If there’s anything that puts me off of winter riding it’s cold and wet feet. Are the new SPATZ GravlR overshoes the solution I’ve been waiting for?
Designed by Yorkshire based ex pro cyclist Tom Barras it’s reassuring to know that these overshoes have been made and put through their paces to withstand a harsh, wet Northern winter.
The brand already has a range of products focussed on keeping us riding outside all year round, including base layers, gloves and a selection of lengthy overshoes, primarily for road use.
I regularly use winter boots (Shimano MW7 winter boots for MTB) or standard ankle length neoprene overshoes (Sealskinz neoprene overshoes for more road/gravel). These both work well until puddle water splashes over the top or rain runs down my legs, making its icey-cold journey into my socks and down to my toes. SPATZ aim to solve this problem by extending their coverage upwards, wrapping your whole lower leg in a layer of neoprene.
The SPATZ GravlR gravel specific overshoes arrived on my doorstep early December, perfect timing for a month of testing in cold, wet and flood-prone British weather.
The GravlR option differs from the SPATZ road overshoes a few ways:
- There’s a full length YKK neoprene-specific zip up the outer leg for easier fitting. This is protected both on the internally and externally, and held safely in place with an external velcro flap.
- Reinforced hems and double silicone grippers help to keep the overshoe in place while Kevlar reinforced panels protect the inner ankle, extended toe box and velcro underfoot fastener. These are designed to withstand the tougher life that gravel riders will no doubt subject them to.
- Stronger ‘Aero Armour’ neoprene is used for the rest of the overshoe, a warm fleece layer covering the shins offers additional protection from windchill.
The SPATZ GravlR overshoes come in three sizes: S (EU 39-42), M/L (EU 43-45), and L/XL (EU 46-49). As I measure up with EU41 feet, I chose the small size. This size only just fits over my Shimano and Lake size 41 shoes, so I’d suggest that if you have bulky MTB shoes may want to size up.
To keep your feet warm you need to keep your legs warm too. If your blood is already cold by the time it reaches your toes it doesn’t matter that they’re wrapped in thick merino socks in some expensive winter boots, they’re still going to get frosty, especially once the water ingress has started. Wrapping the whole of your lower leg in fleecy lined neoprene is a great way to stay warm and dry.
Silicone seals top and bottom do a great job of stopping water getting in. Although rain will eventually soak in through the fabric of your tights like it does with standard overshoes, it’ll just take a lot longer to reach your feet. If its particularly wet, SPATZ recommend wearing the overshoes under your tights or just with 3/4 length tights to stop this from happening. Even when damp inside, from either water or sweat, the neoprene insulates well, your body heat warming the trapped water, just like a wetsuit.
Getting the overshoe on at first can be tricky. I found that I had to put them on before shoes (which of course I forgot on more than one occasion), then stretch the toe section over the shoe and pull the heel into place. This is made even harder by the reinforced hem, but once fitted you can be confident they will be there to stay, and you don’t have to think about them for the duration of your ride. I’ve found other brands of conventional overshoes have a tendency to move about if you do any walking, which is something I’ve not had to worry about with the GravlRs.
The neoprene is nicely stretchy, it feels comfortable and supportive around the lower leg without feeling restrictive (even on my substantial calves). The fleecy panel provides extra insulation where its needed most. The lack of ankle flexibility is one of my gripes about wearing winter boots, and another issue solved brilliantly by the shoe/SPATZ GravlR combo.
The looks of these knee-highs may raise some eyebrows, your friends may joke that you look like a power ranger or laugh at your ‘bike wellies’, but you can smugly nod and smile knowing you’ll have the last laugh when they’re wringing freezing cold water out of their socks at the end of the ride.
The good news is that they also work great when worn next to the skin, so can easily be hidden under tights or warmers if you prefer a more discreet look.
These gravel specific SPATZ are made to be tougher than the road ones, the Kevlar reinforcement will withstand a bit of hike a bike but they’re still a neoprene overshoe, so don’t expect them to be indestructible.
I’ve done a fair about of hike a bike in the test period, with mechanical issues that lead to a 15 minute walk at one point, and adventurous routing means that I’ve also battled through hedgerows, slid down muddy banks and scrabbled up chalky climbs, and the overshoes have fared well. One toe stud has worn a tiny hole through the neoprene and I have a small knick on the surface of the neoprene on the shin, neither of which have really affected the performance. Repairs are easily done with wetsuit repair glue if needed.
If you’re planning on hiking up mountains you may be better to stick with a pair of sturdy winter boots. Keep these for days in the saddle, flooded roads, muddy bridleways and scrabbling over the odd gate.
The SPATZ GravlR verdict
It’s simple, they work.
Ok, the SPATZ GravlR overshoes are not cheap, but they’ve kept me warm, dry and comfortable on six hour winter rides. I’ve hosed myself down on the driveway and peeled the GravlRs off to reveal clean shoes and dry socks. I feel thats an investment worth making.
If you plan long hike-a-bikes up rocky mountain passes you may be better to invest in a pair of rubber soled winter boots, but for the majority of winter gravel rides here in the UK, these are a game changer.
As SPATZ say, ‘You won’t know you’re wearing them. But you’re glad you are.’
Last modified: 4th January 2021