Review: New Alpinestars S MX-R boot
The S MX-R in Red/Black. SUPER SIZE ME! Click the image for a hi-res version!
Metaphorically speaking, getting “the boot” does not ordinarily summon positive connotations. However, in reference to our latest review, we do get the boot; in the literal sense. Alpinestars newest SMX series brethren, dubbed S MX-R, are something we understand completely. Some quality time with this boot had us wishing we got “the boot” sooner.
Take one part street, one part racing, and multiple parts performance and you have the formula used to derive this latest product offering from Alpinestars. Alpinestars describes the engineering as blending, “cutting-edge Alpinestars racing performance, flexibility and protection with real world practicality, lightweight and comfort.” The end result is a boot that imparts all of the above making it just as suitable as a street riding boot, a touring boot or a track boot.
Admittedly, the aggressive styling does scream, “Take me to the track”, but with a pair of pants over them, the screams are reduced to a whisper. And, you could even get away walking into a 7-11 without strangers staring at you as if you neglected to don the rest of your Darth Vader outfit. Then again, maybe you like that kind of attention, but we digress.
Considering the long history behind Alpinestars, we must perform our due diligence by providing you with some background information on how Alpinestars designs and tests their boots. The S MX-R boot is a culmination of lessons learned over several decades of testing and research. To that end, it’s time for a little science lesson.
Who said science can’t be fun?
Alpinestars has been at the forefront of developing safety gear for motorcycling for over 40 years. If you haven’t learned a thing or two in over four decades of research and scientific study, you've got a problem! Through rigorous research and testing, Alpinestars is constantly able to bring to market, new designs and materials to the consumer. All of this painstaking work is carried out at the Alpinestars research and development facilities in Italy and the United States. There is also an in-house laboratory for testing products and materials.
According to the Alpinestars website:
The laboratory also provides a prototype testing facility for measuring the durability of production specification models under controlled conditions, giving the ability to simulate the life of any product against rigorous criteria, usually far in excess of normal wear and tear. This data is then added to the experience gained through thousands of miles of road testing and under the most extreme conditions at the racetrack.
The in-house testing labs provide technicians with all sorts of cool techno-gadgetry to make certain the products they sell protect you when it all hits the pavement. Here are some of the cool machines the techs use (verbatim from the Alpinestars website); High School science lab was never this fun…
<<-- Click the tiny image for a cool panoramic view of the Alpinestars Lab!
What was that?
Tests boots and shoes for structural integrity and durability. Products are subjected to 100,000 cycles or more, (equivalent to 200+ kms) with varying body weight, stride patterns and surface conditions.
IMPACT TEST MACHINE
Tests material resistance to accelerated aging and extreme climatic conditions. Products are placed in the chamber, which is capable of simulating 5 years of exposure in just 1 week, with temperatures ranging from -20( c to 120( c and humidity levels of 0-99%. Having been subjected to a range of extreme conditions, the products are then put through additional tests for resistance and tensile performance.
Performs impact tests and accurately measures energy absorption and transmission. CE prEN standards define minimum impact standards for protective materials and Alpinestars tests all its protective products by subjecting them to controlled impacts and recording the shock absorption and resistance capabilities.
Tests material abrasion resistance, allowing for comparisons of differing materials under identical stress circumstances. Materials are tested for 3000 cycles or more under a load of 500 gms and analyzed against a set of performance benchmarks.
Honestly, we can’t tell you what all of that means, but we’re sure glad the folks at Alpinestars do. We’ll leave the technical expertise to the professionals; we’ll perform our own real-life test. But, if you want the full “skinny” on the lab and all the goings-on, check out the site: http://www.alpinestars.com/lab/
Okay, the science lesson is over, you can shake off that dazed look! Speaking of looks, let’s talk about the S MX-R’s looks.
The aggressive styling of the S MX-R may leave you curious as to what is function and what is fashion. As you read on you will understand nearly every piece of the S MX-R has been thought out and serves a safety purpose. Accomplishing the “feet” [sic] of making functional components also stylish only proves the two need not be mutually exclusive.
Alpinestars does not allow the casual passerby get away with examining these boots and wondering who manufactured them. There are generous applications of the Alpinestars logo, wording and boot model designation on the S MX-R.
The Alpinestars logo is found twice on the shin, outside heel, toe sliders, ratchet, below the ratchet and bottom sole. The name “Alpinestars” is tastefully emblazoned on the inside of the sole (outside the boot) and along the outside of the zipper guard. The “S MX-R” designation is found on the calf and less visibly on the inside ankle pad attached to the outside of the boot. That’s a lot, but most of them are not highlighted and do not stand out. Overall, the boot is stylish and does not look like an advertisement; check out the photos and you’ll see what we mean.
The exterior inside of the boot in somewhat non-descript and void of most exciting design features, as it should be. This part of the boot is mostly flat and will hug your bike on the street or the track.
Fit & Function
What’s one of the more common complaints about boots? Around here it’s how warm some can be, particularly when you’re wearing them all day. There is nothing like pulling off your boots after a full day and experiencing that feeling as if you had just trudged knee-deep through the Everglades: swamp foot. Multiple ventilation holes on the S MX-R aid in reducing the heat and sweat. This is not just another neat looking boot, it’s functional and it actually feels good to wear while riding.
This boot was made to breathe and it is quite evident in many of the design elements. What appears to a stylish design cue turns out to be a functional component in the numerous “air scoops” strategically placed throughout the boot. We found 13 such air inlets on the shin alone and another two on the outside of the boot. That much air in the boot needs a place to go, so on the outside heel Alpinestars placed three large eraser sized exit holes. The inlets use the RAM air principle, so don’t expect a wind tunnel-like feeling unless you are traveling at higher speeds. The scoops in concert with the perforated and breathable lining worked with varying degrees of success, for us. But again, it appears highly dependant on your riding speed. It should be noted that Alpinestars also makes the S MX-R in a fully perforated version.
Breathe, baby, breathe! Look all that ventilation...
The aggressive forward stance of the boot proves the S-MX R is a riding boot and not a walking boot; then again it was never intended as a walking boot. These boots were made for… riding. You could get away with wearing them off your bike for extended periods, traversing the paddock between races, but you’d probably be more comfortable wearing something else. However, to ease walking Alpinestars has integrated a softer serrated or ribbed panel on the rear of the boot to increase movement flexibility in the upright position.
When we tried to pull our blue jean pant leg over the S MX-R boots, we had varying degrees of success. First off, if you wear boot cut jeans and want to fit your pant legs over the S MX-R, forget about it. Tuck them inside the boot. Most “relaxed” fit jeans should be able to fit over the boot and cover most of it. The U-shaped calf protector results in the top portion of the boot being quite large. The internal ratchet mechanism also adds some necessary bulk (for safety). Of course, if you’re using these with riding pants or a suit, you won’t have to worry about it.
One new feature we liked a lot was the internal calf adjustment. On the interior of each boot is a large Velcro pad that allows for the adjustment of varying calf sizes. This way, if you’re tucking your riding pant into the boot or you have larger calves, you can adjust for the extra bulk. This design also allows the boot to open completely. To lock the entire boot, Alpinestars uses a ratchet mechanism not unlike ski bindings. These two adjustments provide for a custom-tailored feel. And, in the event the ratchet strip fails or wears over time, they are easily removable and replaceable.
The ratchet strips are easily removable.
The heavy duty nylon YKK zipper is attached on one side to a thick elastic material for flexibility. A small patch of Velcro at the top of the zipper holds the zipper tab in place, all of which is safely concealed by inserting the ratchet strip into the ratchet mechanism.
A “replaceable contoured footbed”, or insole, is found in each boot. They are easily removable and not held in with any glue. If you wished to insert a gel insole or something else, the wide opening should present you with no issues to customize your S MX-R boots. We found the stock insoles to be adequate for riding, and the more you wear them, the more they contour to your foot.
Here is the “replaceable contoured footbed”, or insole as we like to call it.
Another characteristic of the S MX-R where we give thumbs up is ease of taking off and putting on the boots. Again, part of this has a lot to do with the internal calf adjustment, but also the zipper. Had Alpinestars decided that the zipper stop higher up the calf, we would be cursing them up and down [pun intended]. The fact is, putting the boots on is like slipping on a pair of loafers; it’s that easy. Best of all, once your foot is in the boot and secure, we had the utmost confidence they were not going anywhere.
The calf adjuster is shown in this photo in the top center. The rear side is velcro.
The inside heel part of the boot is sewn with a chamois or suede-like material that offers excellent grip. Alpinestars explains there are two discs with, “absorbing material and they are in between the lining and the outer, coupled with another foam layer.” It is this foam layer that contours to your heel. At least one staffer noted the feeling of empty space behind the heel. The extra room was much more prevalent while standing and presented no issues while riding.
The entire lining is quite comfortable. The lining is assembled as layers, a foam lining and a perforated fabric lining overtop. Alpinestars tells us the foam lining is, “made with appropriate foam density for each part of the foot, forefoot, ankles, leg, etc.” This isn’t visually apparent because it’s hidden behind the breathable, perforated fabric.
The sole is quite rigid, which serves the purpose of this boot: riding. This allows for excellent feel of the controls and we did not find the thickness of the boot a problem. Some other riding boots have you pointing your foot down in an uncomfortable position to fit between the foot peg and shift lever; we did not have this issue with the S MX-R. As you’d expect there is a reinforced / ribbed polyurethane shift pad on the left boot. For symmetry purposes, the same can be found on the right boot. Alpinestars describes the foot pads as “over-injected with soft PU.”
Alpinestars has applied generous amounts of “PU” or polyurethane to the S MX-R. The properties of polyurethane vary tremendously depending on the chemical process used during manufacturing. Polyurethane can be found in anything from foam automobile seats to surfboards to glues. Alpinestars utilizes several varieties of polyurethane densisties and hardness depending on the specific application on the S MX-R. According to Alpinestars, polyurethane is the “best plastic material for impact and abrasion resistance.”
The contoured shin plate protector is comprised of what Alpinestars refers to as, “high modulus” polyurethane. This particular process results in a highly rigid final product, ideal for safety gear.
Compare this to the shift pad area, mentioned earlier, found on the top of both boots. This too is polyurethane, but a different variation which provides a “grippy” and soft feel. In this application, the boot benefits from the softer properties of polyurethane’s capabilities. The insoles are also a softer foam-type polyurethane. Alpinestars has inserted a flexible polyurethane panel to guard the internal Achilles tendon and rigid polyurethane is also found around the heel of each boot.
Make no mistake, not everyone will have interest in the Alpinestars S MX-R boot; but perhaps they should. Dismissing the S MX-R as only a track boot would be the first mistake. While these boots were bred on the track, they were engineered to offer real world practicality. The casual road rider may not reap all of the benefits designed into the S MX-R, but one cannot dismiss the safety and comfort the S MX-R provides in a performance boot.
Also, with a street price of around $240, not everyone will be able to afford the S MX-R. However, considering the flexibility of this boot, it’s too bad that many will balk at the price and simply look no further.
The CE Certified S MX-R is available in sizes (US)5-12.5 / (EUR)38-48 and comes in Black, Black Vented, Black/Red, White and Silver.
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