With the rise of the café racer style that started trending a few years ago, all things old are becoming new again and this isn’t a bad thing…if done properly.
I feel like Triumph had a lot to do with the modern retro movement when the “New Bonneville (review)” hit the road, itself a modern motorcycle styled to recall the 60’s and 70’s.
TCX is taking a similar approach with their “24/7 Lifestyle” line of boots.
Much like the “Bonnie”, you could say that the X-Blend boots look cool and retro but they’re made with modern techniques and materials for good performance and reliability.
TCX revamped their boot lineup, which now covers everything from “Road Racing” to “24/7 City Business” and everything in between.
This covers the entire range of modern sport riding and racing boots to cruiser boots to subtly styled boots appropriate for the office to off-road boots and even riding shoes that look like classic high-top basketball shoes.
Bottom line: TCX makes boots for every kind of motorcycle rider.
The first impression when seeing the X-Blend boots is that they are simply leather work boots. The subtle, utilitarian styling definitely doesn’t scream motorcycle boot.
At the same time, there are a lot of riders on the street wearing boots that look like these, either for style or functional purposes (to wear at work).
This style is seen on many a hipster’s feet these days, often standing next to (or riding) a cafe racer, bobber, or modern retro bike.
For my part, I don’t currently own a retro or vintage bike; I just liked the way the boots looked when I saw them at the shop. So I’m as guilty as the hipsters on the taste front — just looking for some style.
The TCX X-Blend Boots
The X-Blend boots are available in black or brown leather and the leather has a nice texture and patina. The leather is used for the entire outer section of the upper portion of the boot and the tongue.
Over that tongue is a set of thick, soft laces in brown or black cloth to match the overall color of the boot.
The laces run through metal ringlets and there are two matching metal rivets used where the toe box meets the upper section of leather and the base of the tongue.
From the sides, the sole appears to be a classic rubber type, but when viewed from underneath, the tread pattern is fully modern. The soles also offer excellent grip, even on very smooth surfaces like finished concrete.
Moving back up to the top of the boot, there’s a thick nylon pull strap in the rear. It’s large enough to accommodate large fingers and it feels strong enough to last a long time.
Inside the boot is a light neutral-colored lining that is smooth and appears to be a type of nylon. TCX says the lining is waterproof, but the exact type of material isn’t specified (at least anywhere that I can find).
The brown colored boots reviewed here started out as medium to dark brown color when I first purchased them, but over the past several months, the boots have darkened to a very attractive, almost chocolate brown color.
The X-Blend boots are available in men’s sizes only.
Women looking for a boot with the same style and functionality might be interested in the Lady Smoke boot, which has a similar appearance, materials and construction.
It’s also rated as waterproof but it looks more like a logging boot, with a lug type pattern on the sole and medium height (4 cm) heels.
Full vs. Top Grain Leather
The leather used in the X-Blend boots is “Full Grain”. Full grain is said to be the strongest “grain” of leather and it comes from top layer of the leather production process.
As I understand it, all cowhide leather is split into layers as the hide can be up to 1 cm thick. In order to get thinner swaths of leather that can be used in apparel and boots (and most leather products), the leather is split into layers.
Full Grain contains all the texture and appearance of the hide and is the toughest layer. It also gets a good patina and becomes better looking (to me) over time.
I mentioned how the color has become richer on these boots, which is evidence of the use of full grain leather.
“Top Grain” leather sounds like it would be similar, but it is a bit different. It usually describes leather that comes from the layer under a top layer that had a blemish.
This Top Grain is then sanded or buffed to create a smoother appearance. However, Top Grain doesn’t seem to age as nicely as Full Grain and since it has been sanded or abraded, it may not end up as durable.
The leather sections of the X-Blend boots are sewn with a matching color thread and double stitching is used in all major seams.
The stitching is tight and even and the overall feel is that of tight and durable construction.
There are some places though where one can see some “less than straight” trimming to the leather panels though.
Careful examination around the top opening and other areas where the edges are visible show what appears to be hand cutting of the panels.
Is this a bad thing? I can’t say for certain.
But inspection of these areas indicates that the edge never seems to get too close to the stitching and from what I can tell, there isn’t any cause for concern.
It may be that these are hand cut and a little imperfection is going to happen.
The sole uses multiple layers of rubber.
The main portion of the sole is 16 mm thick while the heel is 29 mm thick.
The sole has a good amount of flex at the ball of the foot and then stiffens noticeably under the arch as it heads back towards the heel.
I suspected that there was a shank in the sole but TCX has confirmed there is not.
However, the sole is strong enough in the middle to keep me from experiencing any fatigue from long periods of riding with my feet on the foot pegs.
Other boots I’ve had in the past with very flexible soles were not as comfortable when riding for long periods of time.
Beauty is not just skin deep with the X-Blend boots; they are also CE certified for Level 1 protection.
Ankles are protected on both side with disc shaped, flexible inserts in place between the leather exterior and the interior liner.
The placement of these is clearly visible, as the stitching is exposed on the outside showing two circles on the boots at ankle level and the anterior facing protector location also has the TCX logo embossed into the surface.
The heel and toe sections are “reinforced” according to TCX and I can easily feel that these areas have some material adding rigidity.
The material will still flex if I push hard enough, so steel toes these are not.
That said, they should offer reasonable protection in a crash, but I wouldn’t expect them to withstand the entire weight of a street bike sitting on them (although they must meet the CE standard to be certified).
The X-Blend boots are mid-height and besides the ankle protection on either side, there is not other impact protection above or around ankle height.
The boots shown for this review are size EU43 (US 9), but I’m a solid 10.5 in running shoes and most other types of shoes.
This is not the first time where I have had to drop a size or more to get a good fit for a boot or shoe.
I was lucky to be at the local dealer when I found these boots so I was able to try multiple sizes on the spot. I initially tried the size 44 (US 10) and found them to be too large; moving down one size seemed just right.
I’d say it is surprising that the sizing could be that far from the accepted standards, at least based on the foot measuring devices used in shoe stores, but it isn’t anymore.
This trend seems to have spread to footwear of all kinds (but could have something to do with the translation from Euro sizes, with no half sizes, to US sizes).
The X-Blend boots do feel a bit wider than boots I’ve had from Alpinestars and Dainese, so if those brands tend to feel narrow for you these might be more comfortable.
The included insoles are a bit on the thin side and they don’t offer much arch support. As such, standing or walking in them can literally be hard on the feet.
I replaced the insoles with a thicker set from a well-known insole maker and this improved things a lot and it also reduced some of the buzzing reaching my feet from my Ninja 1000.
The X-Blend boots are labeled as waterproof (which I’ll cover in a moment), so ventilation isn’t great.
The leather and the liner aren’t too thick, so the boots don’t get too warm for me and shouldn’t during the summer here Nashville.
However, this does mean that they’re less than ideal for cold weather and I can feel the tops of my feet getting cold pretty quickly once the temperatures getting down into the low 50’s F (around 10 C).
I have read some consumer reviews saying that they found the X-Blend boots to be very warm in the summer due to the lack of ventilation, but I never experienced this myself.
I almost always wear motorcycle-specific socks like the Roadgear Coconut socks (review) when I ride and those do a good job of moisture control. So maybe that is the key?
They offer reasonable protection for what I feel is their target audience — commuters and light touring riders. Of course, urban riders on their retro and classic machines would likely find these an attractive option as well.
I wear them on my fully modern NInja 1000, so I while I may pick at those urban riders in jest, I still fell victim to the charm and looks of these boots.
I think they would make very good touring companions, especially with some additional shin protection.
So having CE certified protection and comfort for walking when you reach your destination doesn’t mean you’ll have to pack additional pair of street shoes for short trips or long.
For longer walks or hikes or all-day on-your-feet at work with the X-Blend boots, I would recommend some good replacement insoles. That, or bring along some “mission specific” footwear.
The $239.99 USD (street price) might seem a bit high, as there is a lot of competition in motorcycle footwear in this price range and lower.
But while the X-Blend boots may not be an outright bargain, the materials used are of good quality.
And despite the nits I picked about the hand-trimmed leather edges, the construction is solid and the waterproofing has held up.
After owning these boots for several months, I do feel confident that I got what I paid for and I expect these are going to last for a while.