There's an old saying that goes, "don't bring a knife to a gun fight", and that rings true for trying to ride year round in shoes designed for dry weather. It's battle you can't win. Enter the Fizik Artica X2, a warm and waterproof BOA-lace clipless shoe that doesn't look like it's been swallowed by a neon yellow balloon.
As I write this, Southern British Columbia is in a state of emergency after hundreds of millimeters of rain fell over a 48-hour period, literally washing away major sections of highways leading into the Lower Mainland and leaving axle-deep trenches in some of the North Vancouver trails. When the weather does break and the trails are rehabilitated the riding will continue, but the rain won't surrender forever. So kit up, because the short days and harsh weather have set in for the Northern Hemisphere.
Fizik Artica X2 Details
• Fleece-lined insulation
• BOA-lace/zippered cuff closures
• Vibram MegaGrip
• eVent upper material
• EVA midsole
• Sizes: 36-48 with half sizes between 37-47
• Colors: black
• Weight: 1050 grams (size 42)
• MSRP: $299 USD
Fizik labels the Artica X2s as winter MTB shoes, and rightfully so. They are insulated and have an eVent neoprene zippered cuff to lock out the elements. The sturdy Vibram MegaGrip soles have tenacious rubber lugs that wrap into a more protective toe than what is seen from the outside. Although the Artica X2s are weatherproof shoes, combing them with pants of equal resistance is a guaranteed method to keep your feet dry. Save the Gore-Tex socks and shorts look, because we know how the Titanic sank like a bucket without a lid.
I am a huge advocate for gators on off-road shoes in any climate or terrain. They keep out stones, pine needles, and most importantly with these shoes, water. The Artica X2s have one of the longest cuffs I've seen on any mountain bike winter shoe, excluding full-on fat bike style boots. At 525 g per foot, the Artica X2's materials do tack on about 100 g in total over my dry condition shoes, the Five Ten Hellcats.
Henry Quinney recently reviewed the more mild mannered Fizik Terra Clima X2
if you're searching for shoes that aren't as specific to cold weather, but still offer waterproofing
Fit and Price
Available in a decent range of sizes from 36-48, the Artica X2s also come in half sizes between 37-47. My go-to thin wool socks made the size 42 fit true in length, and I'd say their comparable across the forefoot to standard width shoes from Specialized. The minimalist blacked-out look doesn't have unnecessary, spongy padding to absorb water and the fleece lining is inviting while the cuff creates a firm, snug fit.
Under the foot, the insole wasn't too aggressive in height and didn't require a long break in time. There were no hot spots on the sole or in the toe box, although I noticed a pressure point at the last lace when I really cranked the BOA down. This varied depending on how I flexed my foot when tightening the BOA dial. I would prefer to see a velcro strap near the top of the eyelets, allowing the BOA to run moderately tight and the strap to evenly disperse pressure.
As you can imagine, the waterproofing and insulating materials do come at a cost - $299 USD to be exact. It may seem like a lot of coin, but it's hard to put a price on warm, dry feet. It will allow you to ride for longer in miserable conditions, and if you commit to seasonal footwear you're likely to increase the lifespan of both sets of shoes even further as well.
Waterproof and fleece lined with a BOA lace and ventilated cuff - I'm sold.
My time spent in the Artica X2s have made riding in relentless rain much more enjoyable, and the fact is I ride better with warm, dry feet in the Artica X2s. They're are best suited to sub 10ºC (50ºF) weather, because even with the eVent cuff they can retain some moisture when the temperature goes into double digits. Given their genuine waterproof capabilities, they are very breathable. On occasion, I did notice damp socks post ride, but this was either due to immense amounts of water soaking through my pants and running into the shoes, or possibly moisture build up in the humid climate. Either way, I never regretted choosing the Artica X2s for the ride.
Does that mean that they stack up equally with standard shoes in terms of outright performance? Well, yes and no. Much like winter riding in itself, they don't produce the same inputs like a full summertime kit offers. Priority number one for MTB shoes is putting down the pedalling power and that stiff sole does deliver on that front. That sole is marginally thicker due to the insulation, though, and gives you a feeling of standing taller on the pedals. Rolling an ankle when the rocks and roots become frosty and is even easier with a narrower, higher, and less flexible sole like the Articas, particularly under the heel. More support in this area would provide a better connection for aggressive or enduro riding.
As for the grip of the Vibram sole, they are safe on rocks while pushing up for another go and dig into soft soil well with giant lugs, but aren't as soft and tacky as Stealth rubber. Caution is needed around wet roots. I also had to remove a spacer from under the cleats to get the same contact on the pedal platform as I would with my summer shoes. The North Shore was coated with some early snow at higher elevation, but I didn't find the cleat area to be heat sapping. Dare I say, these would even be suitable for fat biking, if the temperatures didn't drop to into negative double digits.
For the convenience that the BOA system offers, the zippered cuff has a narrow opening to slip your foot into and takes some practice by first opening up the laces as much as possible. It seems intuitive, but was comedic on the first few attempts. A simple finger-loop on the back of the cuff to pull your foot down into the shoe would be beneficial here. Located between the crank arm and the inside of the ankle bone, that zipper had me worried from the get go. Fortunately, I didn't happen to strike the zipper at all while pedalling, but during the odd landing or compression, I noticed a little bump from the zipper here and there. It wasn't enough to cause any pain, but why it isn't on the outside of the cuff left me scratching my head.
I can't comment on true long term durability just yet, but so far all of the seams and rubber are stay in place with no signs of wear. If there is a problem, Fizik offers a two year warranty, which I think is fair for a pair of shoes that see the worst conditions. They've essentially changed my whole approach to winter riding and I have added other purposeful pieces of kit. The warmer my limbs are, the more I can justify suiting up to ride in the rain and finish with feeling in my toes.
The looks and installation is much like a wet suit. The lack of finger loops on the heel require some practice to pull on the shoes, but once you're in, they'll keep your toes comfy and dry.
Keep feet warm and dry as advertised+
Cleat channel has plenty of adjustment +
BOA and zipper make removal and cleaning simple when caked in mud
Can be difficult to pull on -
Sides of heel cup need more support -
Top BOA lace can cut into an articulated foot when cinched tight