By Shannon Mominee
Each year when the weather begins to turn wet and cold, I briefly contemplate not riding until the warm, dry air returns. Up north that would unfortunately keep me off the bike for about five months, so I accept the season and search for a box in the basement containing my cold weather gear.
My Lake cycling boots are usually in a sad state with rusty cleats, dull leather, and diminished water protection. I use a few different products throughout the season to restore the water barrier, which also adds moisture to the leather to keep it from drying out and cracking, and helps to maintain its shape. Spending a little time and money on shoe products and care will benefit in the long run and my boots will and do last longer.
There are a ton of products on the market but I like to use a few different cleaners then follow up with wax and oil water barriers. Kiwi Saddle Soap is an inexpensive cleaner, around $5 for 3oz, that also offers the first layer of leather protection. It smells good and requires very little effort to work. Once I have a clean surface I use either Meltonian Mink Oil or Nikwax as a water barrier and to moisturize the leather. Both products are all natural, safe for the environment, and bead water on the surface of the shoe. They’re also safe for use with Gore-Tex and allow the leather to breath. Mink Oil is about $3 for a 2.5oz tin and Nikwax is $9 for a 3.5oz tube. A little spreads a long way and I rotate the one I use for no good reason.
As you can see in the photo, that waxy shine is the barrier and rejuvenation makes my boots last longer. I’ll probably reapply the concoction after Dirt Rag’s Punk Bike which is historically wet and muddy, if not snowy.
I also do a lot of hiking in the winter with my dog Roman and my hiking boots see as much, if not more, abuse than my Lake boots. I’m trying products that I recently discovered on them from Montana Pitch-Blend. For 25 years they’ve been making all natural products in small batches out of La Pine, Oregon. The Leather Oil Soap washed away the dirt and grime from the leather and feels really rich to the touch. As it cleans it restores the natural oils in the leather to keep it from cracking and aging.
I’m most impressed with the Montana Pitch-Blend Leather Dressing. This balm is made from their Leather Oil Conditioner then blended with beeswax, mink oil, and pine pitch to form a water barrier. Pine pitch is a naturally occurring antiseptic that protects pine trees from bacteria, mold, mildew, and fungus. The Leather Dressing is a solid in the container, reminiscent of bacon fat that has cooled over night. When I scooped out a fingertip full and touched it to the leather, the heat from my fingers melted the balm and turned it into oil that was absorbed by the leather. A little of this product goes a long way and there was no residue left on the leather like Nikwax tends to leave.
After I finished applying the Leather Dressing and went to wash my hands, water from the faucet beaded on my fingers and rolled off. I have high hopes for this balm and will follow up with how it performs. Montana’s products are a little more expensive than the Mink Oil and Saddle Soap but in line with Nikwax. I purchased their Autumn 2011 Complete Leather Care Mini Kit from their website for $15 and priority shipping was free. The kit includes a 4oz tub of Leather Dressing, and 1oz of Leather Oil Soap and 1oz of Leather Oil. Now that my footwear is ready for the mud, water, and (gulp) snow, my outlook on the season has brightened.
Winter is a cold, hard, fact of life around here, so we’ve put together a series of tips on how to stay warm, dry, and on the bike rear ’round.