Back in 2012, Tyler reviewed the Shimano MW81 Winter shoe, with great results. We are now checking back in on them with a long-term test in a much colder climate.
I have used the MW81s for a little over a year now, riding through last winter and this current one on these shoes. One of the most curious things for us was how cold the shoe could go, and with the Polar Vortex of 2014, we had them on the bike in temperatures as low as -14º F.
Click more to read through and see how they did in the extreme cold and snow of Minnesota…
The first good mention I have to give these shoes is how well they wear. A decent MTB shoe for me lasts no more than 2 seasons, when the soles start to wear out, the uppers delaminate from the tread, and the stitching around the ankles starts to fall apart. Maybe it could be that riding in snow is less abusive than riding in dirt and rocks, but these shoes have worn very well. That is, they have almost no visual wear to them at all, they look like a shoe that maybe has 3 rides on them, when they have had 1.5 good seasons of riding.
The long wearing could also be that for a winter shoe, lightweight, breathable materials are not as important, as thicker, heavier wearing materials are also more likely to provide insulation. The only real venting on the shoe is a perforated leather on top of the toe box. I never had a feeling of too much moisture building up inside the boot, and that could be because of the Gore-Tex helping keep things regulated. On one unfortunate winter beach ride, I did accidentally step into frigid Lake Superior up to the ankles, and surprisingly, had absolutely no water enter the boot.
The only real problem I encountered with the shoes was when they didn’t want to agree with my Time ATAC MX Platform/clipless pedals. The pedal body was interfering with the side lugs on the shoes, and I did not want to get out the knife for any shoe surgery, so I went back to using the standard Time ATAC XC. Shimano being a pedal maker as well, we can’t fault them for this, since they probably designed it around just their pedals, and they clearly recommend the Shimano PD-M780 with this shoe.
So, how did they work in cold weather? Better than expected. Up here near the north pole, riders are typically skeptical of “winter” products being sold by companies based in California. However, I found the MW81s to actually be a good choice for winter riding. I did use them last year in rides as cold as -14ºF, and they were definitely underpowered for that type of chill. Then again, riding at that temperature is not enjoyable no matter what you do, and 9 times out of 10, if the thermometer shows that, I just stay inside. Most of my winter riding takes place between 5 degrees and 25 degrees, and that was also the great sweet spot for these shoes. To really test the shoe, I bought size 46s, and I typically ride a 45.5 or 46, so I was not layering up on socks in them. A winter weight wool sock was enough to be comfortably warm for 2 hours rides down to 5 degrees. The best part about these boots was the soft neoprene sock with velcro closure that goes around the ankle. When riding in snow, the “posthole” is a common issue when stepping off the bike, and with a lot of winter products that may not be so well thought out, snow can then come in through the top of the boot and start to get your feed wet and cold. Not so with the MW81, the neoprene around the ankle fit tight, kept out snow, and didn’t inhibit pedaling movement. That is also important, as some really hardcore winter cycling boots I have tried were too tall around the ankle and too stiff, and felt like they were locking my ankle movement in the pedaling stroke.
While the folks at Shimano many not encounter much snow in Irvine, CA, the MW81 is a legit choice for riding in the cold climates. If you are some sort of superhuman that regularly rides below zero, you might want to look at the more extreme options out there, but for the rest of us that just want to get a few hours in at reasonable winter temperatures, these are a very solid choice. The best praise I can give to a product: I bought them, and will continue to use them till they are dead. Shimano sells them for $230.
- Waterproof GORE-TEX® Insulated Comfort liner for maximum comfort
- Tough, stretch-resistant synthetic leather
- High visibility reflectors on rear and side of shoes
- Triple off-set straps prevent pressure points and ensure a snug fit
- Adaptable cup insole with fleece liner for added insulation and heat retention
- Volume performance last accommodates fit with thick socks
- Glass fiber reinforced polyamide sole with optional spike mount
- Multi-density lugs with soft arch pad for pedal stability
- Best matched with PD-M780, PD-M785