Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX review – aggressive soled, cold weather biking boots

With its Gore-Tex and fleece-backed liner and meaty Vibram sole, the Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX is the perfect boot for cold weather biking but can it cut it when things start to melt?

Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX
(Image: © Paul Burwell)

BikePerfect Verdict

The Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX is fully sealed from the elements and has a ton of protection and walking grip but be prepared to pack out the cleat if you want to clip out easily and have more than a modicum of pedal float. Pedaling stiffness is only average and it does ride its weight.

Pros

  • +

    Warm and toasty

  • +

    Solid protection levels

  • +

    Impressive off-bike grip

  • +

    Double pull tags ease fitting

Cons

  • -

    Packing a bit of heft

  • -

    Release adjuster can jam

  • -

    Cleat pocket too deep

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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.

Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX

The boot offers great cold weather protection with a Gore-Tex membrane, fleecy liner and neoprene collar (Image credit: Paul Burwell)

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.

Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX

With the recessed cleat it can be difficult to clip in and out (Image credit: Paul Burwell)

Performance

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. 

Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX

The boot features a dial system to distribute the pressure when tightening, however this does tend to jam  (Image credit: Paul Burwell)

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. 

Northwave Kingrock Plus GTX

The sole is similar to a walking boot so offers great off-bike grip (Image credit: Paul Burwell)

Verdict

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 (opens in new tab)
  • Materials: nylon, Gore-Tex, neoeprene
  • Rival products: Lake MXZ 304, Shimano XM9, Fizik Terra Artica X5 GTX
Paul Burwell
Freelance writer

Paul has been testing mountain bikes and products for the best part of 30 years, he’s passed comment on thousands of components and bikes, from the very first 29ers and dropper posts to latest e-MTBs and electronic drivetrains. He first put pen to paper for Mountain Bike International magazine but then contributed to What Mountain Bike, Cycling Today and Cycling Weekly magazines before a  20 year stint at MBR magazine. An ex-elite level XC racer, he’s broken more bones than records but is now sustained on a diet of trail building, skills coaching and e-bike trail shredding.