The new Sidi ST and ST Air boots provide high levels of protection with ease of use.
The entry and security system developed for the ST boots is easier to use for street or sport riding than the entry system found on the Sidi Vortice boots (review).
Sidi quality and features abound, and although the price may seem a bit steep, you can't put a price on safety.
Sidi introduces a model of motorcycle boots about as fast as Ben & Jerry's changes ice cream flavors.
This usually leaves me scratching my head trying to figure the differences between each version because the new boots sometimes compete with or overlap current inventory.
Although the practice seems to have been somewhat rationalized lately, possibly due to the recent economic conditions, Sidi still finds niches within niches in which to plug in a new boot design.
For example, in the Sidi "Sport/Road" category is the Sidi Fusion (review) at a list price of $200.00. Just above that (currently) is the new Sidi Cobra, with a slightly higher spec for 50 bucks more.
The top-of-the-line boot is still the Vortice at $495.00 (ouch) and the neew Sidi ST and ST Air are $100.00 cheaper at $395.00. They slide in under the Vortice boots in the Sidi hierarchy.
The confusion (or should I say my confusion) can be compounded, what with "Air" (ventilated) and "Rain" (waterproof) versions of various boot models also available, along with versions for women.
But in this case, I think the Sidi ST is actually fills a needed spot in the model lineup because it hits the mark as a motorcycle boot that isn't as all-out and uncompromising as the Vortice while still providing near-max, near-pro protection.
Make no mistake, the Sidi Vortice boots are nice. But they're more of an ultimate race boot and, I think, too sharply focused for street or non-track use.
The beauty of the ST and ST Air boots is that they have nearly all of the protection of the Vortice boots but with a more rational (and more comfortable) entry system that is still highly secure but works better than many of the other pure sport boots I've worn.
I'll describe the system in this review, along with all the other nice features that make a Sidi boot something special and worth the scratch.
Although the price of the Sidi ST boots may seem a bit at odds with our "Budget Track Day Series", they are the boots we chose to match with the outfit. The Sidi Fusion boots (review) at $200.00 or the new Sidi Cobra boots ($250.00) would probably be more in keeping with the "Budget" theme, but the ST boots are what we had at the time.
There are several basic but necessary features that define a sport race style boot. These include reinforced soles, heel and toe protection, ankle protection and a tall upper to provide some shin protection.
Any boot in the Sidi lineup will give you that and you'll surely end up with something better than a pair of sneakers or work boots in terms of protection.
For example, if you're looking for street or sport riding protection, a pair of the Sidi Fusion boots (review) should do the trick. If you're into touring, perhaps a pair from the Sidi "Touring On Road" collection, such as the Sidi Sport Rain boots (reviw) would be a good choice, and include the bonus of waterproofing.
It's sort of like deciding on a meal. A basic dinner of meat and spuds will satisfy and it should at least keep the fires burning. Start adding the prime cuts of meat, exotic spices, fresh herbs and artful cooking techniques and that's when you separate basic diner grub from a memorable gourmet meal.
The Sidi boots à la carte menu means taking your basic Fusion boots and pumping them up with high-end features like the external ankle bracing system from the Vortice boots (review); the adjustable and replaceable (and aerodynamic, according to Sidi) toe scuff pads; the shock-absorber heel cup and replaceable moving parts all around.
One look at the ST boots compared to the Fusion boots illustrates the differences, with the ST boots looking like a very buff bigger brother.
OK, enough with the bad analogies. Comparing the ST boots with the Fusion boots isn't fair, but I do think the ST boots are probably going to steal quite a few sales from the Vortice boots...although on second thought, the Vortice boots are so "pro" race-focused that it just may be that sportier riders were shunning them to find a slightly tamer version in a different brand.
Maybe that's why Sidi decided to offer the ST boot with just about all of the Vortice goodness at 100 dollars less -- and with an ease-of-use factor that the Vortice boots can't match.
So the ST boots are pretty close to the no-compromises Vortice boots in terms of protection, but there's one big difference -- the ST boots have a new and very trick entry/latching/security system that makes them easier to use than the Vortice boots.
In fact, there's no reason at all why you can't use the ST boots on the street and be assured of near-race-like protection. Of course, there's nothing stopping you from wearing the Vortice boots either on the street either, other than the fussiness of the "Tecno VR" and "Tecno II" adjustable calf cinctures that were designed for pro racing.
Strapping on a pair of Vortice boots is like putting on a diving bell and dry suit compared to throwing on a shorty wetsuit, mask and snorkel.
Oops -- I forgot. No more analogies!
Well, maybe that is overstating it a bit, but I find the new Sidi "Cam Lock" buckle system on the ST boots to be intuitive, easy to use and a clever design. It also works great at cinching up the boot with a minimal fuss factor. And as a bonus, it allows the boots to fit much wider calves and/or a wider variety of leather pants and shin armor than the Vortice system.
With the ST boots, you simply release the Cam Lock buckles on either side, fold down the back of the boot (which hinges on either side at the ankle via the external bracing system) and zip 'er down. Step inside, zip 'er up, rotate the back up like a clamshell (making sure the plastic tabs slip under the Cam Locks), and snap the Cam Locks closed.
The front part of the Cam Locks are attached to the big "floating" plastic/vinyl shin protector in the front of the boot (which screws in and is replaceable). The rear "catch" part of the Cam Locks are attached to the rotating part of the ankle brace in the rear. This is a huge and solid piece of polycarbonate that protects the back of your leg and is also replaceable (although if you damage this brute beyond repair, replacing it will be the least of your worries).
The system works well and the front part of the Cam Lock is attached to a serrated strip of plastic/vinyl, so you can adjust it in and out for various calf and pant leg thicknesses.
The second secret ingredient in the Special Sauce (Note to Self: time to take a break from the Food Network) of this system is the large section of elastic material in the rear of the ST boot on the inside. It provides excellent comfort and expansion around the back of the leg and it definitely helps make the ST boots easier to stuff the foot inside and it also makes the boots feel like they are a custom fit to your legs and calves.
When the clamshell is locked up tight, the elastic is buried way under the rear half of the external ankle bracing system and all that poly slider stuff, so no worries.
Let's take a step back for a minute and recap all of those "basic" features in the ST boots that help define a "race" style motorcycle boot.
The Sidi standards are all here, including the same thick mesh-type lining material that's equips pretty much all the Sidi boots I've tried. It's probably not the most comfy stuff in the world, but it does the job and the idea in a race boot is to allow the rider to feel the pegs and the bike, rather than to keep the rider insulated from the vibes and subtle messages being sent up to the control tower between the ears.
The soles are fairly standard Sidi also, with a composite inner sole that does not seem to be removable (despite the listing of "removable arch supports" in the Sidi marketing material for the ST boots), to the "dual compound" outer sole that seems to get better (i.e., stickier) with each new Sidi boot. It's important to have a sole with good grip, especially on the street, when sketchy surface conditions, oil, water, etc. can be present.
Besides the replaceable polymer toe sliders, the tops of the toes on the ST boots are covered with the typical Sidi DuPont toe protector. It's funny how both boots still have this -- other than the old Brits, are there still bikes with right-hand shifters? I guess it helps protect when you're toeing the side stand...
The ST boots appear to be double-stitched all around, although there's so many square centimeters of plastic and vinyl slider material all over the boots that it would be surprising indeed for the stitches to ever become exposed to asphalt.
The YKK inside zipper runs all the way down to the footbed, and to repeat, the fold-open "clamshell" Cam Lock entry system on the ST boots is a real plus and the big benefit of this particular model. Zip down the zipper and fold the boot open and you step right in. The Cam Locks are placed up at the top on either side, so they're easy to grab and it just makes boot entry (and exit) that much easier.
And by the way, there's a 100 mm slit just towards the rear of the zipper about half-way down the inside of the boots. It's backed by elastic, so it gives some stretch to the zipper and adds comfort on the inside of the ankle, another plus.
Of course, the leather (Lorica actually) and plastics make the ST boots as stiff as a two-by-four at first. Mine haven't broken in yet after dozens of rides, but they're starting to. I expect these to outlast my next several motorcycles, no doubt.
The ST boots come in an ST Air version for the same price, which I probably should have ordered. They have perforated leather in all the black and white areas you see on the standard ST boots in the photos.
The non-perforated ST boots have one trick vent system though; it's a slider at the lower outside portion of the foot, about half-way back, just above the sole. You can slide it open to reveal a pair of vents. It does work, although I haven't tried it in the rain.
The rear part of the external ankle bracing system -- that is, the rear part of the "clamshell" -- has a pair of mesh-covered vents on the inside. They feed air into a pattern of holes on the inside of the clamshell, but the air -- if it actually gets through -- isn't felt, because it's blocked by the inside part of the boot liner with the elastic and also your leather pants. So these are more show than go.
Otherwise, the non-perforated ST boots are about what you'd expect for a pair of non-perforated ultra-heavy-duty race-style motorcycle boots: hot. In the summer anyway. You probably don't want to be wearing these in Florida, but they're no better or worse in this regard than any other non-perforated race-style boot.
Sidi says that what I'm calling the ST's "clamshell" system should accommodate calf sizes up to 15 inches in diameter 12.5 inches up from the bottom of the heel. I'm not sure where they came up with this number, because I think my calves are fairly normal and they measure 16" exactly (in circumference). Maybe they really do mean "diameter" instead of circumference?
OK, let me dig way, way back in the memory banks...with assistance by Bing. The formula is C = π D, where C is the circumference, π (pi) is, well, π and D is the diameter.
This means that a 15" diameter (38.1 cm) calf times π would be C = (15 x 3.14), resolving to a 47.1 inch (119.6 cm) circumference. That doesn't seem right either, so who knows.
What I can tell you is that the ST boots fit over my 16" (40.6 cm) circumference calves with room for leather pants and I still have 7 teeth left in the Cam Lock adjustment tabs.
The ST boots are available in sizes ranging from 39 Euro (6 US) to 50 Euro (15 US) in what I guess is regular widths. The size 44 boots shown here fit as expected, for about a US size 10 to 10.25 shoe.
While I've felt like there were a few compromises on some of the other Sidi boots we've reviewed, I'm really liking the Sidi ST boots.
They provide some of the best protection you'll find but they're still very easy to use (for this type of boot) on the street, unlike the Vortice boots that seem a bit too fussy for quick on/off street riding.
The styling is typically Sidi and I probably would prefer a black ST Air version, but either way, these are first-rate boots and it just doesn't get much better. If you can swing the cost, this is the boot to have.
wBW Review: Sidi ST Boots
U.S. Distributor: Motonation
|List Price: $395.00|
|Colors: Black, Black with white, red or blue.||Made In: Italy|
|Sizes: 39 - 50 (U.S. 6-15).||Review Date: May 2011|
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