Last year we reviewed a pair of Icebug DTS2 BUGrips, an item made exclusively for winter trail running on ice and snow. It was a fantastic product made for a very specific group of athletes. It’s hard to believe then that there is an even more specific niche of athletes with requirements for even more dedicated gear. That niche, you ask? Winter fat bikers and the need for footwear to keep their feet warm.
Yes, hardcore cold weather fat bike specific boots. You might think you would be hard pressed to find such a product, but you would be wrong. Most major bike apparel manufacturers offer winter footwear, but on top of that you also have a handful of companies specifically dedicated to the sport of winter fat biking. 45NRTH is one of those companies, specializing in all things winter fat biking. Anything from tires- including gnarly studded tires- apparel, pogies and boots, which brings us to the Wölvhammer. This crazy named item from 45NRTH is designed for cold weather biking between 0°- 25°. And since temperatures in Park City, Utah can get frigid quick this was right up our list to try out.
45NRTH was gracious enough to send us a pair of their special Wölvhammer Red Wing Leather Editions to take out on the local single track. Note that while these were sent to us free of charge, the objectivity of this review remains the same. We call out products that work well. And we do the same for those that don’t. Let’s get into it!
Quick draw laces combined with a snug fitting, tall upper help these boots retain the warmth they create.
- Warmth – In a nutshell, there’s tons of it. In all of my testing my feet never got cold, not once. Did they get hot? Sweaty even? Yes, and more often than not in fact. The Wölvhammer uses a considerable amount of Primaloft insulation to keep the heat in. The Red Wing Leather editions utilize premium Minnesota Red Wing leather on the outside to wrap around the Primaloft, blocking both wind and rain entirely. I cannot stress enough just how warm these boots keep your feet. When 45NRTH said these are made for temperatures between 0°-25°, they are not joking. Anything warmer and you will have roasting toes.
- Fit – I never had a company be so adamant about using their sizing chart before, but this was for good reason. Most winter bikers will be using a very thick sock during their activities and this extra bulk will absolutely change your foot size. Luckily their practical sizing guide helps figure out what you should be ordering pretty quickly. In fact, I ended up in a boot one half size bigger than I typically would choose and the fit is great. Any smaller and things would have felt cramped. The Wölvhammer’s quick-draw lacing also works well, and, surprisingly, allows for micro adjustments at pretty much any point of the lace. The lack of custom fitting is often my biggest grip with running shoes and quick laces. I am shocked I would find the first application I really liked on a shoe for winter fat biking. Also remember that the Wölvhammer is a full boot, so it sits up to mid-calf level allowing for a very snug fit beyond just the foot.
- Construction – The build quality of the Wölvhammer is off the charts good. Especially when collaborating with a third party supplier like Red Wing Leather, it just has to be in order to live up to expectations. 45NRTH is not Giro. They’re not Specialized. They’re far smaller, which clearly translates into just how meticulous they can be with the quality of their products. The integration of things like a quick draw lace system or their ‘Hyper Grip’ pads on the tread all accumulate to a masterly crafted product. For times when your feet aren’t on the pedal but on the snow, the Wölvhammers are just as capable.
- Grip – I’m not a professional fat biker, and as such I tend to fall over occasionally on loose snow. This means walking the bike to a flat section of trail to start again, and that means I need grip in the snow from my boots. 45NRTH clearly took the fact that fat bikers will be off their bikes occasionally into consideration when designing the Wölvhammer. The boot doubles over as a functional snow boot just as much as it succeeds being a pair of riding shoes. The Wölvhammer next to a crankset for size comparison. The boots are large, but not bulky.
- Price – All of this praise doesn’t come cheap. If you want a piece of equipment that is the absolute best for the task it was designed to do, expect to pay top dollar. For the 45NRTH Wölvhammer Red Wing Leather Edition that top dollar means dishing out a massive $349.Now, the last thing we want to do is leave you, our dear reader, hung up on the price. If you are, consider this. The fact that the 45NRTH Wölvhammer even exists in the first place is pretty incredible. Frankly speaking the average fat biker will not need this. Hell, I don’t need it. It works far too well for the conditions in which I’m typically biking in. But for riders who do find themselves on a bike in temperatures consistently below 25° the story changes. How many times do you have to freeze during a ride to know the value of equipment that keeps you warm? And how does that value translate into a dollar amount? For hardcore winter riders, $350 for the Wölvhammer isn’t shocking or outrageous. It is, simply put, the price it takes to operate in the most extreme winter environments while riding a bike. And for that price, they’ll be getting a product that surpasses it’s ridiculous price point only with it’s performance.