If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Kit Report - Sidi Black Rain Evo boots

I was lucky when I bought these boots back in 2007. Why lucky? Well, I seem to have got it right first time. I had returned to biking after a few years off, and my old Frank Thomases were in pretty poor condition. Despite plenty of dubbin and regular cleaning, they had gone very floppy and let in water like a sieve. I went up to M&P in Swansea for a hunt around, hoping to spend about £100. I was planning to commute in them, so the first requirement was they had to be waterproof. I hoped that boots had improved in the way all other kit had done in the 15 years or so since I invested in basic kit, and that manufacturers had now perfected the way to make boots that actually kept your feet dry. In my younger days, the only way you could guarantee dry feet was to wear either wellies or some strange things called Derriboots, which were made of rubber and had a drawstring round the top. Fine for riding to the factory on your Honda 50, but nowhere near stylish enough for even me, or protective enough for anyone with common sense.

The Sidis were the only boots in my price-range that looked decent and were guaranteed waterproof. They are vaguely race-style boots, which was not what I was really looking for, but everything else in the sub-£150 region that claimed waterproofness looked either like updated Derriboots or something a docker would wear when he was certain a 40-tonne container would be dropped on his foot. They were (I think) about £140, but the name and the Italian origin won me over.

They are made of Lorica, which is a synthetic leather substitute. It looks like leather, it feels like leather, and (I understand) it also protects like leather. Unlike leather, you can clean it by running the boot under a tap, and it is - yes indeed - absolutely waterproof. It fastens with a zip up the inside, which has a gusset of waterproof nylon material behind it, and the front part, which carries a very serious-looking plastic shin-protector, wraps over the zip with Velcro. They are easy to get on and off, and the fit is quite generous. The sole is quite thin and light, which means that you can feel gear changes very easily and be delicate on the back brake, and there is a slim heel to make walking for short distances a reasonable proposition. If you try this, you will be pleased to learn that they don't squeak.

I needed waterproof, and I got waterproof. In nearly four years of almost-daily use, they have never let in a drop of water. Not once. I find that quite impressive.

I have quite broad feet, and Italian footwear is often way too narrow for me, but these fit me fine. I chose half a size bigger than normal, to allow for wearing thick socks in the winter, but in fact the boots are quite warm and this is rarely necessary.

One disappointment is the quality of the zips. I had had the first pair for only about six months when the zip on the right boot gave way. M&P replaced them, although they tried the line that 'we will have to send them back to the manufacturers for inspection before they will authorise a new pair'. A quick reminder of the Sale of Goods Act 1883, as amended, and they agreed to replace, but only if I presented them in person. One trip to Swansea later, I had a new pair. About a year later, the tang broke off one of the zips (again, the right-hand one) and I replaced it with one of those cheapie plastic-loop key-rings hooked through the stub. The plastic loop has gone, but the ring is still there and they work fine. However, the right-hand zip has started to jam on occasions, and I suspect that they will be due for replacement before too long.

They have also started to get a little ripe. I don't think that the Lorica breathes at all, and so although they are fine to wear in hot weather - they don't overheat - I think daily use and the lack of ventilation over three years has formed a biohazard in there. I need to get some trainer-tamer type stuff [1].

Protection is good. There is a big plastic moulding across the front in the shin area, two plastic cups over the ankle-bones, and a plastic heel cup. They feel very solid and safe; I have whacked my feet several times on footpegs and the like and the boots have saved me from bruises and bangs. There is a reinforcing patch for the gear-lever on both boots. Although Lorica doesn't break in like leather does, these boots have worn to my shape quite well.

In summary:

  • 100% waterproof.
  • Light and easy to wear, comfort when walking is adequate.
  • Easy to put on and take off.
  • Looks go equally well with leathers, textiles or jeans.
  • Good impact protection.
Less good:
  • Zip quality not up to the standard of the rest.
  • Poor ventilation.
Would I recommend them? Yes, with the above slight reservations. Would I buy them again when these wear out? Probably not - I will be looking for something with less 'race-boot' styling. But overall, I don't regret the money I spent on them.

There's a favourable review on these boots here. Still available, at around £135.
"If you have to make do with just one pair of boots to use in all weathers and all circumstances then the Sidi Black Rain Evo has to be just about the best possible choice you could make."
I'd agree with that, although from the comments it seems I am not alone with my breaking zips.

[1] I was told by someone that a good way to stop footwear smelling without the use of nasty chemicals is to put them in a plastic bag and leave them in a freezer overnight. The cold kills the bugs that cause the odour. I did this when I didn't need the boots for a few days, and I forgot I had put them there. Of course, the next time I needed the boots, they were nowhere to be seen. I eventually remembered where I had put them, but I had to put them on immediately, as I was late for work. My feet have never been so cold! It worked on the bugs, though.


  1. In regards to your knew job, Less stress will make you richer then the greatest amount of money. Good luck!!!

    I love my riding boots, just a pair of solid leather waterproof hiking boot. They work perfect and provide a good amount of protection. Ive never tried actual motorcycle boots. Maybe I will try on a pair on of these days.

  2. I agree completely about the stress/money, and thanks for the good wishes.

    I have tried riding in hiking boots, but they were way too inflexible for me, and the thick soles made gear changing a nightmare. Proper bike boots should be delicate enough for the foot controls, while being comfy and protective enough to save your lower extremities in a spill. If you try some, I bet you won't go back :)


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