27 January 2008

bikefix Exclusive Review: Louis Garneau Toe Covers

Covered in vents, modern riding shoes do a great job of letting cool air in and hot air out- exactly what you want when working hard in warmer weather. Unfortunately, once things cool down, these vents don't stop doing their job, and cold toes often result. For temperatures in the 40s, toe covers do a good job of keeping cold air out and warm air in, without the need for a full shoe cover, which can be hot, sweaty, and look plain silly with knickers.

Many toe covers are just that- little cones of windproof fabric that occasionally secure over a road cleat. Québécois Louis Garneau has come up with (or borrowed) a much nicer solution. Essentially a toe bra, Garneau's Toe Covers actually circle the entire shoe. Made of the company's stretchy Stopzone fabric, they are windproof and water resistant (though your feet are still going to get wet) and allow easy access to many shoes' top strap and/or ratchet, for easy on-bike fit adjustments. There is a mildly sturdier material over and under the toe, which sees much more abuse than the rest of the covers. Consisting of less fabric than a handkerchief, they stow easily in a jersey pocket if the day warms, though I can't remember them ever causing my feet to overheat.

At $20 retail, I can't really complain about these covers- in fact they do an excellent job and work on both mountain and road shoes. Minimize any off-the-bike time, and they'll last a reasonable amount of time. Take them off road, though, and they're done for. Used seasonally for commuting, mine have lasted on the order of 18 months. Taken off road, they're done for in two rides- I learned the hard way, and without excessive hike-a-bikes. I would happily pay another $5.00 and deal with the extra bulk if Garneau could find a sturdier fabric for the toe area- maybe the Kevlar-reinforced material they use on some of their gloves would be more appropriate. That way, I wouldn't feel bad throwing them on for cool rides off road as well as on.



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