Combat Lite Touring Boot

NCT Gives these gloves a big...
NCT Gives these gloves a big…

Summer is upon us and it is time for my first review of the year. As I alluded to in a previous review… my extremities are always of utmost importance when motorcycling. As a throwback to my bicycle racing days… I’m always wearing gloves and good shoes (flip flops need not apply, but that’s a whole different story). Well, what better way to start this year’s series of reviews with good footwear. Today, I’ll review the Aerostich Combat Lite Touring Boot.

I first made acquaintance with Aerostitch a few years back… no, that’s not right, it was back in 2000 after I dropped out of a Ph.D. program at the University of Utah. This was a difficult time in my life as a recent drop-out, and I had resigned myself to working at an outdoor shop and “living the dream” of a semi-pro mountain bike racer. On a trip to West Yellowstone for winter cross-country ski training, my “piece of Saturn” gave up the ghost and had to be abandoned at a shop in Pocatello, Idaho.

boot1So, here I was with a master’s degree in Exercise Physiology, working at an outdoor shop making $6 an hour with no transportation other than my bicycles. I had recently acquired a new hard-tail mountain bike that came out with first generation tubeless tires. I sold the wheel set for $500 and with cash in my pocket, I bought my very first motorcycle: 1981 Honda CMT 400.

My rock climbing partner from Durham had recently moved out to Salt Lake City for his medical residence. He had sold his motorcycle, and he had an Aerostich Roadcrafter that he let me borrow for long distance trips. Josh is well over 6 feet tall, so the suit was a little big on my 5’8” frame, but I made due. A quick impression was made on the quality of the workmanship.

Fast-forward to 2009 and the start of our touring company. Once again, I became re-introduced to my friend Aerostich and the beautiful full-color catalog “wish list”. I soon began to pine for a pair of their boots. It would take several years, but I finally received my boots last summer.

First, I’ll start with my love-affair with Sidi. Sidi is an Italian company that has been known over the many years as one of the finest leather workers for mountain sports. In the 1970’s they began specializing in cycling and motorcycle footwear. I bought my first pair of Sidi road cycling shoes in 1999 for over $250. For someone making $6 hour at that time, it was a HEAFTY portion of my take-home pay, even with a small discount at the shop. Those shoes are still in a regular rotation – 16 years later.

boot2With an already blossoming love for Sidi, I felt confident that the boots constructed for Aerostich would live up to my expectations, but I just wasn’t ready to pull the trigger. In the spring of 2014, I had the good fortune to attend an Aerostitch Pop-up event in Raleigh. Terri and I spent over 3 hours at the event putting hands on the famous equipment. Terri and I selected the Combat Lite boots and well the rest is history.

One thing that stood out for the boots was that they were not adorned with the ubiquitous “carbon fiber” do-dads and flashy colors. They are fairly nondescript, perfect for a rider who doesn’t like to advertise that I’m a rider… all the time. They look great with jeans, carhartts, or technical motorcycle pants. Speed laces, Velcro and a simple single ratcheting buckle make up the closure to a nice Goodyear welded boot. But, let’s be honest, while esthetics are certainly nice, they are not necessarily my first desire in piece of functional footwear.

These are by far the toughest boots I’ve ever had the pleasure of pulling onto my feet. The thick, stiff leather was a little concerning at first, worrying that I would have trouble gaining the toe shifter. To be honest, I did have a bit of a challenge getting the actual toe of the boot under the mechanism, but the large ledge on the weld worked perfectly until the boots started to break in. I was one of the fortunate ones, in that they immediately fit my feet right out of the box. Others have followed the format of soaking the boots in water (yes you read that correct), then wearing the wet boots and walking for a mile so that the leather can conform to your foot.

boot3With regard to sizing, while they advertise “American” sizes, you would be better served to know your European size. They do not have a specific “women’s fit”, so if your feet are too small you might be out of luck. As with all Aerostich products, they want you happy with the fit. Try them on at home and if they do not fit, arrange for another size. Additionally, several people have had good success with insoles, but I’ve been fortunate not to need any. Aerostich does offer self-molding insoles (#1456).

Looking at the boot from the ground up, you are first presented with two options. The nomenclature is a little confusing to me, but they offer a wedge sole (tan) or a cleated sole (gray). The wedge is more of a traditional sole with a discernable heel. I chose this option as I do like to “hook” my heel on the pegs to change up foot position. Terri chose the cleated sole, which has a uniformed bottom (which visually looks more like what I would consider a “wedge”). Again, as I mentioned above, I like the actual heel for hanging on a post, but my rider has platforms (vs pegs) and she likes the uniform thickness and even bottom. Both seem to grip fine on the tarmac, with a bit of an edge to the cleated (gray) bottom when the surface becomes more agitated.

Moving up, you arrive at the only buckle, which is a cam-lock system that is pretty intuitive. Sidi has been using this system for many years and it is easy to adjust. What is nice is that once you find a fit that is nice, you don’t have to concern yourself with repeating that the next time you don the boots. Adjustments are easy to make, none-the-less.

The height of the boots is 11” tall, compared to the original Combat Touring Boot (at 14”). They fit me better than the taller boot, and in North Carolina, less heavy leather on my calves makes for a more comfortable 4 season experience. Speaking of seasons, these boots have been fantastic in 95 F summer rides all the way down to 20 F degrees winter runs. Paired with a boot cut sock (wool or synthetic), these have been comfortable in the variety of degrees that mother nature throws at us year-round riders.

boot4The boots are not advertised as water-proof per se, but Aerostich recommends a waterproof conditioner. I have yet to treat mine yet, and they have been perfect through torrential rains. The waterproofing system includes a fully gusseted opening with a speed lace system that works as advertised. As you will see from other reviews about the boots, the laces that are included are susceptible to major “picking” when they come in contact with the large Velcro flap. Additional laces can be purchased for about $8 (#416) that are a tighter weave and less vulnerable to fraying. Don’t discard your cord-lock if you switch them out. I tend to be careful about the laces and always keep them out of the way from the Velcro… They still look like new.

The thick leather holds up to abuse, and there is a simple reflected area on the heel, which is the only flourish to these stealthy boots… but safety is key. For the first 500-750 miles, I did not close the Velcro “tight”, but I built in a gap for ease in walking. After 5000 miles or so, they have broken in nicely and I can walk easily in the boots. Unfortunately, these boots are so well made, they hardly show any wear or scars to the abuse they have taken. Look at the photos, they look like they just came out of the box.

Women’s Fit

I asked my wife to evaluate the boot from a dual perspective… as a female and as a passenger (rider) versus a driver. She was very happy at the quickness of putting the boot on. She typically will remove her over-pant and boots when we get to a restaurant, slipping on sensible shoes so she blends in with the clientele. The boots are “over-built” and she feels exceptional comfort and security while being a passenger. They are exceptionally thick, which shields her from cold temperatures and she particularly likes the cleated sole (gray). She also needed to loosen the Velcro on the over-flap to gain some additional room for walking, but it is easy to adjust while on the bike, snugging things up for a more secure fit. She also loved the insulating factors of the boot, often wearing a thin wool sock to varying degrees. She has since sold her other boots, and I get the hint in the morning if she sets the boots out on her way to work… that just means she wants to wear them that afternoon to ride away the stress.

Overall, I am more than pleased with the Aerostich Combat Lite Touring Boot. The workmanship is stellar and the fit is tremendously comfortable both on the bike and off. For some, spending $350-400 for motorcycle boots is high (with specials for footwear at motorcycle outlet / internet sites), but this is an investment in the future. These are truly legacy boots, and you would be hard-pressed to wear them out. If you do, they can be re-soled, so re-crafting can be in your future. I’ve put over 10,000 miles on these boots in the last year and they still look like they came out of the box. This boot is an investment in the future. You are getting a boot that you can have confidence in for the life of most motorcyclists. I look forward many enjoyable rides in my Combat Lite!

NC Touring and I highly recommend these Aerostitch Combat Lite Touring Boots. Potentially the last pair of motorcycle boots you will buy.

Line Dempsey

Line Dempsey has been guiding adventure tours for many years. Having been born and reared in NC, Line got his start in leading tours in the 1980's with unsupported bicycle tours of the state of NC, SC and Virginia. Line worked in the tourism industry for 10 years prior to leaving for graduate school. Line began leading motorcycle trips in NC, VA, SC, as well as a trip to the lower east corner of the US ( Key West ). For the last 14 years, Line's work has allowed him to travel throughout the state of NC at least once a week and he's seen most of the overlooked side roads of our beautiful state. Line has explored NC via bicycle, kayak, motorcycle, rock climbing, hiking and by sailboat.

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