The Oxtar TCS Sport boots I reviewed back in 2004 have been my all-time favorites for a number of reasons.
They fit perfectly; they're easy to put on and take off and they're comfortable (or as comfortable as a sport-oriented motorcycle boot can be).
And they flow a surprising amount of air.
I wear them as often as I can, and they have held up very well, but they've had an easy life.
I've brushed the toe sliders against pavement once or twice during some too-spirited street riding, but I haven't even begun to push them to their limit.
I like wearing them and I feel like they do provide as much protection as I'll ever need for street riding and the occasional track day.
Something about the "Oxtar" brand name was just offbeat enough to make it interesting.
So I was rather disappointed when the name was changed to "TCX"; which is a neutral-sounding vanilla appellation that lacks originality.
I'm not sure what prompted the sale of the Oxtar brand to Novation S.p.A., an Italian company with "Evident experience in the fields of mould technology, in the plastic materials sector and in the metal and composite material industry".
The company is also has expertise in die stamping, molding and related design and development for a wide variety of products.
It's interesting to note that the description mentions nothing about motorcycling, but at least the photos on their website indicate that Novation makes a variety of outdoor products.
Will they have the same passion as the founders of Oxtar?
Well, one thing's for sure -- Novation has certainly brought a strong marketing effort to bear on the TCX brand, supported with equally ambitious efforts by their distributors, Helmet House in North America and Nevis Marketing in the UK.
In fact, I'd venture to guess that the TCX brand name is probably more familiar now than the Oxtar brand ever was -- not a month goes by where a TCX advertisement doesn't appear in one or more of the print magazines.
And they have good reason to brag, because TCX offers a very nice selection of motorcycle boots in many shapes and styles for both men and women.
They even make a pair of very cool-looking children's motocross/ATV boot in a Euro 29 to 40 size range.
TCX categorizes their boots in 7 different "Lines", as they call them: Racing, Touring, Woman, All Uses, Off Road, Trials/ATV, and they even have a line of Speedway boots.
It's not clear whether or not TCX will offer any of their boots in the expanded width range that made Oxtar a favorite brand with riders looking for wider boots.
The SS Performance 2 boots are one of four boots in the TCX "Racing Line".
The SS Performance 2 boots are available in a "water resistant" version and these boots are designed for street, sport and occasional track day use.
The Racing Line also includes two higher-end models, the "Competitzone S" and the "Competizione RS", which are designed for heavy track day and/or racing.
While the SS Performance 2 boots don't break any new ground in the street/sport category, they include all the basic features of a good motorcycle boot and so far they have proven to be a worthy successor to my getting-creaky Oxtar TCS Sports.
I noticed their light weight the first time I pulled the SS Performance 2 boots out of the box.
And although at first I thought this might be an indication of lesser quality, but after wearing them for a while, I think they can indeed be considered as the modern equivalent of the old Oxtar TCS Sport boots, which now seem bulky in comparison.
The Oxtar TCS Sport boots did have one interesting feature though that's missing from the SS Performance 2 boots: the Oxtar "Torsion Control System".
The TCS system consists of three movable blades that ride in and out of receptacles located on the outside of the boot over the Achilles tendon and over each ankle.
The system allows the boot to flex forward (i.e., the toe to flex upward) while preventing the boot from over-extending to the rear.
I don't know how realistic this feature is and fortunately I never had to depend on it, and the moving parts squeak like a cartoon mouse every time I take a step, so I don't really miss it on the SS Performance 2 boots.
In fact, the Oxtar boots squeaked and squawked so much that I had to administer regular applications of silicone spray on all the moving parts just to keep down the noise.
Not that I use them for any hiking, but even walking around the gas pump was embarrassing.
I now think that the Oxtar TCS boots were perhaps slightly over-designed for the street -- although I'm not sure if one can ever have too much protection -- but they lacked the type of hard-core protective features needed for racing.
So the SS Performance 2 boots are much closer to the street/sport riding target market. In other words, I really liked the TCS boots, but I don't feel like I'm missing anything by wearing the SS Performance 2 boots for my type of riding.
And by the way, the SS Performance 2 boots are less expensive than the Oxtar boots; the TCX boots currently list for $199.99, which is $30.00 less than the list price of the Oxtar TCS boots.
And it gets even better than that, because the TCX SS Performance 2 boots list for $179.99. That's a great price for a pair of Italian designed street/sport boots made in Europe.
The SS Performance 2 boots do feel less bulky than the Oxtar boots, and the 44 (Euro) shown here fits exactly to size. I have a 10.5 U.S. foot and although I like my street boots with a bit more room in the toe, the TCX boots are perfect for riding.
The Oxtar TCS Sport boots weighed 861 grams each (1 lb., 14-3/8 oz.), while the SS Performance 2 boots weigh 710 grams (1 lb., 9-1/8 oz.) each, a significant difference and I appreciate the weight reduction.
My concerns about the lighter weight have so far proven unjustified, because I like the lighter feel and I don't really see a significant difference in the level of protection.
II'll chalk up the lighter weight to the absence of the flexion device, a few less plastic trim pieces that also served as abrasion wear points on the Oxtar boots, and possibly a slightly thinner version of the Lorica synthetic leather used in the uppers.
TCX states that the material used for the soles on the SS Performance 2 boots is oil and petrol resistant.
One thing's for sure: the soles were very slippery when they were new, which was surprising.
I think it was from some type of mold release applied at the factory, and perhaps they either forgot to remove it or didn't want to deal with the environmental effects of a degreaser?
I used sandpaper with an aggressive grit to rough up the soles and then I gave them a good wipe-down with rubbing alcohol, which seemed to do the trick, although the soles still aren't as grippy or sticky as I'd like.
Good grip is important for holding the bike on a slope when stopped, or for backing it out of a parking spot, so the stickier the better.
TCX also claims that the footbed in the boots contains an antibacterial material or treatment.
The heel and toe covers are relatively thick, although not as brutally tough as the type used on all-out race boots.
The tips of the toes feel very stiff though, so it's likely that some harder supporting material is used underneath for added protection.
TCX doesn't say anything about the boot shanks (in fact, their website is pretty sparse on information for any of their boots).
It feels like there is some type of stiffener used in the sole, and the soles feel like they have about the same amount of lateral and medial flexion as the Oxtar boots.
The front 1/3 of the sole is flexible enough for walking and for dipping a toe under the shift lever, but the remainder is stiff enough to provide a good platform for weighting the foot pegs.
The Lorica or material that surrounds the ankle protector on the outside and from the zipper back on the outside has a shiny finish and a type of waffle pattern.
I'm guessing that this offers less friction and would slide better in a crash than something less smooth. It has a side benefit -- it provides better glide for my pant legs as I move around on the bike.
In addition to the screen mesh protector covering the outside ankle (description below), the protector disk sewn into the material on the inside ankle of the boot feels thinner and more flexible than I'd like.
But I think the outside screen protector would probably take the brunt of the abrasion in a crash anyway.
The boots also have a replaceable plastic toe slider on the outside of each toe.
A reader was surprised that these aren't made from metal, but toe sliders are usually made from plastic because many/most tracks do not allow metal toe sliders.
Besides, plastic or nylon probably slides better and doesn't transfer heat like metal!
The Lorica uppers feel like the real thing, and the lining is, as far as I can tell, identical to the material used in the Oxtar TCS boots.
It's a sort of padded open weave that feels like nylon or some type of synthetic material known as "Air-Tech" by Oxtar and which TCX now calls "Airtech".
The lining is said to be breathable, but there are no air vents on the outside of the SS Performance 2 boots.
Yep, I know that looks like a mesh screen vent on the outside of the ankle, but try as I might, when I blow through it I can feel nothing coming through the lining.
In comparison, the Oxtar TCS boots have 3 small vents on the outside towards the bottom, and when I blow through these, I can definitely feel the air flowing through the lining.
The vents on the Oxtar boots also provide excellent ventilation when I'm riding.
So the screen design on the ankle protector is really for styling only -- nothing wrong with that, but don't expect it to perform as a vent.
The boots also have three rows of perforations on the outside, above the faux screen ankle protector, but they also seem to be for show rather than go, because no air flows through them.
Now you might think -- as I did -- that without any visible air vents like the ones used on the Oxtar TCS boots that the SS Performance 2 boots would feel hot.
But I'm as surprised as anyone that this isn't the case.
I've been wearing these boots in some pretty toasty riding conditions, and although I can't say that I feel a hurricane-like breeze flowing across my tootsies, or that they have the excellent air flow of the Oxtar boots, I'd bet a hundred bucks that there's air flowing in from somewhere.
I can stick my foot out into the airstream when riding and I'd swear that I feel air blowing through. I also think the boots are comfortable even in 80+ degree humid weather.
If this is the case -- that is, if air really is entering from somewhere, then it doesn't bode well for rainy day riding, but hey -- that's why the make the water resistant version!
One feature I really liked on the Oxtar boots that hasn't changed on the TCX boots is the entry and exit.
The TCX SS Performance 2 boots have a YKK zipper on the inside and a large dual hook-and-loop cover at the top that covers about half of the zipper.
The Oxtar boots had a narrow flap that covered the entire zipper, but it was always sticking out too far and wouldn't seal correctly. So I actually prefer the arrangement on the TCX boots.
The zipper and closure makes it very easy to put the boots on and take them off.
The zipper unfastens all the way down to the footbed, and I can easily slip my foot into the boot even when I'm wearing heavy socks.
The slightly thinner Lorica uppers used on the TCX boots also makes it easier to wear them underneath jeans or riding pants.
The only thing that is missing is a fabric "flag" extension on the zipper pull, but the zipper tab has a hole on the end so I'm sure I can eventually find something to slip through it.
The TCX SS Performance 2 boots fit me perfectly; that is, nice and snug. The wide accordion-like pleats in the front provide the flexibility required for walking and hanging on when riding.
I wouldn't want to walk a mile in these boots, but that's not what they're designed for.
If you're looking for a good protective riding boot that's a bit less obvious and will also remain comfortable for short walks, try the TCX Jupiter boots (review) or the SHIFT Fuel Street Shoe (review).
But overall, I'd say the TCX SS Performance 2 boots are about as comfortable as it gets for a streeet/sport boot of this type.
The TCX SS Performance 2 boots are a worthy successor to the Oxtar boots that have been a favorite for several years. Whether they will hold up as well over time remains to be seen, but I see no reason why they wouldn't.
They're comfortable and they are easy to wear, probably because of their lighter weight and slimmer overall dimensions, and I don't think this should affect the level of protection they offer.
At a list price of $199.99 and a street price of $179.99 with free shipping, the TCX SS Performance 2 boots are a real bargain, especially considering the price of shoes lately!
|wBW Review: TCX SS Performance 2 Boots|
|Manufacturer: TCX Boots||List Price (2008): $199.99|
|Colors: Black or Silver/White||Made In: EU|
|Sizes: 38-49 Euro.||Review Date: September 2008|
From "Leo" (11/08): "Great review on the TCX boots. I bought the Oxtar version on closeout sale last year before the changeover to the TCX label.
These are my favorite boots. Very comfortable, I could wear them all day long.
The sole sticks like glue to the ground or to your pegs. Solid closure system that allows for a range of calf sizes.
Fit well under or over your pants leg. I would consider these to be a bare minimum for use on the track, but I think they make an excellent street boot, not too outlandish, and as I said, all-day comfortable. I highly recommend them."