn't buy the last booties because of anything wrong with my old ones - I either (A) gave them to a racer in need or, more likely, (B) I left them somewhere by accident.

These reasons differ greatly from the normal cause of bootie replacement - bootie expiration. Usually booties expire due to one of the following reasonss:

1. The toe top wears through. What's the use of a bootie if your toes get a refreshing blast of cold Arctic air when you ride?

2. The side or back rips, usually due to crashes and abrasions, and then washing said bootie multiple times. What's the use of a bootie if... you know the rest.

3. The collar around the calf wears out, exposing piping and threads, abrading the skin there.

4. The zipper in the back fails. Have you ever ridden behind a rider with their booties held together with safety pins, duct tape, or the like?

Yeah, big fail.

Okay, fine, you can get zippers replaced at the local tailors (I did that once), but if the zipper if failing, Messieurs 1, 2, and 3 above can't be too far behind.

Bootie design fails for the following two reasons:

1. They aren't warm enough. I've bought $50 booties that felt like they were made with Saran wrap.

2. They aren't windproof enough. I've also bought booties that felt like they were made with mesh fabric. I could tell if the wind shifted by which part of my foot was coldest.

On all six accounts above, the SideTraks rock. The toes don't wear out, the heel doesn't wear out, the calf collar stays soft, the zipper doesn't break, the material is warm, and it's windproof.

My beat up and at least 5-7 year old booties.

It's hard to see the toe area, but it's reinforced with something that resembles steel wool crossed with Kevlar. It's a bit coarse but holy smokes it simply will not wear through. I haven't tried dragging my toes on the ground for any length of time but I figure the toes will be good for another decade or so.

The bottom is pretty simple. Look, ma, no heels!

I thought the open bottom would be a problem, but apparently not. I've never had a problem with my booties being too cold. It also makes for a simple set up - no cutting, no trimming, no fraying edges. Just unwrap the plastic, unfold the booties, slip over shoes, and ride.

The coolest part of the booties - the non-zipper.

I think SideTrak's patent either ran out or they're selling the rights to others. I noticed, for the first time (maybe I missed it before - I haven't paid attention to booties in a while), that a lot of other manufacturers are using velcro rear closures.

You wrap the back around as much as you want. I need to wrap a lot.

The edges at the top are soft and comfortable. It's actually really fuzzy, warm, and comfy when I wrap the back around my calves. I wish my other gear were as comfy. My gloves, for example, are not nearly as soft.

The rear velcro takes care of the collar up top and handles any potential zipper problem. Simple and straightforward.

The one negative is that to get the velcro nice and snug, you really need two hands. This means that it's hard to adjust while you're riding. That's okay if you're training, you just stop for a bit, but in a race... Now you know what I'm doing when I'm fondling my ankles for a minute at a time. I reposition the lower velcro, then the upper, then the lower, then the upper, repeating until my ankle feels like it's encased in an ankle sling.

I've been seduced by a variety of expensive booties over the years, dishing out $50 and more for snazzier booties with things like reflective piping, semi-hidden zippers, traction bottoms, and fancy looking fabrics. But all of them expired, much quicker than the 5-10 years I expect my booties to last.

I finally realized that there's no beating the SideTrak. They may be the cheapest booties out there, but they're more comfortable, more durable, and just as warm.

I'll stick with my SideTraks.


slowroadie said...

Well, unlike you, I DO flagrantly spend money on bike apparel. I can't tell you how many times I've been duped into buying an article of bike clothing (mostly jackets) that don't work for me.

I wish you had posted this two days earlier. My booties have just expired for at least 3 of the reasons you cite, after only 2 years. I just dropped some coin on new Gore 'Thermo' booties. I kid you not, my feet are the ONLY things that get cold during Winter rides. I can be sweating at 18F (stupid jackets) and my feet are frozen.

Aki said...

The missus told me I've had my booties at least 7 years, since I've never bought booties since we met. But, unbeknownst to her, I believe I forgot some booties in Florida in Jan 2004 (also forgot a really nice electric razor and I'm sure some other stuff). I had an extra pair in my gear bag "just in case". I broke them open in California in Feb 04, which was the next time I rode outside (apparently). So my current booties are 5 years, 10 months old (usage-wise).

Anyway, these things are like another item I have, a Blackburn floor pump. That I've had since 2000? or earlier and have had basically no problems. I just misplace it sometimes, and the handle's plugs fall out.

bigCrank said...

i've used cheapo performance neoprene booties for years. i spent $19 on them in 1994. Lasted until last year. Zipper broke. The toe on one of them was hacked due to the fact i mtn bike a lot in the winter. that's what beats them up. about 5 years ago, performance had a deal on them so i bought two pairs so i still have another in the closet which should get me to the point where i am retired and living in florida. i noticed that they are on sale now (or recently) for $19 still. wow. i'll use those with a pair of wool socks and i can rode in 14 degree weather for 3 hours with no problemo.

Nic said...

What's the coldest temp and longest ride you've been able to do? My LG's zipper just failed [post perfect timing!] and while they were good for about 1.5 hrs, I definitely would start suffering after that. Temps here can be 10-20F w/ windchill bringing it to 0-10F.

Aki said...

I've done 2 hour rides at 15-20 on the mountain bike and 20-25 on the road bike (without windchill). A really windy 25 F (I think it was 0 or something with the windchill - our bikes got blown over when we were changing in the cars) cut my ride short, but not because of my feet.

I tend not to venture out until it's over 28 degrees, and it's unusual for me to go out when it's under 38 or so degrees.

I'm pretty comfortable at 38 and raining feetwise.