Over the years, I’ve shied away from motorcycle gear that screams “look at me, I ride a motorcycle!” Most of my riding is touring and commuting so I’ve been enjoying the recent renaissance of gear manufacturers when it comes to casually-styled protective gear. But sometimes a person just needs the best that they can get, style be damned. I’m very lucky to have the ability to get gear from various companies for reviews, but when I wanted boots to protect my feet during the UMRA 24 Hour Race last fall, there was one specific company I wanted to talk to – Sidi.
Most riders are already quite familiar with Sidi, but I have to confess that I actually learned about them years ago through Aerostich. My favorite pair of riding boots are my 12 year old Aerostich Combat Touring Boots, which are sadly no longer available. For my usual riding of touring and commuting as mentioned above, I thought these were perfect. I don’t blame you if you question why I’m mentioning Aerostich boots in a Sidi review, but I promise my tangent is related – Sidi made the Combat Tourings for Aerostich.
My love affair with Sidi continued on through other disciplines of motorcycling – when Nathan and I started to learn how to ride dirt bikes, I could have asked some companies to provide me with a set of boots, but I spent my hard-earned moolah on a set of Sidi Crossfire 2s. When I did a story with Motorcyclist Magazine about touring in Arizona on Harleys, Sidi supplied a pair of their Fast Rain boots, which I’ve been very happy with.
This is all a very long way of saying that I generally like what Sidi makes, and that’s why I approached them for some boots when I needed protection for the 24 hour race. Their US distributor and resident expert is Motonation, and if you ask them about top of the line race boots they’ll give you two options – the Vortice or the Mag-1.
The fundamental difference between the two boots is the the primary bracing. On the Vortice, it’s a burly exoskeleton that provides maximum protection and the potential expense of comfort, flexibility, and weight. I’ve heard that leads to two issues – it can be difficult to get in/out of, and the bracing can get caught on hard parts like the rear sets. On the Mag-1, the bracing is internal and not as rigid. Realistically, I wouldn’t be seeing speeds over 35 miles per hour during the minibike race, so I went with the lighter weight and better ease of use of the Mag-1.
Both the Vortice and Mag-1 are available with perforated Lorica (the synthetic leather utilized in the outer construction) – these are given separate model names of Vortice Air and Mag-1 Air. A race in November in the desert meant I saw 100 degree weather, so going with the Air seemed like an obvious choice. They’re available in White/Black and Fluo Red/Black, and I preferred the former. That’s how I found myself with a pair of Mag-1 Airs. But how did they perform?
With a MSRP of $495, these boots cost more than a couple of motorcycles I've bought in the past. But they're worth it, because they provide 95% (yes, that number is simply my gut feeling and not scientific) of the protection of a full race-level boot without the usual limitations in comfort, feel, and agility. This makes it surprisingly well-suited for street duty as well so you'll be getting plenty of use for your money.
Available in White/Black or Fluo Red/Black for $495.Check out the Sidi Mag-1 Air Boots!
At first, I almost didn’t want to find out how well they performed – they looked so good that I was worried about getting them dirty. My fears were warranted, as I managed to lowside with them on at approximately 30 mph in a practice session. The internal frame of the boot is made out of carbon fiber, which allows for front-to-back flex but stays rigid when forced are applied on the sides. Pay special attention to that, because it’s the main trade-off Sidi makes to maximize comfort and minimize weight. Other high end race boots (including the Vortice) are designed to limit flex in the rearward direction. After discussions with top level riders who asked for more flexibility and feel and consultations with crash experts who felt that hyperextension/flexion injuries were very rare, Sidi decided to leave that design consideration alone when it came to the Mag-1. If you’re looking for maximum protection, that might scare you away towards a Vortice or a competing boot manufacturer. If you’re willing to bet that Sidi’s research is sound, then you should find the comfort of the Mag-1 is well worth the compromise.
Other protection-related features include an asymmetrical shock absorbing heel cup, double stitching in high stress areas, and replaceable sliders on the toe, shin, and heel. Any replaceable parts are secured with recessed screws so they won’t scuff up or get caught on any part of your bike.
In the rigors of a 24 hour race, the Mag-1 Airs were wonderful for three main reasons:
1. Weight. Each boot is claimed to weigh 4.4 pounds, which is 17% less than the Vortice.
2. Fit. Sidi uses a magnetic closure system that they call TECNO-3. I have to admit that I first thought it was gimmicky – the usual combination of zippers and velcro I’ve used in the past has served me well. But Sidi’s system is adjustable to a degree I’ve never encountered before, and it allows you to truly customize the fit of the boot to your tastes. Want it tight in the ankle but a little loose around your foot? No problem.
Sidi calls the “TECNO-3” a “magnetic closure mechanism” that uses a coated steel wire to provide the closing tension. The wire stays in place with a magnet. It’s not as quick as the usual velcro/zipper/buckle systems but it’s not a deal-breaker. Also, once you get used to the system you can take off the boots by just barely loosening the fasteners, and that will save some time.
3. Airflow. The perforated Lorica outer and vents ensured that my feet were more comfortable than they’ve been in any other boot in warm weather. Even if it’s a little cool outside, the airflow still feels good in between my delicate toes.
During the 24 hour race, the Mag-1 Airs were flawless – and thankfully I didn’t crash test them again. I could tell you that they were light, comfortable, and other positive adjectives, but frankly the best compliment I could bestow on them is that I didn’t notice them at all. They simply became part of me, and that’s all I could ask for.
With that said, these aren’t just suitable for the track, they will also serve you well for street duty because they’re so comfortable on the bike.
They’re obviously not ideal to walk around in but I’ve worn them through full days in the office several times without a problem. I only notice the “Sidi Squeak” when I walk down stairs, so I don’t consider it to be an annoyance.
Often times when I get a piece of gear to review, I’ll wear it enough to collect my thoughts and then forget about it. The stuff I truly like stays as part of my rotation, and that’s what’s happened with these boots. I’ve worn them for multiple events, including the MV Agusta Brutale 800RR launch:
As well as the Yamaha R-World (R3/R6/R1) launch (my story on that is coming soon):
One last thing to note is calf fitment. I’m a skinny guy so I usually don’t have an issue with this, but I know race boots in general can pose a problem for riders with large calves. These boots have adjustments for calf fitment to fit a 15″ calf diameter when measured 11.5″ from the bottom of the heel.
In the past I’ve typically avoided race boots on the street because of the fit and feel, but it looks like I no longer have to worry about that. By listening to feedback from MotoGP riders who were willing to sacrifice a small amount of protection for much better feel, Sidi has created what I think is the ideal balance of comfort and protection for street and track duty. There will always be days where I want something more subtle from a styling standpoint, but you can expect to see me wearing these in many other reviews in the future, and I’m not sure I can give higher praise than that.