Saturday, January 20, 2018

Terra Forma ADV boot and AlpineStars Pro Coolmax socks review

Two motorcycles and seven years of sharp pegs finally took their toll on my Thor moto boots. A good centimeter was chewed off the midsoles and several holes had worn through the uppers in a way that managed to perfectly funnel the slightest of splashes right into my socks. Every ride not in perfect drought conditions resulted in wet feet, leading me to conclude that this was simply the way ADV riding was supposed to be.

So, after finally springing for a new set of Forma Terra boots last summer, it was an epiphany to ride in torrential rain and yet have my feet remain perfectly dry (except, of course, when wading through water crossings). Who knew that certain kinds of suffering were optional?

I struggled to choose a replacement boot. As for many people, one of my feet is slightly larger than the other, which often means that one side of a new set of shoes may fit perfectly, but the other is either too loose or too tight. Some accommodation can be made by choosing leather, since it eventually moulds to your foot. Leather was therefore high on my list of boot criteria, both for its mouldability and durability under repetitive friction. In addition, I was reluctant to spend more than $500 on footwear only to learn it posed some unavoidable pressure-point or other fatal flaw.

After trying on so many brands and models of boots that even Imelda Marcos would've raised an eyebrow, I kept coming back to the Forma based on its fit and good online reviews. They cost more than most entry-level or even mid-level moto boots, but offered real leather and metal buckles, which are likely to be more durable (and comfortable) than the moulded plastics that less costly options have all migrated to.

Initially I was concerned that they wouldn't be stiff enough compared to my moto boots: would they truly protect my ankles in a fall? While thankfully I haven't tested that limit yet, having now put some 6,000 km on them, I feel like the increased flexibility, significantly lighter weight (about 60% that of my moto boots!), overall comfort and--yes--waterproofness all contribute to enhanced safety on long ADV rides. They do a reasonable job of deflecting rocks, shifting and braking control is improved, and walking around in them for extended periods is entirely acceptable.

So far the soles have held up well although I have some new Fastway Adventure footpegs on the way that may change this part of the equation versus the sawtooth IMS-style pegs I've been running up to now. In any case, Forma appears to have solid distributor support in Canada, so there's a good selection of styles and sizes available and, presumably, good warranty support.

Further enhancing the comfort and performance of these boots are these AlpineStars Pro Coolmax socks bought online.

These are some of the most comfortable and practical socks I've worn for active sports. They wick sweat, apply an even compression all the way up your calves, resist blister formation, dry fast, and noticeably reduce fatigue on long, hot trail rides. The silver-impregnated fibers resist bacterial growth and I can attest that after 6 days of wet, muddy riding, these socks did not smell nearly as bad as other socks I've worn. At around $20 a pair, they are a must-have in your riding wardrobe. I've also worn them fat-biking down to -25C and am impressed by how well they work across such a wide temperature range. They are simply great gear.

On a related note, my stepfather received a pair of Forma short ADV boots (I don't recall which model, but I think they're also the Terra) for his mainly road-oriented riding on his 1200GS. He also finds them extremely comfortable and practical, and a significant upgrade from his previous touring boots.

Overall these boots and socks have been a pleasure to ride and walk in, offering improved control and comfort on long days, whether in extreme heat or miserable cold and wet.

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