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Battle Ready: Aerostich Combat Tour Boots
Many years ago, in the government-regulated hell that is Marine Corps Recruit Depot San Diego, my platoon was issued combat boots. We had been there for a ew days, wearing sneakers during our processing phase, but now was time to familiarize the footwear a Marine infantryman would spend the next four years in.
At that time, recruits were being issued two different models of combat boot. The first was the new model, tested and developed for years before being pressed into service. They were pretty hi-tech for the time; they were constructed of special water-resistant (ha!) urethane-treated leather, with special eyelets to allow the boots to be laced up quickly, and a one-piece tongue to keep rain and weather out. The other kind was the old "McNamara" model, a relic of the 1960's with a thin, hard sole and no insulation or padding anywhere. There were no more McNamaras in size 8.5R, so I got the new "speed-lacers."
Yet, the old-style boot was what I wanted; they just looked right. When I got to my infantry unit after my training, I bought a pair of them and they were my favorites. Ten years later I reluctantly ("When are you going to get rid of those old things?") threw them in the trash after literally wearing them to pieces.
We all have a favorite item of clothing or motorcycle gear similar to my beloved McNamara boots. It's simple, works well, and is hard to wear out. Maybe it's a backpack, tank bag or even a pair of socks. I have a pair of old motocross boots a friend gave to me; they're ancient, but comfortable, durable and satisfying to wear.
Andy Goldfine, creator of the Aerostich Roadcrafter suit and president of Aero manufacturing also has a weak spot for old, well-built stuff. It is rumored he rides a 20 year-old thumper hundreds of miles a week in an Aerostich suit he originally made for the Sultan of Brunei in 1947. On his feet, rain or shine, he wears a pair of his Combat Tour Boots.
The Combat Tour Boots are made especially for Aerostich by Sidi, Italy's premier maker of motorcycle, bicycle and other footwear. They are basically a motocross boot without any of the "X-Treem" plastic fripperies modern motocross boots are slathered with.
Sidi started with their basic motocross boot design and then simplified it; there is only one buckle on the side, and there are no shinguards, steel toe plates, or plastic panels anywhere on the boot. The interior is lined with soft leather and synthetic materiel, and uses a hidden speed-lace and adjustable buckle system to keep the foot securely in its place. The back of the boot has a built-in reflective panel, and a competition-grade Davos wedge sole lets the rider feel the pegs better.
Andy loves his boots and finally had to retire his old pair after 15 years; not because they were worn out (the soles are fully replaceable), but because the ravages of time had made his platter-like feet too big to fit in his beloved combat tourers. This is the kind of bonding that I like to have with a piece of equipment. However, the regular Combat Tourer boot looked a little too big and bulky for me. I like big, heavy boots, but there are limits.
So I was thrilled when I saw that Aerostich was offering a modified version of the Combat Tourers called the Combat Light. The Combat Lights are lower and lighter than the Combat Tourers, and have the option of a cleated sole better suited for walking around with, although the off-road style wedge sole is also available. I sent a few effusive emails to the Rider WearHouse and a pair were sent to me.
I was excited when I got them, but that excitement wore off swiftly when I tried them on. I had never had a new pair of off-road boots before, and these were the stiffest, toughest boots I had ever worn. There were almost impossible to walk it, they were so stiff. It felt like they could stand up and walk around on their own.
I emailed Andy, and he wasn't surprised by my complaint. (Actually, few people who know me are surprised when I complain.) Instead, he asked that I wait awhile for the boots to break in before I wrote a review. This was surprising; usually, distributors want your review out as soon as possible. However, Aerostich knows these boots require a healthy amount of break-in.
That was about a year ago, and I think I have enough miles on these things to tell you what they're like.
Compared to most motorcycle boots, the CBT Lights are very heavy and solid. The leather has a rich and expensive feel, and the stitching is careful and abundant. The interior is lined with a particularly supple kind of leather, and the tongue is a soft, synthetic material. The laces use a quick-clamping mechanism to provide firm support and easy doffing and donning. The buckle uses a plastic strap, but it's adjustable and replaceable. The soles are sewn on and replaceable. These are boots built to last.
Functionally, the boots were a bit handicapped at first. Even though these are lower than the original boots, they are still very high, which can restrict movement. Also, the stiff, thick leather took a long time to break in even a little, making it hard to shift. In addition, the large toe box was hard to fit under the shifter of many sportbikes. However, as the leather molded to the shape of my hairy feet, it got easier and easier to ride wearing them. I also put a box of my old law books on the toes of the boots overnight, making them fit shift levers a little better. I knew those books would be useful someday. I recommend "Constitutional Law" (Third Edition) by Stone, Seidman, Sunstein and Tushnet.