For cyclists who refuse to quit riding when the mercury drops and the snow flies (myself included!), Italian cycling brand Nalini has a new shoe option with its winter-ready Black Rock. The shoes, $190, are neoprene-cuff-equipped high-tops with synthetic uppers, including durable Cordura panels, to aid in warmth and help keep the weather out.
For a winterized mountain-biking shoe, the Black Rocks are pretty light weight — they go at about 400 grams (14 ounces) per shoe. Generous amounts of reflective material sewn to the shoes makes sense for the shorter days of winter, a nice touch.
Compared to other winterized bike shoes we have tested, the Nalini shoes’ light weight and slim profile are the best features. Unfortunately, most of the goods things I have to say about the Black Rocks end here.
To start, they could benefit from some better insulation in the uppers and a thicker insole. Overall, the shoes were not warm enough for winter riding in Minnesota. My feet were happiest by far when the temps were 20 degrees F and above. Short rides at 15 degrees were possible, but certainly not training-length rides.
Coming home from a ride one night when the temp was about 10 degrees, my toes were so cold it felt as if I’d smacked them with a hammer. For cyclists below the Mason-Dixon line or on the coasts, where winters are mild, these shoes could be a good choice. For the dedicated winter rider in northern and Midwest states, look for a warmer shoe.
More disappointments. . . the shoes are not waterproof. On sloppy days, they remained dry through small puddles and spray. But if you plan on riding in sleet or rain you’ll get wet feet. Another improvement I’d like to see would be putting more design into the thin liner sewn to the tongue area. It tends to bunch up at the top of the foot.
My final thoughts: While I like the shoes’ fit and low profile, overall the features are thin compared to competing products. They are pretty basic shoes. Except for the neoprene cuffs, there are few “winterized” features. Similar products from Lake Cycling, Specialized and Louis Garneau offer the same type of shoe but with more technology and higher-grade materials for about the same price.