Gear: Alpinestars SMX-1 boots

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These Alpinestars SMX-1 boots promise to combine real protection and good riding feel and ergonomics with all-day, off-the-bike comfort and low key looks. The perfect compromise between a riding and casual boot?

Unlike some of the hardcore ATGATT (all the gear, all the time) folks around here, I am willing to concede that not every trip on a motorcycle requires the same amount of riding gear as your average deep sea diving expedition or lunar landing. At the same time, I still look down my nose at squids wearing next to nothing just as much as the next daily rider. I guess I follow MOTGATT (most of the gear, all the time).

As a daily rider with a fifty-mile commute, I’m always going to wear a top spec helmet, a decent jacket (with some level of back protection) and a good pair of long-gauntlet gloves. From there, it’s a bit more hit or miss.

I like to be able to ride to work without changing out once I get there, so I’m looking for riding gear that won’t violate the office/casual dress code. For me, that means riding jeans from Shift (RIP), Icon or Teknic and a good short street boot.

Some people are quick to dismiss riding jeans as one step above useless, but I ate shit on the freeway wearing Shift’s Torque jean and came away with bumps and bruises but no road rash. In fact, despite taking a Volvo to the right leg, the same pair of jeans remained in service for at least another year.

Anyway, I didn’t come here to open the jeans debate; I came to discuss some new footwear. The problem with full-length boots is that they aren’t exactly all day comfortable in an 80-degree office. But most short boots are either a) barely more protective than tennis shoes or b) look like a mix between a sci-fi military prop and a fetishistic hiking boot.

A short boot should do all the things expected of a full-length riding boot with a minimum amount of compromise. This includes a firm fit, a rigid sole, and as much armor as you can squeeze in. It needs to be more comfortable than a full boot, otherwise there isn’t much point. And finally, it needs to be subtle enough to wear around non-riding folks without starting another one of those conversations.

For me, the latest Alpinestars SMX-1 short boots fulfill the mission perfectly. They take most of their styling cues from Astars’ more conventional sport boots, including the reinforced heel cup, sole design and minimalistic toe sliders. Entry is via a single side zipper with a Velcro close. Adjustment is via an over-arch Velcro strap. Shoelaces are great and all, but I consider them in the same category as black and white television: functional, but long since superseded. This solution is faster while being just as adjustable and probably more secure.

Once in the boot, the fit is perfect. Not too narrow, but still with decent arch support. Of course, I’ll probably replace the insole with something more comfy before too long. Walking around is super natural, with none of the friction or resistance or squeaking found in a racing boot. The SMX-1 isn’t tennis shoe comfy, but is certainly all-day wearable. Finally, much of the boot’s upper shell is a mesh material that aids both airflow and flexibility.

On the bike, the SMX-1 is perfect. The extra flexibility feels great, and the toe box is super narrow to make reaching under the shift lever easy. The sole design grips both the pegs and the asphalt with authority. The airflow feels great on all but the coldest days. I haven’t tested the toe sliders yet, but hey, it’s been raining. And I feel that the boots offer a decent level of protection despite the low cut. Unlike casual shoes, they’ll stay on your feet in a crash.

The obvious downside is that, compared to a taller boot, you lack shin and Achilles protection in the SMX-1 boots. And there’s a lot less support protecting against extension and rotation injuries. But that’s the nature of compromise.

For $159.95, the SMX-1 is a great value compared to similar offerings. They fit well, offer decent protection for a short boot, and don’t look like part of a Power Rangers costume.

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