Tuesday, December 20, 2011

these boots were made for ridin'

Arguably, the most important piece of riding equipment consists of a sturdy pair of boots. Even the anti-helmet crowd, whose “let those who ride decide” credo, has done much to increase the business of ER doctors, long term care facilities, and morticians will rarely be seen sans proper foot wear. While it can be debated that the head, may or may not make contact in a crash, the lower extremities certainly will.

For years my feet were protected by a pair of Carolina lineman boots. They were reasonably priced, offered above-the-ankle protection and good support. They were also very durable, serving for a couple of decades, courtesy of economical sole replacements at the local cobbler. Ah yes, the cobbler, this craft is fast becoming a lost art if there ever was one. And no wonder, with the preponderance of throw-away foot wear being foisted on a gullible public anxious for a “bargain.”
But today I want to talk about quality. The boots pictured, are from the Aerostich Company, based in Duluth, Minnesota. When a crash several years ago prompted my physical therapist to recommend the sturdiest, most protective footwear I could locate, the Aerostich Rider Warehouse catalog was the first I consulted. 

Sold under the trade name of Combat Touring, and built by the Sidi Company of Italy, the regular 16 inch tall, and Lite version coming in at 13 inches, are no-nonsense, relatively low tech offerings. By this I mean that they feature no armor, venting, or waterproof membranes; just heavy-duty leather, with a minimum of leak prone seams. Aerostich advises that treatment with any waterproofing agent will suffice in most situations. I use Aqua Seal for this purpose, and can attest to its effectiveness. For heavier rain, I usually carry a pair of Tingely over boots, also available from Aerostich, however mine were purchased at the local Tractor Supply. 

I put the “most situations” water resistance claim to the test on a ride from Kansas City to Arkansas. For a couple of hundred miles on U.S. 69 in Oklahoma, I rode through some of the heaviest rain I’ve ever encountered. At one point, the highway resembled a river, forcing me to take shelter under a gas station canopy. The resulting soaking was not so much from the leather being penetrated, as the waves of water sloshing above the boot tops and thoroughly water logging my feet. Along with the over boots, I also neglected to carry a change of proper shoes, thus forcing me to wear the sodden CBT Lites for several days. By the time I returned home, they had taken on a distinctive odor; that of something dead. Not long after, the great toes on both feet began to hurt, then turned black, and eventually fell off. This process took about a year.

The above is not an indictment of the Aerostich product, as they perform as advertised, are very durable, and reasonably priced considering all they offer. Much more so than the made in China “discount” junk one will find in the local big-box emporium. My CBT Lites, with over 50,000 miles on the clock were recently re-shod with new Sidi soles at the local cobbler for $50. I think this last attribute attests to this quality product's true value: rebuildability, a rare commodity in today’s throw-away world.

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