The Sidi Armada Gore-Tex Boot is "two boots in one".
The boots feature an upper ankle support system that can be removed, which converts the boots from adventure touring to street or sport use.
A Gore-Tex liner keeps out the water and a heavy-duty sole provides traction.
It's an interesting concept, but not without a potential flaw.
Not another Sidi boot review you say?
Yep, and as long as Sidi keeps pumping out the good stuff, wBW will keep featuring their products -- the attention is deserved.
So while the Adventure-to-Touring transition feature fostered by the "two boots in one" hype in the Sidi Armada boots seems to have a weak point, the base design, form and function is hard to fault; no surprise here really.
Comfortable from day one, esthetically pleasing in either form and fully functional to boot, their full Gore-Tex membrane liner provides an unparalleled inner moisture wicking and outer moisture blocking capability.
Iím hoping the issue with the side screws is an isolated case or can be resolved quickly, and I have no doubt that Sidi will; this too is part of the product culture, a culture that keeps my feet in Sidi boots.
In particular, the Santiago boots that are worn day in, day out are revealing a bit of surface wear and tear and arenít obviously in showroom condition; I was beginning to realize that a second pair of something was needed for rotational purposes.
Reading the marketing hype for the new Sidi Armada boot was interesting and getting a pair of them was perhaps an option, but it was an option pushed further down the seemingly never-ending list of things neededÖlittle did I know that an opportunity to get and evaluate a pair would be reality.
Enter the Editor who has done a great job of playing Santa Claus throughout the year; and a few weeks ago when he asked me if I wanted to evaluate a pair of the new Sidi Armada boots you can guess what my answer was!
As stated in the Sidi Crossfire TA boot review, my voluntary assimilation to the Sidi side occurred a long time ago. Iíve owned a fair number of pairs of motorcycling boots from various boot makers over a few decades but any search for a new pair always starts with the Sidi product line and 99% of the time a Sidi product becomes the solution to my ongoing requirements.
So even with late fall ushering in much cooler temperatures, I got to spend a few initial hours in the saddle riding the Sidi Armada boots before loading them into the SUV and hooking up the trailers bearing the two BMW R1200GS machines, for a few weeks of riding down south.
Touted as being "two boots in one", the new Sidi Armada Gore-Tex Boots feature an innovative and removable upper wraparound support piece or "Boot Leg" that changes the appearance and function of the boots.
It essentially provides additional support and protection features so near and dear to motorcycle riders, especially those of us who like to hit the trails as often as possible.
Featuring top and split grain leather construction for the uppers, the boots are double-stitched in all stress areas while the heavy duty non-slip rubber Vibram-style sole is bonded to the boot while still being replaceable if so needed.
A full-length entry zipper located on the inner side of each boot has dual-position zipper closure points that facilitate differing calf sizes or if the pant or suit legs are worn inside. A short elastic panel next to the entry zipper adds elasticity for easy zipper movement (less binding) and again, a better fit overall. The full-length inner gaiter is large, strong and very pliable, folding perfectly for a comfortable seal when the zipper is closed.
Moving to the lower part of the boot reveals a work of art, the high impact molded heel protection piece that blends perfectly with other components. Honey-comb pattern inserts on the front of the boot (ankle and arch area) provide flex and comfort with minimal lateral distortion of the boot sides.
And near and dear to me are the dimpled inserts on the top of each boot that minimize wear on the boot when shifting (left or right pattern).
Where the feet and ankle live hasnít been forgotten either. The Sidi Armada is a sealed boot, so comfort and ongoing moisture management is key. As such, a Gore-Tex membrane layer is used for the whole boot, clearly identified by its trademark stamp on the inner liner.
webBikeWorld has published a lot of material on the use of Gore-Tex Membranes for Motorcycle Clothing and Equipment and in understanding just how Gore-Tex works and its unparalleled performance, using it for a top-line product like the Sidi Armada boots is completely understandable.
With the Gore-Tex membrane used for the main boot, the removable upper support sections are lined with Cambrelle, a well-qualified material used by Sidi for many applications. It also provides a great cushioning and air circulation layer, further contributing to overall moisture management within the boot.
Ongoing moisture management by and between the various layers of the boot is critical in preventing the build-up of excess moisture that can lead to a severe build-up of bacteria that can then become a factor in early boot deterioration Ė protect the investment.
While the "two boots in one" claim is more marketing hype than reality, there is no denying that the Sidi Armada boots -- in both appearance and function -- can transition from a protective adventure-style set of footwear to fashionable but still very functional touring footwear.
The key to this transition is the removable upper support piece or "Boot Leg" that provides increased upper boot support and ankle protection when installed. Each left and right piece is formed of two nylon braces or "legs", reinforced with fiberglass. When they are attached (with screws), the side-to-side ankle support is greatly enhanced without impacting front to back flexing in any way.
When the features provided by these pieces arenít needed, they can both be removed in about a minute using a small awl or blade screwdriver and a medium Phillips-head screwdriver. Once the small ankle pivot covers on each side plate are popped out with an awl or small flat screwdriver blade, the Phillips screwdriver takes care of the single short screw that secures each side of the support piece to the boot.
When the upper support pieces are removed, stylized ankle plates (provided with the boots) screw onto each side of the boot and with the pivot covers re-installed the transition to touring boot is complete.
But be warned: the engagement tangs on the ankle pivot covers are small and can be damaged if the proper tool is not used. The mounting screw and washer hardware are small pieces that if dropped could be lost. And donít play Superman when installing them; design clearances between the screw insert component in the side wall of the boot and the screw provides free play that allows the support pieces to be adjusted and pivot away from the boot slightly when needed.
So while transitioning the boots from a discrete touring form to a more aggressive adventure touring profile, one weak point seems to be emerging: the outer screws on the left and right boots have pulled out twice, even though being tightened to what I deemed the safe limit.
It seems that using the upper piece (Velcro flap enclosure) and/or pivoting it back for entering and exiting the boot puts undue strain on the screw assembly or causes the screw to turn and loosen off.
Negative comments about sizing, fit and comfort when reviewing Sidi boots of any type is rare. And I have to admit that having a narrow size 46 foot makes me a near-perfect candidate for the typical Sidi (or Italian made) boot that often leans towards a narrower "D" width with sizing pretty much guaranteed to fall into industry-standard fitment parameters.
As such, the Sidi Armada boots in size 46 (US 11.5, UK 11.0, Japan 28.5) are a perfect fit with medium to heavy riding socks worn and with a light-weight technical sock, a thin mesh-style insert provides great fit and comfort.
Living in any pair of Sidi boots for extended periods of time (which I have) has never been an issue; I doubt if the Armada boots will disappoint in this regard. There is a bit more flex in the instep than expected due to the "honey-comb" insert (seen in the photos) that really works in eliminating what can be uncomfortable pressure points when boots are new. But more flex here minimizes side-wall distortion or flaring as well -- things that contribute to decreased side-wall strength and accelerated wear under the right conditions.
A sturdy well-protected heel cup is more reassurance as the feet enter the boots -- snug without undue pressure, no pressure points at any angle. The thick molded heel plate is a work of art on its own, like most of the other components of the Armada boot.
With or without the Adventure support piece installed, the boot provides heel to toe to upper calf comfort and protection.
Entering or exiting the boots via the full length zippers and wide inner gaiters is easy, especially appreciated when doing the one-legged dance on a cold floor! Whether riding pants are preferred in or out, the Armada boots should accommodate nicely, thanks in part to strong but flexible zipper inserts and strategically placed expansion panels. I had a pair of older leather/textile medium-weight pants with narrow angle openings tucked comfortably inside the boots. Even the much heavier Firstgear HT Overpant (review) legs can be tucked inside if desired.
But for the record, outside of leathers, my riding pants are worn exclusively outside the boot with the very useful internal leg elastic storm cuff on the HT pants keeping the elements out. Inseam length is also important so the pants donít have a tendency to rider up more than an inch or so when riding.
Adding the upper wraparound support pieces doesnít create any issues regarding pant use, although pants worn outside might just be a wee bit tighter at the top of the boot depending on size and cut of the pant. What is most noticeable is the added support feel once the support piece has been snugly secured in place via the large Velcro patches on the over-flap section.
As experienced with other Sidi boots I have owned, the materials used and technology applied keeps the feet warm when needed, cool when needed and always protected from the elements. In this regard, the Sidi Armada boots are the equal of anything else I have owned, including two pairs of my now aged Sidi On-Road Boots (review), both of which were my personal standard in what motorcycling foot-ware should provide, with or without Gore-Tex.
But while the Sidi Armada boots are still quite young and just getting seriously dirtied up, there is no hesitation in stating that ventilation or climate control inside the boot isnít likely going to be an issue; my feet having stayed comfortable in temperatures ranging from well below freezing to a welcome 18 C (64 F).
I havenít yet managed to expose the boots to heavy torrential downpours (thankfully), but I can state that a prolonged pressure hose test followed by a ten minute boot immersion test didnít result in any damp or wet spots inside the boot; a great start and very confidence-inspiring.
As stated earlier, moisture management -- inside and out -- is extremely important, especially for a sealed boot like the Sidi Armada and based on initial use described above these boots get a two-thumbs-up.
From breaking them in while out riding in sub-zero temperatures and dabbing them in a snow bank at one point just to say it was done, to running the interstate, secondary and smile-inducing back roads of Virginia on our semi-annual trek south, the Sidi Armada boots, like the roads, are smile inducing.
With the upper section open and pivoted back and the zipper undone, getting in and out of the boots (one foot at a time of course) is easy. Once the gaiter is folded in and the zipper pulled up, and the upper section wrapped across tightly, it is truly a comfort zone for the lower leg, ankle and foot.
With the upper support piece in place, the top part of the boot is far stronger and more supportive without any impact on the ability to flex the foot or lower leg -- very important depending on the motorcycle being ridden, the type and location of foot-pegs and whether sitting or standing.
As with the top part of the boot, the side braces of the support piece really add to ankle support and protection without impacting negatively in any way. Iíve already banged up the small plastic side inserts (curbs and rocks), which means they do serve as a small but integral part of the overall foot protection environment.
The (soft) rubber sole provides good grip on the serrated-metal pegs of the R1200GS Rallye but even better grip on a rubber-layered foot peg. The sole is far more aggressive than that found on the BMW Santiago Boots (review), but where a wide variety of mounted and dismounted activities are likely to be the norm, it is a good choice. Only time will tell regarding wear and comfort for extended periods of time.
Getting some extended riding time in the boots and getting them very dirty is a measure of comfort that can be hard to explain to some; and when dirty, a damp cloth and a few minutes cleaning them keeps them in good shape and brings to light any previously undetected damage to the boot.
As noted by the Editor, "Burn" and other reviewers, webBikeWorld is truly working its way through, or revisiting, the complete Sidi boot product line, and for all the right reasons.
Sidi boots in any form or model are at or near the top of the heap and finding anything other than niggly personal issues is rare (see below).
My ratings for the Sidi Armada Boots:
Issues: the apparent weakness of the screws securing the upper support component to the boot, a serious issue from my perspective and even if an isolated case, Sidi needs to address it quickly.
Bottom Line: keepers in every way, although I hopefully wonít have to revert to using Gorilla Tape to keep the upper support pieces secured as they really (really) do their job when in place.
More wBW Motorcycle Boot Reviews
wBW Review: Sidi Armada Boots
U.S. and Canadian Distributor: Motonation
|List Price: $400.00|
|Colors: Black.||Made In: Italy|
|Sizes: 41-48 Euro.|
|Review Date: December 2012|
Note: Item was provided by a retailer, distributor or manufacturer with these Terms and Conditions.
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From "A.H." (December 2012): "Thanks for another super-informative review. I've been eyeing these boots ever since I saw them on one of your affiliate shopping sites.
Your mention of the bolt coming loose at the ankle caught my attention. A bolt or screw that also functions as a pivot point has the potential of unthreading itself after a few too many pivots. If I had these boots, I would apply threadlocker to the threads, and marine grease or Teflon lubricant to the bolt head and washer.
BTW, nail polish makes a great "medium duty" threadlocker -- and you can buy it at any drugstore in America, even when you're "on the road" and need to implement a mid-ride fix.
Editor's Note: Just heard back from Sidi, who said that the insert is supposed to have Loctite to prevent it from coming loose...