Finding room to pack hiking boots on a motorcycle is much harder than most people give credit. They take up a lot of space, won’t conform well when being mashed into a corner of luggage, and must frequently get packed up while dirty, wet, and sweaty. Switchback Travel has tons of gear reviews and their hiking boot recommendations have me thinking once again that I need to find a boot that can handle the long road… on the bike or on the trail.
Dedicated motorcycle boots are usually not even good for life in the bivouac. They deliberately restrict movement of the ankle because much of an ankle’s articulation isn’t required to operate a motorcycle. For safety, they are deliberately stiff after a few degrees of deflection. They also use the sole’s material (as opposed to tread pattern) when seeking grip. Footpegs already have a grippy surface; big tread blocks are more likely to hang up on a footpeg than a flat surface. They also have venting systems made to work at 50mph.
But hiking boots are woefully lacking in safety for a motorcyclist. The edges of their soles are built to find traction. If you come off the bike the last thing you want is for the edge of your boots to find traction… that is how ankles get broken. They also vent much too good at 50mph. They have no armor and the toes can be bulky when shifting gears. Not too mention that even a low speed get off will damage the hook fasteners used on the top 2-3 positions of most hiking boot lacing systems. No fault of their own of course; they are rightfully designed without such considerations
What to do then? Honestly, there is no obvious solution. Having spent seven years in the US military, Bates Footwear has my attention with their [somewhat] new line of powersports boots. They are not designed as hiking boots per se, but they know all-day comfort and abuse, because everything I’ve worn from them– from dress shoes to combat boots– has been a high quality item that delivered more performance than its features would suggest. The Adrenaline and Beltline are the most interesting because their tread– while not deep– looks like it could get the job done on any maintained trail, rough or smooth.
But in the end I’m just looking at pictures. My hope was to use their boots when I and my co-pilot Matt set a world record during the Pikes Peak Hill Climb aboard a motorcycle sidecar. Sadly, they failed to respond to my inquiries. Of course, phase two for me would have been to hit the road, taking their boots from the 160mph world of sidecar racing to the 1,000-mile days Kate and I put in together every summer and fall.
But as a college student begging friends for money to race a motorcycle like some sort of junkie, there is no way I can afford new boots. My solution has been to use a beat up set of motorcycling shoes for road trips, but the tread is long gone. I added a bargain basement pair of boots from a sporting goods store recently, but their low cost makes them a very poor choice for hiking. If you’ve every done even an afternoon hike in boots that fit improperly, you know what I mean.
We will keep sorting through lists of gear in the hopes that we can narrow it down. All of my road tripping before I met Kate was done with things pulled out of my closet, but now half of my packing space is filled with her, and half of what’s left I have to give up for her gear. We need purpose-built stuff that packs tight, lasts forever, and costs nothing. Should be easy to find, right? I expect we will become expert gear reviewers in the coming 12 months.