Northwave boasts that its pricey Raptor Arctic boots will work in temperatures ranging from +5 to -10ºC thanks in part to the Gore-Tex membrane, which helps to keep wind and water out.
While I’ve not ventured out in arctic temperatures during testing, I have used the Raptors in all types of wintry conditions, including everything from sub-zero, frosty laps to biblical downpours where they’ve done a good job of keeping the elements out – for the most part, at least.
Northwave Raptor Arctic GTX winter boots fit
The raised, stretchy neoprene ankle-cuff does a brilliant job of locking in warmth and adds some welcome insulation, but it lacks any kind of adjustment. That means that although it’s snug, it could still be tighter, which may help prevent water running down your legs into the boots – something I experienced on more than one occasion.
That said, pair the Raptors with some trousers and the problem is far less pronounced. And when your feet do finally get wet, they do at least stay warm.
The ankle cuff contributes to (but can’t be totally blamed for) another problem as well. Getting the Raptors on and off isn’t easy, even with the BOA dial and tensioning cord fully loosened off. I found getting them on required some considerable effort and plenty of tugging on the loop that’s anchored to the top of the ankle cuff.
While this hasn’t been a major concern during my year (well, two winters) of testing, it is now becoming more of a problem because the neoprene collar is starting to tear away from the inner liner it’s stitched to, which is far from ideal.
Northwave Raptor Arctic GTX winter boots impressions
When it comes to comfort, once you’ve managed to squeeze the Raptors on, they’re actually quite hard to fault, even after hours sat turning the pedals.
The relatively neutral footbed offers enough support without creating any pressure points and there’s a decent amount of room in the toe box to ensure your little piggies never feel cramped up.
It helps that the BOA dial and tensioning cord provide even tightness across the top of the foot, locking the weatherproofing flap across the top of the foot and securing things nicely in place.
There’s a touch of heel lift if you don’t crank the BOA dial up tightly enough, but even if you do feel this when riding, it only takes a quick turn of the dial to remedy and can even be done when wearing thick winter gloves.
It’s worth keeping a close eye on the BOA dials though. After close to a year of use, one of the BOAs did manage to loosen off. I only noticed this when it started rattling. Unfortunately, the bolt that anchors the dial in place requires a rather rare 1mm Allen key to tighten it, which is a pain.
Releasing cord tension is quick and easy thanks to the small shark-fin shaped lever at the top of the BOA dial, though again, getting them off isn’t the smoothest operation.
Get on the gas and it’s clear that there’s more than enough stiffness through the carbon reinforced outsole to ensure efficient power delivery. While they don’t feel as stiff or crisp underfoot as the likes of Specialized’s S-Works Recon XC race shoe, they’re not too far off and there’s zero droop or flex around the pedal when properly laying down the watts.
The cleat slots offer a reasonable amount of adjustment, though I’d prefer to be able to set the cleat a little further towards the mid-foot for even better control when fatigued.
Thankfully, there’s a decent amount of room around the cleat and between the treads to ensure mud clears relatively quickly and I’ve not once had issues clipping in and out, even on really grotty days.
Northwave has included removable toe studs to complement the Raptor’s fixed tread for a little extra off the bike traction. But due to the stiffness of the Raptors, try and scale anything too rocky or rooty, especially when it’s wet, and things can get a little dicey.
Northwave Raptor Arctic GTX winter boots overall
At 908g (UK 8 with cleats), the Raptors are a decent weight for the warmth and weather protection on offer.
They might not be the easiest boots to put on or take off, and after plenty of use are now showing some signs of wear, but once you do squeeze them on, the level of comfort and insulation impresses.
No, they’re not perfect, and they’re certainly not cheap, but they’ve done a good job of keeping me warm and (mainly) dry when the weather has been abysmal outside.