The Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX is not quite as burly as a Shimano XM9 or a Lake MXZ 304, but it's in the same wheelhouse when it comes to cold weather protection and weight. It features a fully waterproof and breathable Gore-Tex membrane, which is backed up by a fleecy liner and a thick neoprene sock. It’s completely sealed, there are no flaps to come loose when you’re pedaling, and it has a dial-based fit system and a chunky Vibram sole. The price is upper end but it’s a well-built winter MTB boot with a ton of protection.
Design and specifications
To keep you warm and dry, the Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX uses a Koala Gore-Tex membrane, sandwiched between a fleecy inner fabric and the nylon outer skin. The fleece liner only extends to the ankle, but it looks like the membrane extends all the way to the top. The boot is topped off with a thick neoprene baffle and this does a good job of stopping water running into the boot, especially if you double up with a full waterproof pant. Northwave adds two pull tags on the neoprene collar, so putting it on is easy but I found getting this shoe off to be a real struggle. More on that later.
The neoprene sock transitions into the tongue area and is fully sealed, so dirt and moisture is never going to get past. There’s a scuff-resistant material across both the toe and heel and the former also gets a bit of reinforcement. The Kingrock Plus GTX is quite roomy, so there’s space to spread out if you want to wear a thicker wool sock. The boot is also available in half sizes, which allows further fine-tuning.
The Vibram Wolftrax sole on the Kingrock Plus GTX is very similar to a walking boot, so offers a ton of off-bike traction for pushing up a steep climb or scrambling around in the snow. Northwave offsets the cleat placement to inside to improve heel and crank clearance and the area around the cleat (the cleat box) is wider than most, so very little mud and debris build up.
Unfortunately, it’s heavily recessed and with the raised rubber platform around the perimeter, this does reduce the amount of float and I found it a struggle to clip in and out. It was less noticeable on a Shimano SPD pedal like a PD-M647 because that has an angled binding mechanism, but with a lower profile Crankbrother’s Mallet you will need to pack out the cleat with some third-party shims to stop the sole binding on pedal. The only issue with raising the cleat off the footbed however, is it increases the shoe/axle height, and that can feel a bit disconnected.
To secure this boot, Northwave runs its own SLW2 dial with an interlocking Velcro strap. The dial works like the retention on the back of a helmet and winding it clockwise tightens a thin nylon cord against your foot. Like the BOA system, it’s designed to distribute the pressure evenly reducing pinch points and hot spots.
Unfortunately, the SLW2 doesn’t wind in as much cable as its rival, and it releases even less. I had to press the little ratchet lever on the side of the dial press multiple times, while also pulling on the nylon cord to get it to spool out sufficiently. The dial is also exposed on the side of the boot and in the firing line from wheel splatter. Mud and grit would often clog up the X-dial and the lever, causing them to jam.
With its branded Gore-Tex membrane, fleecy liner and neoprene collar the Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX excels in really cold conditions. The rugged sole offers tenacious grip when off the bike but with some low-profile pedals I found clipping out to be tricky. It's also not an easy boot to get on or off and the temperamental adjustment dial doesn’t make this any easier.
Tech specs: Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX
- Price: £226.99 / €269.99
- Weight: 509g
- Sizes: 37-47 (half sizes)
- Contact: northwave.com
- Materials: nylon, Gore-Tex, neoeprene
- Rival products: Lake MXZ 304, Shimano XM9, Fizik Terra Artica X5 GTX